An alert Georgia blogger nicknamed “Buckhead,” along with other Internet truth seekers who followed his lead, struck a telling blow at smug, unobjective anchor Dan Rather and his CBS TV “60 Minutes II” by quickly analyzing and questioning the proportionally spaced fonts used in the so-called National Guard records of George W. Bush.
“Buckhead”_ a brilliant Atlanta attorney who spends many a wee hour on his computer surfing the “blogosphere” _ first challenged CBS in a posting on the FreeRepublic.com Web site.
“I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old,” he wrote barely four hours after Rather’s Sept. 8 show unveiled its “scoop.” Within minutes, truth-seekers were using their Internet superhighway to further analyze the typefaces _ not known to have been used in 1972 typewriters _ to reinforce my friend’s suspicions and to tweak aggressive news outlets into doing some investigative reporting.
A few days later, as establishment media experts were finally weighing in against a defiant Rather (who apologized 10 days later), one exultant FreeRepublic.com groupie declared in a succinct posting: “Buckhead for the U.S. Supreme Court!”
My friend, though, is a modest man. He later reflected: “As for my part, this tsunami would, without any doubt, have happened w/o me, so it ain’t no big thang. I will have a cold one tonight, though.”
Yet it really is a “big thang.”
As The Wall Street Journal perceptively noted in a Sept. 16 editorial, “this is potentially a big cultural moment.” It underscored that the widespread challenge to Rather _ to his “reporting” credibility _ “means that the liberal media establishment has ceased to set the U.S. political agenda.”
Is the liberal media dead? Of course not. Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and their clones at your local TV stations and newspapers will still seek to spread their version of “the news.” But we’ve come a long way from 1981 when Ted Turner, of all people, openly complained about CBS’s “liberal bias” and unsuccessfully tried to buy the network.
The Internet, for all its faults, is turning out to be a good friend to the American people when it comes to ferreting out the truth. As a longtime journalist, I often struggled to find “experts” and “insiders” who could help me understand and explain some event. Now the World Wide Web immediately connects us to them all.
Remember that the liberal media elite scoffed at, and barely reported on, The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and its recent ads regarding presidential candidate John Kerry. That arrogance and, yes, mind control, flies in the face of what was once taught in Journalism 101_ try to get all sides of the story and report the facts to the reader or viewer. But the alternative media, ranging from the bloggers to talk radio, effectively fought back by having an open debate with shared information.
The truly dark side of modern liberalism can be seen in the rise of a “politically correct” news media. It has not been receptive to political conservatives and our traditional Judeo-Christian culture_ and it has gone out of its way in recent years to condone and even glorify everything from drug use to same-sex marriage. Since the culturally corrosive Woodstock era, the “old media” led by CBS and The New York Times increasingly mocked traditional values and lifestyles as outmoded, racist and intolerant. Their unofficial motto evolved from that 1969 rock/drug/sex festival _ “If it feels good, do it.”
Yet now the “Buckheads” of America, coupled with talk radio and a renewed emphasis in the cable television world on “fair and balanced” news, are pushing back in a counter-revolution.
Yes, there are still objective journalists around our country in the mainstream media who are intellectually honest and who ply their trade well. But they, too, should welcome to their world the “blogger watchdogs.” The talented and more enterprising are even developing a loyal following.
So let’s hoist a cold one to “Buckhead!” A competitive marketplace of information, opinion, analysis and questioning can only serve the truth and help inform the electorate. And it can do it pretty fast in “the blogosphere” these days. That is a “big thang.”
(Phil Kent is an Atlanta media consultant and author of “The Dark Side of Liberalism” (Harbor House).)