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Judge Posner:

According to you, "The comment takes Becker and me to task for not responding to all the comments (on our postings) that are criticial of us. By thus not responding, we are said by the commenter to be shutting off debate."

For a man of your intelligence, this must be purposely inaccurate.

First, you conflated two distinct arguments I made. One is that sometimes when you reply to reader postings you ignore comments that you find irrelevant (i.e., you do not correct the reader). Another is that you did not reply to "The Sexual Revolution" postings at all (rendering impossible correction of reader errors). If your theory is that blogs correct erroneous impressions more often and more quickly than newspapers, it seems odd that there are specific instances on your own blog disproving this theory. Neither of these two arguments has anything to do with reader/poster criticism of you. They deal only with webmaster failure to correct errors.

Second, I neither said that you nor Becker stifled your critics. I stated that you shut down a debate on "The Sexual Revolution." That is true. Anonymous commenters were blocked from contributing to that topic once the quantity of anonymous malicious comments became overwhelming. The "debate" that was shut down was between Poster A to the site and Poster B to the site -- not between Posner and the Posters.

Third, I never suggested that you should respond to all of the comments on your site. By contrast, I suggested that you should have responded to at least one comment regarding "The Sexual Revolution" post. There was no reply to ANY of the comments, unlike every other topic that is archived on your blog.

Fourth, you also ignore the other side of your claims. Despite noting that bloggers have a "superior opportunity" for correction of errors, you fail to discuss the fact that bloggers are often in the business of partisan advocacy. Many of the errors and omissions are not in fact true errors, but attempts to spread disinformation, misinformation, and libel. While it is true that bloggers do not claim to be a professional class -- as journalists do -- bloggers do in many cases claim to have superior access to specialized knowledge and less corporatist bias. That is an explicit claim of trustworthiness also.

Fifth, your statement that "There is nothing to prevent the commenter fronm [sic] creating his own "anti-Becker-Posner" blog devoted to correcting our mistakes and omissions!" seems rather beside the point. Why would you, a self-termed "public intellectual" alongside a Nobel-prize winner, start a blog unless you sought freely to discuss ideas? Why would you insist that a dissenter exit the Becker-Posner community rather than remain and exercise voice? This attack is rather like telling an antiwar protester to pack his bags and flee to Canada. Besides, setting up an anti-Becker-Posner site would be disrespectful; intellectually challenging a public intellectual one respects in a public forum, I had thought, is quite certainly not.


Another point is that bloggers generally make no claim to being objective or representative of anybody but the blogger(s) themselves. The rise of blogging as a means of holding the news media accountable is not a means of replacing them. It is mostly commentary on how they are doing. One has to wonder how many things we take as common knowledge would have been questioned if there had been bloggers around to point out bias, half-truths and plain fabrication. Honest journalists should be happy to correct such problems. The fact that so many of them react with sarcastic, dismissive and paranoid rhetoric, suggests that blogging hasn't arrived too soon.

The idea that anybody has some sort of obligation to answer every comment strikes me as absurd as claiming that blogs should be disregarded because they have no editors or fact checkers. It's an attempt to take over the discussion on someone else's bandwidth and dictate to the blog proprietors what they can write about.

derek rose

AST, I'm a newspaper reporter, and I welcome efforts to keep the press accountable. I think most of us do. But what we strongly object to is this notion that accountability isn't a two-way street ... that because a writer's a blogger, they can make any kind of scurrilous allegation. (E.g., that Giuliana Sgrena faked her own kidnapping, that an AP photographer is guilty of felony murder, etc.)

Bloggers certainly have no obligation to be objective or representative. But if they're writing about serious subjects, why don't they have the same obligation as the mainstream press to check their facts and be conscientious about their claims, particularly about allegations that would damage someone's reputation? (Posner says that the mainstream press asks readers to trust us, while bloggers don't. But I think blogs like Powerline etc. clearly are asking readers to trust them.)

Judge Posner: I've worked in the newspaper business 10 years. I don't think any of us would say we have the resources to eliminate all errors. Frankly, I don't think such a thing is possible. We make errors, and we admit we make errors. I don't think anyone should take a single media report as gospel.

james waters

I think it is worth putting this little blogging discussion in perspective. This is not a "community" and it is not a "debate" in any way. It's a website. It's a forum for Becker and Posner to post comments on things they feel important about. You and I come to this site to read those comments for any number of reasons... maybe you like B/P, maybe you don't and want to see how they think, or maybe you're just bored and are looking for interesting things to read.

