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State of the information war
Belmont Club yesterday presented a first-rate (and lengthy) analysis of the blogosphere as weapon (h/t: Gates of Vienna
). Says Wretchard
One of the most interesting properties of the blogosphere is that its information collectors -- the bloggers -- are sometimes significantly better at gathering certain signals than professional reporters with the mainstream media. This is often the result of the Day Job Effect. A blogger, by definition a part time writer, can sometimes more accurately recognizes the significance of an event because his professional training prepares him to notice something that would be ignored by the generalist reporter. Bloggers who are lawyers, doctors, engineers or soldiers, for example, are sensitive to issues in their area of expertise in ways a layman could not match. Also working in the blogosphere's favor is the sheer number of bloggers -- 55 or 100 million, whichever number one prefers -- which statistically ensures that a blogger will often be present when a professional reporter may be absent. The potential for signal reception -- the crucial first moment at which new information becomes visible to the rest of the information processing system -- is inherently high in the blogosphere. It defines the Event Horizon
of the system, a boundary traditionally marked by the first wire service report that carries the first news to the world. In the blogosphere the Event Horizon is marked by the first post that recounts an event.
Wretchard cites several examples to illustrate his points—and provokes astute comments, including this one
[...] the ultimate effectiveness of the blogosphere turns on the size of its primary audience, the people who have blogs bookmarked and read them daily. Yes, bloggers detected, analyzed, and amplified Hezbollah's disinformation during the summer's war, but they failed in the information war, insofar as political opposition grew until Israel decided it had to stand down. Why? I think because the readership of the blogosphere is still too low, at least with regard to any given story. Look at the total traffic of the big Linkers at the time that Green Helmet Guy was exposed. If you add together all the traffic of Reynolds, Johnson, Malkin and Power Line and assume that (i) there was no duplication (an absurdly conservative assumption, I'm sure) and (ii) people averaged one visit every two days, you probably had around 1,000,000 people who knew about that story. At most. Now, that readership is undoubtedly very influential, and it ultimately drove the story into the more serious newspapers and even television, but it did not do it quickly enough to destroy Hezbollah's credibility with the great masses of, well, European voters. All of this leads me to wonder whether the blogosphere can truly be useful as a tool of information war until the primary audience for "general readership" political blogs is substantially higher than it is today. When Glenn Reynolds has a million readers a day or five, then -- I speculate -- the speed of the transmission from the top of the blogosphere's food chain into other media will accelerate dramatically. The question is, how to get there?