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Jewish World Review May 6, 2002 / 24 Iyar, 5762

John Leo

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A blog's bark has bite | One vote here in favor of the blogging revolution. Bloggers (from the words "Web log") write online diaries and commentaries. The best bloggers weigh in on social and political issues, report nuggets of information that the national media miss or suppress, and provide links to other bloggers with something sharp to say. Subjects that the mainstream press is skittish about (e.g., the link between abortion and breast cancer, or the mini race riot that occurred in Cincinnati three weeks ago) tend to show up in the blogging world. Since nobody can be fired or intimidated, bloggers skip politically correct language and just write in plain English.

A minor example of the culture in action: The blogging corps got wind of an online poll sponsored by the Council on American Islamic Relations allegedly showing that 94 percent of those surveyed thought Ariel Sharon should be tried for war crimes. By linking to one another's Web sites, the bloggers got more people to cast votes and reversed the numbers. At the end, 94 percent opposed the idea of trying Sharon.

The first commandment of blogdom is that anyone can become a pundit. Nobody is in charge. Bloggers can say anything they want and get their message out with blinding speed. This is unsettling to us lumbering print guys. Six or seven times I had to abandon a column because some upstart blogger beat me to it. Andrew Sullivan, perhaps the most quoted blogger, is surely the fastest gun. His 1,000-word analysis of the State of the Union message appeared 33 minutes after President Bush finished. Sometimes he launches attacks on wayward New York Times columnists around 4 a.m., so blog fans can read his version before they get to the columns.

Free for all. The fairness of blogworld is impressive. Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor whose InstaPundit site is the 800-pound gorilla of the blogging culture, is strongly pro-cloning. But he recently provided links to a series of mostly anticloning Christian sites so readers could judge for themselves. Another example of blogger openness: A site called Catholic and Enjoying it! posted the sad comment, "There's nothing like having the church you love be the butt of the whole world's jokes," and then provided the link to a biting anti-Catholic satire about abusive priests. In the print world, it's safe to say, making sure that one's detractors are heard is much rarer.

The crisis over sex abuse by priests has brought a lot of Catholic bloggers into the field. Some of the commentary has been first-rate, particularly Sursum Corda and Amy Welborn's In Between Naps. Protestants weigh in, too. (A list of 118 Christian blogs is available at MartinRothOnline.)

Political bloggers are overwhelmingly right of center, either conservative or libertarian. The conventional wisdom is that the strong rightward tilt is a reaction against the mandatory liberalism of the modern newsroom. But nobody knows for sure. Bloggers have given encyclopedic and favorable analysis to Bernard Goldberg's charge that the "right wing" label in journalism is applied much more commonly than the adjective "left wing." Blogworld has strongly supported the war on terrorism and is famously quick to point out logical and moral failings of antiwar relativists.

Out of blogger-induced fairness, I hereby recommend two liberal sites. One is the site of commentator Tom Tomorrow, the cartoonist and commentator. He's fair, funny, and a friend. The Daily Howler is a useful check on conservative excess, though sometimes over the top. Be sure to read: "The American way of life has been challenged. But whose side is John Leo on?"

Now the corporate world seems to be heading blogward. Fox News hired blogger Ken Layne and put him on its Web site. National Review Online, an indispensable site, has added a blogging section. now runs a bloglike political commentary, "The Note," which recently mocked the "Forrest Gump-like existence" of Sen. John Kerry and the role of the Boston newspapers in keeping his reputation aloft.

In two cases, bloggers have prepared the way for new newspapers in major cities., a running account of the sins and omissions of the New York Times, led to the founding of the New York Sun, New York City's new conservative daily paper. A similar path is being followed in Los Angeles, where regularly snipes at the Los Angeles Times to prepare the way for a new anti-Times daily paper. Check in with blogworld. It's definitely worth your time.

Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan is a senior editor at the New Republic. His blogs are often the most quoted and quickest to appear after major events.

InstaPundit. InstaPundit was started by Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee. Its bloggers chime in on anything and everything related to political happenings around the world.

Catholic and Enjoying It. Andrew Shea's mission statement typifies the nature of the blog: "So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again."

MartinRothOnline. Martin Roth's personal blog is one of the numerous religion-focused sites found on the Web. It boasts the "semi-definitive list" of Christian blogs.

This Modern World. From the mind of cartoonist Tom Tomorrow comes this humorous, left-skewed blog–a relative rarity in the Web log world.

The Daily Howler. A popular, pro-liberal Web log with a sense of humor. The editor, Bob Somerby, was called "one of the top political/consumer comedians of our time" by the National Journal.

Fox News. Such a strong tool for voicing opinions couldn't stay under the radar forever. Web logs can now be found on news sites.

National Review Online. The must-have political journal has just added its version of the blog. A blog dedicated to criticizing the New York Times as "complacent, slow, and inaccurate." Recently, postings have slowed as a result of the creators' launching the New York Sun, a daily newspaper. Here, the target of criticism is the Los Angeles Times. The blog was started as a stop-off for L.A. media links but quickly became a collection of news briefs and media criticism.

In Between Naps. Unfortunately–for the author–the title refers to her life between her baby's naps. This blog contains scads of information about the current scandal shaking the Roman Catholic Church.

Correction: My April 29 column said CNN gave no coverage to two teenagers blown up by a suicide bomber in Israel in February. CNN covered the killings on TV and on its Web site. My apologies.

JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Incorrect Thoughts: Notes on Our Wayward Culture. Send your comments by clicking here.


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