Draft Dodging, Rules of Engagement, and Dueling Sock Puppets

No, not that draft. The other one, in which heretofore respectable journalists are dragged, kicking and screaming, into their new roles as [insert gagging and vomiting sounds] bloggers. Duct-taped into their chairs, they're forced to perform unnatural acts with their keyboards—i.e. blogging—while readers weigh in, constantly and without mercy, on their every journalistic word. This, of course, is in addition to their regular duties, thus increasing their workweek from 80 hours to 180. If all our journalists wind up in Canada, this is why.

The San Jose Mercury News' Bruce Newman says he's heading for the border, and I believe him. It's a secret plan, so his employer doesn't know, but you can tell he's serious just by reading his September 4 entry. He's a very angry man.

For something that is supposedly exploding all over the Internet, like a broken sewer main, blogging has got to have the butt-ugliest name ever devised by a group of people who then willingly inflicted it on themselves. You know, the blogosphere. Anyway, that's my excuse, the reason why I'm a little late to the party. The blog party. Ugh.

Best of luck in the Great White North, Bruce. I'll try to send a few cases of kippered herring, just to keep you going while you're removing all that duct-tape goo from your face. You're right about that name, though: it'ugly.

Meanwhile, Couric & Co. are bringing the gyros up to speed for their own blogfest, and I'm looking forward to it. If Ms. Couric ever decides to run for president, she'll have my vote. No, really. I mean, is there one nanoshred of guile in that face? I think not. If she were in the White House, even the most hard-boiled dictator would be quickly overcome by that 1,000,000 candlepower smile. Enemies? We wouldn't have any! But if anyone did get a funny idea about taking advantage of that friendly face . . . well, it can also get real serious, real quick.

But back in the world of blogs and vomit, it's prudent to lay down the rules of engagement before you lower the drawbridge, which Couric and Company have very handily done. No doubt about the rules in this establishment, bud.

There's legal language nearby. Here's the plain English: no libel, slander, lying, fabricating, no swearing at all, no words that teenagers use a lot that some people think aren't swearing but we do, no insulting groups or individuals, no ethnic slurs and/or epithets, no religious bigotry, no threats of any kind, no bathroom humor, no comparing anyone to Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot. We expect lively debate, but comments should be polite and civil. No shoving or shouting. Please.

Yes, what is not allowable is subjective. But it's our blog. We're providing the field, the football and the goal posts. We can move them at will, or take them away.

Heh. I especially like the part about moving the ball, or the goalposts, or hell, the whole field if that's what it takes. This is one of the great things about a blog, isn’t it? Hand the controls over to the public, but keep the kill switch in your pocket.

Last week's news, of course, is that New Republic editor having his blog shut down for resorting to the old dueling-sock-puppets trick. But in Tuesday's Taipei Times blurb on the fiasco, I noticed a point I had previously overlooked.

Ezra Klein, a blogger who had tangled with him, wrote in his blog on Friday, "The temptation to create a new persona and rally support for yourself in comments can be almost overwhelming."

I can't believe I haven't been overwhelmed by this until now. How many sleepless nights have I spent agonizing over the lack of comments on my blog? But no more! Using the now-obvious concept of dueling sock puppets, there's no particular reason I can't have as many comments as I want. Ain't it grand?


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