Pajamas Media

Pajamas Media and their new venture PoliticsCentral are ideas that appeal to me. As someone interested in the changes to our established media being brought about by the blogsphere, I feel strongly that the blogsphere has become significant by breaking the monopoly of the established media on how we get information. Reading bloggers made me stop relying on the MSM for building my thinking about a particular topic. I’d rather read an amateur – even if they are trying to write propaganda – than the highly trained ‘gatekeepers’ of the MSM. So Pajamas Media’s idea of trying to bring some order to the blogsphere looked like a good idea to me and if by acting as an umbrella organization for bloggers Pajamas Media could bring in more advertising revenue for bloggers and themselves – then why not.

Initially Pajamas Media seemed – and perhaps saw itself – a kind of ‘next big thing’ for the blogsphere, but I think it is actually performing an old fashioned function like a wire service consolidating news from a variety of sources. The blogsphere has made great strides and emerged as a force significantly changing both journalism and politics. For those of us who read blogs extensively and blog ourselves it is clear that the established institutions are no match in certain areas for the fast moving blogsphere. In other areas – consistent newsgathering power for example – the blogsphere is no match for the MSM. Professional journalists criticize blogs for lacking editors and fact checking safeguards, but that is because they don’t understand that bloggers quickly pick up factual errors and immediately let erring bloggers know. A genuine weakness of the blogsphere is that it’s huge and chaotic and it’s sometimes hard to find what you want – particularly when you don’t know it exists. Two factors mitigate against this chaos however. One is that search engines can locate a lot of material quickly. The second is the what Eric Raymond calls the bizarre effect – that on a freely accessible network, those with the most to offer a particular public quickly emerge. For example, during the Katrina crisis in New Orleans I used both search engines and a news consolidator – Drudge – as a way into the information coming out of New Orleans in the blogsphere. I soon found a site that acted as blog consolidators for just Katrina bloggers. From there I found the sites that provided the best information. Some dropped out as they lost power or their notebooks batteries ran out, but the consistent performers soon stood out. Katrina was a microcosm of the role of blogs and blog consolidators.

The current crisis in the Middle East is being heavily covered by Pajamas. The crisis it self looks like being on a similar time scale as Katrina – a matter of weeks not months barring the fighting spreading into a wider war. Pajamas have lots of links to MSM sources on breaking news and also many links to bloggers both in the war zone and those analyzing the situation from elsewhere. Pajamas have recently added a new service called PoliticsCentral which has podcasts with individuals from the Israeli ambassador to the US to an Israeli teenager blogging from a bunker inside Israel. Because Pajamas is a predominantly conservative site politically I have looked for examples of Lebanese bloggers. There is not a lot on the Pajamas site itself but conspicuously and repeatedly link to another Pajamas Media affiliate blog specifically consolidating Israeli, Lebanese, and Palestinian blogs – Truth Laid Bear. There are separate sections for each and more than enough examples to get started. There is also a separate section appended to each category listing the most linked blogs so you can start with those getting the most attention around the blogsphere. If there is any censorship here, it is pretty subtle, but if bloggers think it exists they will let us know! For myself, I want to see what the Lebanese blogs are saying including the ones really angry at Israel. I want to know how Lebanese feel and what they are thinking. . I expect those who support Hezbolla to be strongly against Israel, but I especially want to know where other Lebanese stand. As one Lebanese blogger Jamal’s Propaganda Site put it -

Olmert’s problem is that he failed to realize that no one can figure out Lebanon, not even the Lebanese understand Lebanon. Lebanon is and has always been a permanently PMSing female.Thinking that he had it all figured out and that he could manipulate this little country, he proceeded with his little killing campaign. Well, that arrogance is only gonna get him a swift kick in the balls.

Pardon the metaphors but the man is angry and this is what interests me – taking the pulse of Lebanese anger. I don’t care if he is one sided or openly writing propaganda precisely because it is open, and strongly felt. Most of all it is not some meme bound MSM reporter showing me selective footage of the damage from an Israeli bomb telling me how angry the Lebanese are. (If you click the link you will see he has a Chinese or Korean communist picture at the top of his post – I am not sure it that is just an iconic way of reinforcing his theme of ‘propaganda’ or if he is actually pro communist.)

A very neutral example of blogging from Lebanon comes from Hardig, a Swedish PHD student blogging at Beirut Under Siege, on the verge of being evacuated talking about how he feels about the Lebanese who will stay behind:

How ironic that the efforts to actually save people can make me so depressed. I guess it is because there is no sign of either Hizballah or Israel backing down from their original demands for accepting a ceasefire. Against that backdrop, the evacuation almost feels like a clearing of the field before the final showdown. Like in the old Western movies, where the main street would clear out at high noon; people scurrying off to safety in just in time before the shootout.

To me this is an excellent example of what the MSM sometimes provides when they are not pushing an agenda for one side or the other or just fitting their story into a meme that we instantly recognize. Here is a more analytic Lebanese blogger Doha at The Lebanese Bloggers

The same Senators who supported the Syria Accountability Act and pushed for the Syrian military and intelligence withdrawal from Lebanon two years ago, the same Senators who applauded the Cedar Revolution last year, are the same ones who have decided yesterday to give unconditional support to Israel’s attacks on Lebanon. I understand, politicians are politicians no matter where they are; they’re concerned about being re-elected and about representing their constituencies.

But what about the Administration? This is what President Bush had to say yesterday: “In order to be able to deal with this crisis, the world must deal with Hezbollah, with Syria and to continue to work to isolate Iran.” Please tell me if you see the word Lebanon anywhere. It’s not about Lebanon; it’s about Israel, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. But guess what country is being destroyed and who is being killed (over 300 dead now) and displaced (over half a million)? Lebanon and the Lebanese people.

I realized then that Lebanon has been sold out!

Yes, that is my concern too – that Lebanon’s nascent democracy will be crushed by the larger forces fighting in the area. When I find evidence for what I am thinking from people directly affected by a crisis I take it as confirmation that I may be getting something right. I take it more seriously than an opinion maker in the MSM telling me what to think. I also make sure to read contrary ideas to get a feel for how people I don’t agree with feel and think. All these bloggers are what historians call primary sources. The Internet gives us access to these direct participants as the story happens – not years later in a history book. The access given by the Net makes it possible to not accept the MSM’s first draft of history but to create our own. Pajamas Media, recognizing their ideological center of gravity, just as we do for the NY Times or any other secondary source, does its job well as a an access point to primary sources on the Web – blogs and now through PoliticsCentral podcasts. After watching the birth of Pajamas Media and using it for a while I see it as an evolutionary, revolutionary, service that is doing an excellent job of fulfilling a very much needed function. I say excellent because instead of claiming to be fair and balanced -which no single outlet is – it has its point of view but gives us plenty of links directly or indirectly to other points of view. Even for someone with an anti Israeli point of view it would be one of the quickest ways to access a range of Lebanese and Palestinian opinion.

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