Reader Zweisystem of Rail for the Valley commented on an earlier article. I believe his contribution deserves more exposure. It addresses a mounting concern, which is the efforts of hired guns to disrupt blogs that deal in inconvenient truths:
“The Rail for the Valley blog has been up and running for a year and a half, providing factual information on light rail; transit news from around the world; opinion pieces on local rail transit issues; and a spattering of transit history.
“The SkyTrain lobby has been incensed at the RFV blog and have done all they can to discredit ‘Zwei’ who writes many of the posts. The SkyTrain lobby has gone so far as writing libelous posts under the name Zweisystem and/or members of RFV in various Newspapers comments and blogs and made slanderous comments on radio stations.
“What puzzles me is why go to all the trouble in doing so? The time and effort to dream up ever new dirty tricks reveals to me that the RFV blog has been attracting attention from local politicians, etc. and the SkyTrain lobby, afraid to lose their 30 year monopoly on transit news are running scared.
“What Palmer and Baldry are afraid of is threat the ‘blog’ is becoming one hell of a lot bigger than the newspaper and radio and they too are scared as hell.”
There are billions of dollars at stake in the economic wars. It is not surprising that dirty tricks are played by moneyed interests who have their agents working, anonymously and publicly. Mainstream media people are largely content with insults and belittlement of bloggers as Baldrey and Palmer like to do. That is changing though because online journalists now exercise influence at the national level and regional blogs are gaining readers steadily. Expressions of traditional media players about this amount to whistling past the graveyard; they don’t want to admit the world is changing and their work is being examined like never before.
Baldrey is not a disinterested journalist; he’s a Liberal partisan to be sure but Palmer is not. He’s just grown comfortable with the existing power structure and knows that carrying messages is part of what earns him access and access means stories and speaker fees. And, like Bill Good, he’s darn comfortable with those insiders. They become friends and friends do each other favors.
Managing the message through mainstream media is well understood and easily achieved. Initially, they pretended the Blogosphere was the land of flakes and looneys. Keep whistling boys. In the words of the great Satchel Paige, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
Zwie though is talking about something darker. We live in a society where street level thieves harm innocents to steal a few dollars. Sadly, there are more sophisticated thieves who will also do harm but play where the stakes are higher. Much higher. They may not engage in physical action. It may be impersonation, denial-of-service attacks or other subterfuge seeking an unfair advantage to protect a client’s economic welfare.
For example Skytrain is a child of powerful influence peddlers who have had their hooks in the public purse and federal politicians, both Liberal and Conservative, for years. These people want to sell the uber-expensive, exclusive source, Skytrain and will do everything they can to attack the legitimacy of critics. Fish farming is another industry that is walking a fine line of interfering with Internet dialog by launching ad hominen attacks anonymously and with false names. Every business that sees itself threatened by online discussions is tempted to join the open queue of participants. That’s fair but only if done with full disclosure.
The blogosphere is an unusual information system. People can read blogs or not, entirely by personal choice. There is crap on the web but nobody has to read it. The important fact is that there are unending volumes of intelligent communication that allow ordinary people to be informed as never before.
The satisfaction I get from writing Northern Insights comes from interesting interactions I have with others but I can’t deny that rising reader stats play a role. Since beginning in April 2009, growth has been steady but this month, June, has been extraordinary. May was previously the busiest month here but June will finish with page reads up by many thousands over the preceding month. I think that a few important local political stories (HST and BC Rail) have much to do with the surge which I believe others are experiencing as well. Many readers see themselves badly served by the traditional news sources.
Tens of thousands of citizens are reading local blogs and that will keep going up and larger audiences will attract new writers. The quality of commentary will improve. You will read more exclusive scoops and viewpoints that the traditional media ignore. Whether those alternative voices come from progressive or conservatives views, its all good for democratic discussion.