Quietly Idiotic Xeni Jardin Post

Over at Boing! Boing!Boin, Xeni Jardin links to an “interview” with Karl Rove by Deborah Solmon in the New York Times and says,

Meant to blog this when it came out, but it’s one of the funniest/creepiest things I’ve ever read in the Times: a really odd Q&A with Karl Rove. By the time you reach the end, you half expect the guy to bust out the chianti and liver and start hissing at you:

Well of course it is funny and creepy because Deborah Solomon subscribes to the Xeni Jardin school of journalism — she doesn’t care about truth or accuracy but rather feels free to hide and manipulate what actually happened in order to make her subjects appear goofier and creepier.

Solomon’s interviews are remixed to the point that then-New York Times Ombudsman Clark Hoyt once wrote that the Times,

. . . should publish with each column a brief description of the editing standards: the order of questions may be changed, information may be added for clarity, and the transcript has been boiled down without indicating where material has been removed. If such a disclaimer destroys the illusion, maybe ‘Questions For’ needs to be rethought.

But hell, why take responsibility for our words when we can simply remix and unpublish?

Barack Obama, Bill Ayers and Political Violence

Xeni Jardin over at Boing! Boing! highlights an absurd interview with Bill Ayers featuring (in Jardins words) “his suggestions on what those swept up in the current wave of hope following [Barack] Obama’s election might do to harness that excitement.”

Ayers, of course, is the former Weather Underground terrorist and Obama associate whom McCain tried (way too late and in a lousy way) to make an issue of when it was clear that he was going to lose the election.

It is odd to see just how easily left wingers who commit acts of political violence can be mainstreamed. It is difficult to imagine that happening in a similar way on the Right.

For example, imagine that John McCain had repeatedly associated with an anti-abortion activist who had led an underground group that attempted to bomb abortion clinics around the country during the 1980s. Does anyone seriously think that such an association would have been downplayed by the mainstream media the way Ayers was? Would left-liberals like Jardin approvingly cite, say, National Review if it made the mind boggling decision to run a political advice piece from such a former terrorist? In fact, anti-abortion advocates are generally considered beyond the pale when they coordinate plain old non-violent civil disobedience.

Somehow, I don’t think so. This is the same sort of dynamic that allows some left-liberals to deplore the regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet while cultivating the cult of Che Guevera. It’s the sort of dynamic that Bill Clinton relied on when he pardoned 16 members of the Puerto Rican nationalist FALN in 2000, knowing that even though the group was reponsible for carrying out deadly bombings in the United States, his legacy wouldn’t suffer (even after the 9/11 attacks outraged Americans, Clinton’s pardoning of the FALN terrorists has never really harmed his public image).

On the other hand, I assume if George W. Bush pardoned Michael Griffin that this would quickly become a defining incident of his presidency.

Xeni Jardin Hasn’t Learned A Damn Thing . . . But I Have

Xeni Jardin has a post today about her “unpublishing” of Violet Blue-related posts that caused so much controversy. Go read it now before she decides to take it down.

The post is fairly long but doesn’t really say anything beyond reaffirming that their her posts and she’ll take them down if she wants to. In the comments to the post, Cory Doctorow, Mark Frauenfelder and David Pescovitz weigh in to indicate their agreement with Jardin’s position.

To understand my position on this, which I elaborate on very pointedly in the comments to that post, go read this Boing! Boing! post from 2005 which is Boing! Boing!’s coverage of the London subway bombings including photographs and updates on the status of individual posters like Cory Doctorow who was living in London at the time.

That post was removed from Boing! Boing! because in one of the many updates to it, Violet Blue is credited with pointing to a blog with additional information on the bombing. Violet Blue is extraordinarily tangential to the post, but because the string “Violet Blue” appeared in the post, Jardin deep-sixed it.

Now it is very clear from reading the comments in this post and in the previous Boing! Boing! post about the Violet Blue controversy, that I am in the minority who find it absurd that Boing! Boing! would retcon dozens of posts simply because of incidental mentions of Violet Blue over what turns out to be nothing more than a personal falling out between her and Jardin.

