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Monday, July 31, 2006

MSM vs. the blogs

Antonia Zerbisias of the Toronto Star and Adam Radwanski of the National Post criticize this blog for its unrestricted debate on Islam and its place in Canada. Both of them lament that we did not censor RightGirl's post on the subject, or many of the comments in response to it.

I think we have a better approach: instead of running our blog as a command and control system -- with an editor in chief, and hierarchical approval processes, like we run our print magazine -- we leave it to the spontaneous order of the marketplace of ideas.

So we don't sift and choose. We let it all hang out. It's blogospheric.

Instead of one person or a committee censoring or approving blog posts or comments -- as Zerbisias does with the Star (the Post's defunct blog didn't allow comments, and neither does Radwanski's own) -- we let the bloggers and commenters battle it out in an unrestricted contest of ideas.

This was demonstrated most vigorously by Chris Selley, who rebutted RightGirl's post in a post of his own. Other bloggers rebutted her more indirectly. And many commenters did, too.

Hundreds of comments were made, in fact.

I think it is a better approach to let the marketplace of ideas sort these things out. Artificially censoring what can and can't be written -- like Zerbisias does -- or not permitting feedback at all -- like Radwanski does -- are old media calling cards. In the new media, if you don't allow people to react and respond, they'll go elsewhere where they can. It's quite democratic, and like other aspects of democracy, it can be grubby.

In the end, I believe that by maintaining a balance of views on the blog -- libertarians, conservatives, hawks, isolationists, people from different countries and different religions -- we will get a great debate. I acknowledge that some of the comments have been less than smart, or even vulgar. But that, too, is the nature of democracy, and it is far more interesting reading than the bowdlerized letters to the editor of the MSM.

Give Zerbisias and Radwanski some credit: At least they know what a blog is, and have one themselves. But I'm loathe to accept criticism about our rough and tumble free comments threads from writers whose own newspapers don't allow them to have free comments threads. It's like when Zerbisias came out against the Danish cartoons -- the fact that her employer had ordered her to comply with their censorship undermined her claim to independently having come to that journalistic conclusion on her own, and she knew it.

The Western Standard will continue to have the freest blog of any in Canada affiliated with a corporate media organ. That will ruffle the feathers of politically correct enforcers, but it will also continue to make us a center of the debate, and give us 2-million page views a month and growing. In fact, the very idea of an MSM enforcer shaking a finger at too-rough bloggers sums things up pretty well -- an impotent scold who can't get the public to obey their politically correct line. That's the MSM in a nutshell.

To me this is a no-brainer -- just like showing the cartoons.

Continue to read the Western Standard's blog if you believe in free speech and a clash of ideas, and if you believe that the correct response to inappropriate speech is not censorship, but rather more speech. And, for our lucky print subscribers, keep reading our mag for thoughtful writers like Salim Mansur who help us navigate through the issues of our age. It will be a lot more interesting than reading the censored mush of the MSM.

Posted by Ezra Levant on July 31, 2006 | Permalink


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That was a cheap shot, Lady. I think more highly of you than that. Please don't tell me I'm wrong.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-08-01 3:22:16 PM



Oh and vitri, it was a cheap shot, that I admit, but you said that we should "never bring gonads into a cerebrum fight". So I attached one more to yours. I did expect you to come up with a better response. You could have answered with, 'are you sure you are using your cerebrum'?, or, 'no, my left and right hemispheres, of my cerebrum are fully intact'.

You chose to go with the gonads instead.

Please, look back, and see where you chose to be diverted. And then tell me, you will think about it, maybe laugh, and get on with life.

Posted by: Lady | 2006-08-01 4:06:49 PM

Whew, I'm glad I wasn't wrong (wipes brow). Sorry to disappoint on the repartee front there, Lady, perhaps I can offer this in compensation: Doesn't matter, I've still got my limbic system and my sense of humour ;-)

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-08-01 4:25:19 PM

I suggested a moderator last week, but can certainly handle not having one at the Shotgun. I'm a big girl.

But, it takes a long, long time to slog through the threads here, which makes it less user-friendly than some other blogs where the "proprietors" keep an eye on slug-fests and language, meaning smutty and/or nasty stuff.

But I'll bow to the consensus here, which seems to be to allow an open-ended exchange of ideas. Given that we still have the right of freedom of expression in Canada, I guess we may as well take advantage of it.

So, I'll add my thanks, Ezra. Thanks for your hospitality!!

Posted by: new kid on the block | 2006-08-01 9:08:16 PM

Oh yeah. And one more thing.

Kathy Shaidle on the same topic brought up a good point--a bad point, actually?--when she noted how nepotism rears its ugly head in the Canadian MSM: Radwanskis, Richlers, Mulroneys, Trudeaus, the Lewis-Landsbergs (Avi), the Frums, Catherine Clark, Patrick Graham, Jonathan Kay (?), Bronwyn Drainie...can anyone add others?

'Seems that there's a pretty select "gene pool" the Canadian MSM is pulling from, something that we don't have to worry about in the blogosphere. I could be the Queen of England or the Queen of Clean (aka your cleaning lady), and there's no way of anyone knowing. The blogosphere is truly democratic, something you'd think our more "liberal/Liberal? friends would applaud.

It's funny, I don't hear them clapping.

Posted by: new kid on the block | 2006-08-01 9:18:56 PM

Just one more thing: Sorry... :-)

A few of our silver-spoon-in-mouth writers are very good at what they do: David Frum and les Richlers, for instance.

Bronwyn Drainie was pretty good, but I haven't heard from her in ages.

Posted by: new kid on the block | 2006-08-01 9:22:22 PM

Thank you Ezra....from one SW Calgarian to another!!

Keep up the great work!!

Posted by: Albertanator | 2006-08-01 11:25:18 PM


My amygdala has been set to maximum energy for some time now, given the current state of arousal in the middle east. In future, I recommend you keep your shields on max, and aim high! It will be a drain on your limbic system, but after a while, you will get used to it. ;)

Posted by: Lady | 2006-08-02 10:00:26 AM

Even if free speech gets ugly as it often does, it is at least out in the open to be debated, and the bad ideas are shown for what they are.

I've learned a lot from the various posters here, some I've learnt to avoid, others I pay attention to and follow the links they give and read what they write with critical attention and not infrequent applause.

Thanks Ezra!

Illegitimus non Carborundum (sp?) as the Whitehorse Star newspaper has had for it's motto for years.

I think it is appropriate.

Posted by: canadian freedoms fan | 2006-08-03 1:18:05 PM

I love your idea of balance, Ezra: "libertarians, conservatives, hawks, isolationists, people from different countries and different religions."

Posted by: Dale | 2006-08-05 10:48:08 AM

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