Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Bill O'Reilly forgets to think things through
and the blogosphere responds.

I’ve been reading people fisk and slam Bill O’Reilly over his attitude in a recent edition of “The O’Reilly Factor.”

I don’t know how many people actually watched the show, it didn’t seem like many of the comments I’ve read are by people who watched the show or read the transcript. The comments ranged from thoughtful fisking to Indy hominem attacks and others seemed to think he was whining about people criticizing him.

O'Reilly was bitching about sites that simply lied about him, not about sites that argued a counter point or criticized him. It's not about being able to take it, it's not about people arguing his point, it was about some web sites that were attempting to spread bold faced lies. He was also pretty pissed about NAMBLA, though he's been pissed about their continued presence on the internet for a long time.

One thing I noticed was that O’Reilly’s arguments hadn’t been thought through. Not that he was wrong about the sites he mentioned specifically, but that his arguments were foolish when the internet as a whole was taken into account. He did say that things on the internet were both good and bad, but his argument never really took that into account.

His rant WAS one-sided and ignored sites such as this one, LGF, Clueless, etc, who have integrity. Odds are he doesn't read any of the blogs that aren't brought to his attention by his research staff.

Frankly I agree with his rant but not his 'solution.' I'd like to see any site that advocates raping children stricken from the net forever. I'd like to see sites that spread libel and slander be held accountable for their actions.

Why should Jihadis be given a free pass to lie about 9/11, why should French hate sites be allowed to lie about that date without being held responsible for it?

JC Lynch’s comment, “Billy, here's a clue: If it's an actionable offense (libel, slander) HAUL 'EM INTO COURT!” is a nice sentiment, but neglects a very basic fact of the internet – anonymity. Anyone can set up a web page without ever putting their name on it (Yahoo/Geocities and the now defunct Xoom) or without ever giving factual information that can be found via WHOIS and such. It’s easy to sue large newspapers and organizations who purposefully lie about us and damage our reputation and livelihood, but some puerile idiot hiding in the basement with a DSL connection is allowed full anonymity to spread hate and lies. Anyone tried to sue an Al-Qaeda webmaster lately? Has anyone tried to sue Al-Jazeerah lately? Not gonna happen. About the best you can do is complain to the web host or ISP (LGF got a Hotmail Hater this way). This can work, but doesn’t do much more than create a slight inconvenience and does nothing to increase accountability.

Does anyone seriously believe that internet anonymity is required in the United States for free speech to exist? Certainly it does in many other countries, but protecting dissent in Iran does NOT require us to protect libel and slander in the US. O’Reilly never came out and advocated a solution, like I said he hadn’t thought it through, and the EU’s solution is idiotic. Is there a solution? Yes and no. Removing all anonymity would be great in a perfect world without dictatorial regimes, but that is the kind of reality we face in the real world. The solution we have in place right now (fisking, counter-blogging, exposing lies for what they are and hoping Daily Pundit links you) is imperfect, unreliable, and just about the best one possible under the circumstances.


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