The word blog is still sometimes greeted by uncomprehending stares, but that's changing as writers of internet blogs (short for "web logs") have shown their importance once again by demonstrating that CBS and Dan Rather accepted as real evidently forged documents concerning President Bush's National Guard service.
Critics of bloggers say they are uncredentialed, but God has an odd habit of certifying opinion leaders uncredentialed in the sight of the professional classes. Thus, Joseph rose to prominence in Egypt, David in Israel, and Peter in A.D. Jerusalem.
Heaven cares nothing about man's credentials as such but cares only whether the speaker is telling the truth or offering his own opinion. Many of Israel and Judah's kings, priests, and prophets were duly appointed by one another, but their words proved false to the "what is" of moral and historic fact.
Blogs are a mixed bag, since most practitioners are private citizens on Internet soapboxes. We live in a culture that often believes mere anti-establishment sentiment is a mark of authenticity. Too often, blogging is narcissistic and self-referential. Then, again, so is mainstream media reporting.
Since the latter for many months did not pursue John Kerry's Vietnam narrative-or last year's misfeasance by a New York Times editor-was it unprofessional for the blogosphere to go after that story? Who are the journalists and who are the special pleaders?
CBS in essence said, "Trust us, we're CBS." But we should not trust without verification the credibility of political and media leaders or their critics. As human beings, we often rewrite our own histories to make ourselves look better, and sometimes (for dramatic purposes) to look worse in the past. Nor should we trust the big media leaders who set themselves up as impartial judges: The evidence of a tilt to the left is overwhelming.
Paradoxically, blogging has emerged as a trustworthy source precisely because bloggers wear their prejudices on their sleeves. Liberal and conservative bloggers deconstruct the mainstream media and then each other until the fool's gold of spin has been worn away. Often, a tiny, but valuable, nugget of factual gold emerges that is unchallengeable.
There's hope. The New York Times may live up to its ombudsman's recent, remarkable admission that it is (surprise!) a liberal newspaper: It's certainly time for it to surrender hypocrisy. And bloggers whose punditry is consistently spot-on to facts will be rewarded with the appropriate street-credential of a large, faithful readership.
-Russ Lipton is one of the "blogging pastors" on www.worldmagblog.com, which also provides up-to-date coverage of "Rathergate" and other breaking news.