Media

Who Will Rid Us Of These Meddlesome Internets?

| Wed Dec. 29, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Atrios is amazed at the almost universal condemnation of WikiLeaks from mainstream journalists — a group of people who, of course, rely heavily on leaks both classified and unclassified to do their daily business:

It isn't exactly the same thing, but moments like this I'm reminded of a time years ago when I was talking at a conference about internets and stuff to a not entirely plugged in audience and a man stood up and said something like, "You mean, people can just say whatever they want on the internet? Don't we need to do something about that?"

I guess you shouldn't make too much out of a single comment, but this is astonishingly similar to something that happened to me. It was several years ago, when blogs were still sort of newish, and I was invited to speak to an informal group of West LA liberals about what the whole blog thing was about. I didn't end up saying much because the first two speakers pretty much said everything that needed saying, but I remember being flabbergasted when the whole concept finally sunk in and one lady in the audience asked (paraphrasing from memory), "So anybody can just say anything? Isn't that dangerous? Shouldn't somebody be responsible for all this?"

It left me slackjawed enough that I couldn't really think of a response, but I think Eugene Volokh stepped in to say something soothing. In fairness, I suppose comments like this might simply be poorly phrased concerns that loudmouths with no expertise and no real commitment to fairness are getting a lot of attention they might not deserve, which is surely a reasonable attitude. Except, of course, that this phenomenon predates the internet by about ten thousand years and has been an ever-present part of our modern media lives ever since Rush Limbaugh became the leader of the Republican Party. Good times.