I had a pleasant exchange of e-mail this week with a nice lady who happens to be a columnist at the newspaper I grew up reading. Like most major papers, it has long been a stronghold of the American left – it’s never seen a Democrat it didn’t like, or a Republican that it did – and as the opinion leader for the People’s Republic of Minnesota, I’ve often heard friends refer to it as the Red Star, or the Star and Sickle.

But over the years, I also noticed that unlike most of the left, a few of this paper’s writers harbored a genuine regard for the truth, buried though this might be beneath the stinking mass of mindless mediathink that otherwise permeates the paper. Thus, I saw no disingenuousness in the shock and dismay expressed by the aforementioned columnist, not so much at the discovery of Jayson Blair’s misdeeds as at the public’s blase response to the news of his wholesale forgeries.

Now, the idea that the mainstream media’s product is often nothing more than a bizarre collection of misrepresentations, poorly digested half-truths and outright fiction is yesterday’s news to those who inhabit the Blogosphere or read WND. But for those who have never heard of the Krugman Truth Squad, who have never seen how quickly Internet readers will gleefully pounce upon even the smallest mistake and who obtain their news from a combination of the local paper, the local TV news, USA Today, CNN, Tom Brokaw and the water cooler, this is a stunning revelation.

Thanks to the Times’ scandal and the fact that the ratings war between Fox News and CNN bears more resemblance to a prison rape than a horse race, the establishment media is finally beginning to wake up to the thought that perhaps the wider public’s disdain for it does not stem solely from the great unwashed being too stupid, uneducated and mean-spirited to follow its shining path to the enlightened society.

The Gray Lady is certainly an appropriate moniker for the New York Times now, although the Sclerotic Dinosaur would be a better one. The truth is that the Jayson Blair scandal and the institutional failures of the so-called newspaper of record are only symptoms of what will prove to be a terminal disease for many conventional news organizations. The establishment media has grown lazy and complacent due to a lack of competition and the result of this hegemony is that it is now spectacularly unfit to survive the changes wrought by the ongoing technological revolution that is the Internet.

Just as, according to current scientific understanding, the dinosaurs were unable to cope with the great changes that came toward the end of the Cretaceous period, the establishment media is structurally and conceptually handicapped in a myriad of ways that the New Media are not. We of the right – libertarian, paleocon, neocon or otherwise – have had to be sharper, harder, faster and more accurate from the very beginning. Operating on the outskirts, without margin for survival, we are forced to be responsive and to learn quickly from our mistakes.

Think of it as evolution in action. It is interesting to note that even the traditional media’s remaining strengths contain inherent weakness. For example, access to those about whom one writes has its benefits, to be sure, but it has its shortcomings too. I have no fear of politicians snubbing me, because no one was ever going to talk to me in the first place. Therefore, I can articulate my thinking in complete freedom, without any concern for reprisals.

It is certainly possible that elements of the establishment media will learn from the continuing train wreck of its popularity and salvage something from the destruction. It can do so by abandoning the arrogant and false pretense of its pure objectivity, by beginning to study the intellectual foundations of its opposition’s thinking and by resolving to pursue the truth instead of consistently massaging the facts to fit a predetermined script.

But who are we kidding? The ink-stained successors to Plato’s Guardians are unlikely to learn from their mistakes until it is far too late, when their wide audiences have been irretrievably lost. MSNBC is already dying, how long will it take the network that spawned it to follow suit? The tide is turning – remember, it was not so long ago when one could safely dismiss unpalatable ideas as being “off the Internet” and therefore dubious, if not a downright joke.

So, who is laughing now?

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