In today’s Washington Post, John Harris has an analysis of the Foley scandal and the role of new media that’s worth reading from start to finish. I think he takes an unfair shot at new media in this passage, though:
… a changed media culture that creates new perils for politicians also provides new forms of refuge. For a full generation on the conservative side, and more recently among liberals, ideologues have created a menu of new media alternatives, including talk radio and Web sites. […]
This development usually ensures that any politician in trouble can count on some sympathetic forums to make his or her case. It often ensures that any controversy is marked by intense disagreement over the basic facts or relevance of the story, and obscured by clouds of accusation over the opposition’s motives.
Here Harris sells short the intellectual honesty of most high-profile new media outlets and discounts the devastating effect on a politician’s career when a majority of those ”sympathetic forums” turn hostile — as they tend to do when the facts and relevance of a story are beyond dispute. But when the facts and relevance of the story are in dispute, what’s wrong with “intense disagreement”? Who would be better served if new media had never broken the old media monopoly that used to solve all those disputes for us?
According to Bill Clinton, whom Harris quotes a few paragraphs later, that would be the Democrats:
[Clinton] said Democrats of his generation tend to be naive about new media realities. There is an expectation among Democrats that establishment old media organizations are de facto allies — and will rebut political accusations and serve as referees on new-media excesses.
That’s new media for you. It’s changed the discussion to the point that a Democrat will freely admit that his party views the “old media organizations” as allies.