February 25, 2005
When Blogs Do GoodChanging the tone but continuing the discussion of how blogs are changing the media landscape, the accountability of public figures, and more, Peggy Noonan makes a convincing case in support of blogs as a positive force in public discourse. [link via Scripting News] To briefly summarize, she argues that one of the main advantages bloggers have over traditional journalists is that they are free to write about whatever they want, whenever they want, for as long as they want, etc., allowing them to cover things in greater depth and with greater persistence and tenacity and candor than professional journalism allows. This is how blogs can make the invisible visible, and keep it that way, and I agree that this is a huge public service. Noonan also argues that the best journalists have been those who have learned their craft from experience rather than through formal “training” or education, so they've got nothing on bloggers there. Meanwhile, she suggests that the blogosphere uses peer review and an economy of status and respect to take care of the “fact-checking” or “ethical-checking” function that editors provide to professional journalists—if you're an unethical or untrustworthy blogger, no one's going to respect or read you, so you'll just disappear. There's more worth saying about this, but I've got to run so maybe later... See also: Thoughts on this from a j-school professor [also via Scripting News].
Lynn Stewart IIFollowing up on last week's post about Lynn Stewart: The Legal Ethics Forum has a couple of great posts on the subject. First, Lynn Stewart's Betrayal argues that:
For those of us who believe that criminal defense attorneys are sometimes targeted unfairly by prosecutors, Stewart’s status as the test case deprives us of the high moral ground, makes her unusual case appear to be the paradigm case, and detracts public attention from the more urgent issues. Stewart betrayed the criminal defense bar itself.Author John Steele goes on to explain what he means, providing great insight into what was at stake in the Stewart trial and what might be its possible ramifications for criminal defense lawyers involved in terrorism/security-related trials. He also offers pointers to some of the key parts of the Stewart trial transcript. Now I only wish I had time to go read them. See also: A first reaction from Alaskablawg in which he says “it appears that this case is not so clear cut and there is reasonable grounds for disagreement about what this means.” For a more pointed perspective, see David Cole's article in The Nation, in which he argues that the Stewart case “case illustrates how out of hand things have gotten in the 'war on terrorism.'” The piece follows what to me looks like the obvious line—what Stewart did violated an agreement, but at worst that's a matter for professional discipline rather than criminal charges carrying possibly decades of prison time. Cole argues that proving otherwise was no easy task, but Ashcroft's DOJ was up to the task:
So how did the prosecution meet its burden? With classic McCarthy-era tactics: fearmongering and guilt by association.Cole's conclusion is the best part:
Let me be clear: I think Stewart crossed the line from zealous advocacy to wrongful conduct. But she is no terrorist. At most she deserves a disciplinary proceeding before the bar. Sending her to prison will provide another statistic in the Justice Department's desperate effort to show results in the “war on terrorism,” but it will not make us any safer. One of the defining evils of terrorism is that it uses human beings' lives to send a political message. Has the Justice Department done any differently here?