Hardblogger defends softball

Chris Matthews’ Hardblogger site takes a shot at bloggers for their role in the demise of Eason Jordan, and in the process exhibits a profound misunderstanding of free speech. The author, Mike Moran, believes that it was unwise “for CNN to provide the enemies of free expression, critical thinking and The First Amendment with a victory” over Jordan due to his “controversial (but hardly blasphemous) statement” that the U.S. military has been targeting journalists in Iraq for death. For good measure, he claims that, during this affair, bloggers showed “all the interest in the truth shown by the Gang of Four.”
Moran never tries to explain how it’s inconsistent with free expression, critical thinking, and the First Amendment to call on those who accuse public officials of murder, or a lesser but related charge, to either defend or abandon their allegations. The problem with Jordan’s remarks was not that they were controversial or blasphemous, but that he failed to substantiate them. Does Moran believe that Joseph McCarthy was denied his right to free speech when he was called upon to substantiate his claims that public officials were aiding the Soviet Union, and then censured for his slanderous remarks? Does he believe that the bloggers (including Power Line) that called on Trent Lott to step down due to his remarks at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party were acting as enemies of the First Amendment? Surely, Moran understands that the right to free speech does not carry with it the right to be immune from the consequences of one’s speech when the speaker makes unsupported, slanderous remarks (something Senator Lott did not do, by the way).
Moran appears to have two responses. First, that Jordan’s allegations might be true, at least in a toned down form; second, that it’s not even clear what Jordan said. As to the first point, Moran relies on a letter from the Overseas Press Club to Secretary Rumsfeld. But that letter doesn’t accuse the U.S. military of deliberately, or negligently, killing any journalists or employees of media outlets. It focuses on the detention and alleged mistreatment of three Reuters employees mistakenly believe to be enemy combatants, and also mentions the death of two CNN employees at the hands of “unidentified assailants,” as well the death of a Reuters cameraman who was shot by American troops. Unlike Jordan, the authors of the letter chose their words carefully and made no allegations of wrongdoing in connection with the deaths.
More fundamentally, Moran fails to mention that Jordan never provided evidence to support either his apparent allegation of deliberate targeting or a toned-down version of that allegation. Thus, it was not bloggers who had no interest in thinking critically about the issue, or in ascertaining the truth. Rather, it was Jordan who refused to advance (or participate in) that debate. In line with MSM complacency, Jordan apparently believed he could put his allegation “out there” to see what damage it might cause without being held accountable. That this immunity from “hardball” no longer exists is a victory for critical thinking and truth-seeking. Hardblogger should welcome it.
We need not spend much time with Moran’s other argument, that we don’t know for sure what Jordan really said. Bloggers made every effort to find out. For example, Chris Matthews’ adversary, Michelle Malkin, interviewed David Gergen and Barney Frank, both of whom were eye-witnesses. Bloggers were also the ones calling for the tape of the proceedings to be released. But Jordan and his sympathizers apparently preferred to stonewall. It’s that approach, not the actions of the bloggers, that is inconsistent with critical thinking and discovering the truth.
(Many thanks to our friend Jim Geraghty at TKS for pointing out that the Hardblogger piece was written by Moran and not Matthews, as my orignal post assumed. As I told Jim, I’d never make it as a journalist).

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