But when it comes down to it, B/P are providing something to us, the readers. Whether you want to consider it a good or service is up for interpretation, but I would just as soon just be happy reading the posts and every once in a while seeing what the reader feedback was.

Don't get so carried away and involved with someone else's life... if you are so eager for debate and conflict... there are any number of other places for you to go. Don't abuse B/P because they don't have the time to sit down and discuss everything with you exactly as you'd like them too.... they've got lives too, you know.


I do not think your psychoanalysis of me is either appropriate or necessary. I would even call it malicious. If you disagree with my points, fine. But psychoanalysis is really beyond the pale. You are a mathematics student, not a clinical psychologist with years of experience who has evaluated me in person over any period of time sufficient to diagnose with the certitude required for professionalism. And for someone to state that a blog site with enabled comments is not an interpretative community where debate takes place is -- to be charitable -- incorrect.

Blogosphere / Blogistan
Definition: This refers to the world or community of blogs and bloggers. Some bloggers also refer to this as 'Blogistan'.


Also, I did not ask the proprietors of the blog to discuss anything with me personally -- I simply noted that the error correction efficiency that Posner categorically claimed for blogs was contradicted by his practice on his own blog. As I stated in my initial reply, I think Posner has purposely mis-stated the focus of my original argument, which, of course, had little to do with James Waters' the Math Student's amatuerish psychoanalysis of my motives in posting a comment, and more to do with why neither the States nor the federal government should tax the internet. (Which, interestingly, has been dropped.) I would suggest reading the original threads for appropriate clarification.

james waters

Becker & Posner:

I'm really sorry. I've enjoyed reading your posts for a long time now, and haven't felt too compelled to make a comment until this last time. But, I see that the environment isn't the healthiest and I'm not ready to engage in internet warfare... so I hope you continue to post, for I will continue to enjoy reading what you have to say. Again, sorry for this mess,


Daniel Wiener

Accuracy is important for both blogs and professional media, and that is one of the prime considerations in establishing their long-term credibility and attracting and keeping audiences. Frankly, I expect (and get) much higher standards of error-checking from the best blogs than I do from the legacy media. Bloggers with substantial audiences know that they will be fact-checked by their readers and other bloggers. Consequently they are more careful with their facts, and more willing to quickly and transparently correct their mistakes.

I don't demand some unachievable level of perfection. But it does get a bit tiring when absurdities or discredited rumors are printed which could have been caught in about 15 seconds if the author had just bothered to use Google.

Mistakes don't have to turn into scandals. It's the cover-up which creates scandals. Just admit the mistake IMMEDIATELY and apologize. (And that means a true apology, not the weasily "we regret that this controversy arose" which sounds more like a regret that the author got caught than an acknowledgement of error.)

William Patry

I don't get the controversy over this. As Judge Posner said, when you permit comments, you are fostering criticism, and alone among the judiciary, Judge Posner is exemplary in soliciting and acting upon criticism.It is absurd to suggest that he has to respond to every comment on the pain of an implied dissing of those he doesn't. In ordindary conversation, we don't respond to every remark made either.
Some blog comments may simply express a difference of opinion to whidh one can't add anything. Some comments make good points to which there is no real reply. Some are off target, and some can be so baffling you don't know what to say. A blogger should be able to pick those points he or she wishes to respond to in order to keep the thread going; doing so doesn't stop anyone else from disagreeing and continuing to post comments.
Bill Patry ("The Patry Copyright Blog")


"It is absurd to suggest that he has to respond to every comment on the pain of an implied dissing of those he doesn't."

I agree, that is absurd. But no one made the suggestion he should (and I would know!). Thus, Posner responded to an imaginary argument that no one made, which is knocking down a straw-man. The argument I made was that blogs don't always make error corrections as efficiently as Posner originally posited.

Cogliostro Demon

Memo To: TheWinfieldEffect
Subj: Whining; quitting yours

1. A.J. Liebling said, "Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one." Start your own darn blog.


A.J. Liebling was a member of the Communist Party.

Cogliostro Demon

"A.J. Liebling was a member of the Communist Party." So was Jesus.


The idea that anybody has some sort of obligation to answer every comment strikes me as absurd as claiming that blogs should be disregarded because they have no editors or fact checkers. It's an attempt to take over the discussion on someone else's bandwidth and dictate to the blog proprietors what they can write about.


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