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Bob Costas responds to the Rabble! Rabble!

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Feel free to ignore this post if you're tired of the Bissinger-vs-Blogs debate.  I was tired of takling about it, but then Bob Costas spoke to TV Barn...

Buzz realizes that he did a disservice to his own points. On the other hand, if fairness prevails — which on the web it often doesn't because people are coming after whoever the villain-of-the-day is with torches and pitchforks — but if fairness prevails, you keep in mind who he is and that more than outweighs a subpar performance on his part.

Not to hammer too much on this, but a lot of the response hasn't been that he did a "disservice" to his points, but that his points are silly.  The whole idea of holding a random comment against a blog as a whole (as Costas did) is ridiculous, and that had nothing to do with Bissinger's "subpar performance".

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While there is unquestionably a new media revolution going on, and much of it is good, the part — speaking for myself, the only part, the ONLY part — of which I am critical, is that there is an ethos on a significant portion of the web, an ethos not of criticism or skepticism or a contrarian viewpoint. There is an ethos of abuse, where not only is cogent thought not required, it’s almost resented. Where a reasonable argument has no place and where ad hominem attacks reign. That is not all or even most of the web, but no fair-minded person would say that isn't a significant portion of it. That’s my criticism.

Yes, there are some idiots on the web.  And on TV.  And in books.  And in newspapers.  As's King Kaufman said yesterday...

Bissinger's generalization about the Interblogthingy came late in the "Costas Now" segment, as he lamented, I don't know, the death of the printed word, for which he, writer of books, reader of newspapers, which are printed on paper, you know, is evidently some kind of guardian.

"I just don't know where you're coming from," he said to Leitch, "except I think you are perpetuating the future, and I think the future in the hands of guys like you is really, really going to dumb us down to a degree that I don't know we can recover from."

He went on: "I have a son who's 16, who's going to grow up, he's going to read much more what's on the Internet, and much more on blogs than he is reading what's in a newspaper or what's in a book."

Hey, Buzz: Here's something to read on the Internet. It's the complete works of William Shakespeare.

Here's something you can read in a newspaper. It's Ann Coulter's latest column.

Here's a book. It's called "How to Be a Super Hot Woman: 339 Tips to Make Every Man Fall in Love With You and Every Woman Envy You."

Books and newspapers are so much better than that appalling dump heap called the Interwhatsit, eh, Buzz?

Okay, back to Costas...

Are some elements of this found in mainstream media? Yes. But the worst thing you'd find in talk radio, the snarkiest thing you'd read in print ... even more virulent forms of it are found on the internet because in most cases there are no standards.

The only differences between the blogosphere and talk radio are a) there are more voices on the internet (though pretty much the same ratio of smart-vs-stupid), and b) there's more profanity on the blogosphere.  Please tell me this whole thing isn't about profanity, Bob.  You host a show on HBO.  Have you seen some of the other programming on HBO?

Now, coming with it are there many important fresh new voices? Absolutely. Are there places where people like you, who were one of the first ones, and Joe Posnanski, not to name all Kansas City guys, but where you can go to get more expansive or quirkier versions of their thought? Yes. Are there nichier places ... baseball-centric sites filled with detailed statistical analysis or, say, everything you want to know about the Seattle Mariners? That’s great. Nothing wrong with that.

Well...yes.  But with the good comes the bad.  So what was the point of focusing an entire 'roundtable' discussion on the bad?

But I think (to) the blogosphere, if you’re a critic of the blogosphere you’re somehow against its democratic virtues. Hey, I spent my whole career talking to cabdrivers, everyday people, I did sports talk radio in St. Louis in the 1970s. Some people are more knowledgeable about aspects of sports than I am. I absolutely respect that. ... But it also opens the door for every anonymous bully and lout to spout.

Again, good with the bad.  If you got rid of the bad elements of talk radio and print, they would be great...but you can't.

Truth be told, on any websites, not just confined to sports, that is what happens. It's not that this kind of lowbrow stuff is tolerated, it is implictly encouraged because the more of those type posts you get the more it is validated. The popularity of sites is measured by it. Who is going to say, "I don’t want the person who says 'Bleep you, douchebag' "? That’s a hit! That’s my single criticism of this. And anyone who interprets that as a rejection of all the upsides of the web is either rather dense or wilfully misinterpreting what I say.

Um...generalize much?  You really think that you have to be profane to be popular in the blogosphere?  Really?  And this whole thing really about profanity?  Please tell me it's not, Bob.

TVB: But clearly Buzz was indifferent to the distinction between posts and comments. Should they be judged equally — the people who write for blogs and the people who merely react to them?

I would say that clearly some old media types can’t or don’t want to make the distinctions between posts and comments. I understand. On the other hand,, generally speaking the tone of the post will affect the tone and content of the comments.

Recommendation: go to any newspaper's website.  Most of them have comments sections in their articles now.  And the comments are every bit as silly and stupid as anything you'll find in the blogosphere.  Granted, there might not be as much profanity, but it's ridiculous to say that the tone of the post will affect the tone/content of the comments.  Crazy people will respond in crazy ways, no matter the format.  Yes, they have more of a voice on the internet, but...good with bad.  Good with bad.

By the way, this is a consistent thing with me. I decried it in talk radio. I've decried it where it comes in print. There's a difference between edgy and abusive, between being provocative and stupid, between a tough and cogent critique and something you just pull out of your ass.

All the better sides of that can be found on the web. But all the worst sides, too. Why would anybody have trouble acknowledging that?

I really don't think anybody has trouble acknowledging that.

Now I’ll also say this. This notion that the motivation for every critique of the blogosphere is that old-line types are threatened, I'd like to ask the question: Why would I be threatened? Anyone who knows me knows I don't view the world this way.

Well...then what IS the problem?  If Buzz Bissinger weren't threatened in some way...then what the hell was he so hot and bothered about?  Profanity?  Surely not.  He wouldn't come onto an HBO show and rail against profanity (while using profanity), would he?  Again, you wouldn't host an HBO show if you were that much against profanity, would you?

If I were threatened by anything it would be the proliferation of sports programs on cable.

Well...we can agree on that.

I think a lot of the blogger types want a straw man. Unfortunately, Bissinger handed it to them.

First of all, Bissinger proved that whatever 'straw man' exists isn't actually a straw man actually exists.  Second of all, you're too smart to miss the overall point this badly.

But in my case, this notion that Costas bashes bloggers, or he hates the blogosphere, that’s just false.

Prove it, then.  Invite Will Leitsch (and others) back onto your show for another discussion, and try listening to what they have to say this time.  You couldn't have done Leitsch a bigger favor by inviting him on to get blindsided (by both Bissinger and you).  He was looking for a real discussion--give him one.  I've always liked you, Bob, in part because you're so damn smart.  And because you're smart, I want to give you another chance to make your point.  But make it to them and let them respond.