I’ll just sum up my thinking about Boing! Boing! by reproducing a reply I posted there to another user who defended routine removal of materials from the Internet,

Talia wrote:

“Well, if this is orwellian, I guess I’ve participated in Orwellian actions as well, as a person who has deleted things I’ve posted on the internet. And every other single person who has ever deleted anything they put on the internet, ever, has also participated in Orwellian actions.”

BTW, I have to say I find that odd. I don’t generally delete things on the Internet (I can only think of a single occasion where I deleted a single post I made at my blog because I realized it was seriously erroneous and would cause more harm by misinforming than by adding a correction). Believe me, I’ve said a lot of things on the Internet I wish I hadn’t, but coming from a journalism background, I’ve always thought it was important to stand behind your words and own your errors.

I’ve certainly endorsed the views of people, for example, who I later disassociated with. But I can’t ever remember thinking “gee, I should go back and delete all that stuff like it never happened.” And I really don’t remember ever thinking “I should take down this really long post because somewhere in there it mentions this person who I know longer like.”

And I find it bizarre that people do think that way, but that’s probably just my particular hangup.

OTOH, this whole episode was useful in that it showed us a side of BB I think many of us didn’t realize was there. If you had asked me before this if BB would go back and removed posts like that London bombing picture thread, I’d have said no way. Retconning is something only comic book writers and sleazy businesses do.

Now I know better.

By the way, I should add that Jardin and others have argued that it is routine for bloggers to remove and retroactively edited things. Personally, I would only do that under the most extreme circumstances as I mention in my comment on Boing! Boing! But now that I think of it, there is a very well known blogger who is known for frequently deleting and rewriting the things he posts — Dave Winer. At the moment, I think Winer would fit right in with Boing! Boing!’s vision of itself.

Hipocrisy, The Name Is Boing! Boing!

The Boing! Boing! vs. Violet Blue death match at least gives BB fans something to do between Cory Doctorow’s posts plugging his book. For those of you who don’t care about Boing! Boing!, the short version is they had some sort dispute with sex blogger Violet Blue, and about a year ago went through and deleted several dozen Boing! Boing! posts that were either authored by her or mentioned her. It was only a few days ago, however, that anyone became aware of this retcon.

A lot of longtime Boing! Boing! fans are outraged, and a lot of people who could care less don’t understand the outrage. Its their site, right? They can do whatever they want, so why should anyone care? As someone who read Boing! Boing! back when it was still a paper zine, the answer is that we expected so much more from Boing! Boing! because those behind the site pushed for more from others.

For example, one of the disappeared posts is a rant by Xeni Jardin directed at Google for, of all things, supposedly “disappearing” sex blogs from its index. There are a lot of good comments from a variety of people in that post, including a couple by Violet Blue, but VB’s contribution is hardly the bulk of the post by any means. But because it mentioned her name, it was “unpublished” as part of the enmasse removals.

Boing! Boing! used to be the place you’d go to watch Cory or Xeni rip into sites who would do something as stupid as silently remove content that was about the horrors of silently removing content. Now, however, they’ve become that site.

Sigh.

What Happened to the Fair Use Religion?

Boing! Boing! is the best weblog, period, as far as I’m concerned, but it’s amusing sometimes to watch the contradictions that show up there occasionally. For example, there was Cory Doctorow who usually runs around extolling the virtues of people producing their own media outside of the staid and boring medica corporations, but who constantly referred to Mel Gibson’s Jesus flick as Gibson’s “vanity project.” Post a novel that couldn’t get sold and that nobody’s going to read on your web site and Cory will link to it in a second — make a movie that everyone derided as a career killer and a joke and watch it become one of the biggest movies ever, and it’s a dumb “vanity project.”

Or look at this post by Xeni Jardin,

Indeed. When I first ran accross the site a month or two ago, I was surprised to see they were (without permission) posting excerpts from an article about Hustler publisher Larry Flynt that I wrote for Wired News. Seeing your work snipped out of context to promote a political agenda you’re not part of is almost as disturbing as… um… a talking, evangelical sock puppet that wants your porn.

“Without permission”??? What happened to the Holy Church of Fair Use and Mandatory Licensing at Boing! Boing!?