Those of us who haunted the center-right blogs on Election Night 2004 well remember Hugh Hewitt. Right about at dinner time on the east coast the spurious exit polls had created the beginnings of a blog storm of foreboding and despair. But when you pulled up his blog at HughHewitt.com, you heard the voice of common sense: "Don't panic; exit polls are unreliable. Relax. Wait for the real results. You have a responsibility not to discourage later Bush supporters from going to the polls. Etc. Etc." He was like Dad, coming into our bedroom and turning on the light, saying, "That's not the boogeyman! That's just your coat on the chair. There's nothing under the bed, see? And no monster in the closet." And there we were, sitting on the bed in our Winnie-the-Pooh pajamas, looking sheepish.
And Hugh was right. His was the voice one could trust, which is why his blog (and his radio program) command such a large audience.
"Trust" is one of the main themes of Hugh Hewitt's latest book, Blog. Blogs live and die by the truth (or lack thereof), and for a blog to thrive, it has to sustain the trust of its readers:
The key to keep in mind is that trust drives everything. To build and maintain trust is a tremendously difficult thing, requiring patient attention to detail and discipline over long periods of time. Mistakes by bloggers will be forgiven, but certainly not stubborn attachment to falsehood. As you explore the blogosphere and perhaps enter it or assign others to do so, put the "trust" question on the table and keep it there. (p. 155)On a similar note, in Canyon News John Armor responds to Steve Lovelady, Managing Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review:
Although tens of thousands, if not more, participate actively, the leaders of the blogosphere number no more than a couple hundred. My experience with these people is that they are much like me. Most have graduate degrees and are professionals. There are lawyers, engineers, teachers, doctors and reporters - among other professions. I have listed those in roughly the numbers they appear, and yes, there are reporters and editors who are members of the blogosphere.In Blog, Hugh Hewitt sets about exploring the nature of this new medium, its brief history, and its future. The tremendous information explosion that has taken place in the last decade is moving so quickly that it is hard to comprehend. I am typing these words on a three-year old version of Microsoft Word, and when I spell-check my text, "blog" and "blogosphere" are flagged as spelling errors. That's how quickly this process is moving.
It may be galling to Steve that some of his own have "gone over to the dark side." But the reason is that some reporters still remember the purpose of their profession. The long version, which Steve has apparently forgotten, is: who, what, when, where, why and how. The short version is: get the facts right, first.
Hewitt sees an analogy to the current blog explosion in the Protestant Reformation, with the printing press being the technological innovation that drove the process, just as the PC networks are driving the current process. In the blogosphere we have the same democratization of information flow that occurred when Martin Luther printed and distributed his Vulgate Bible.
The lag time between the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg (1449) and Luther's Ninety-five Theses (1517) was about seventy years; that is, it took seven decades for the invention to reach its full potential and trigger an information revolution. Looking at our own time, what would be the analogy? It has been roughly sixty years since the first computers were built, when the discipline of cybernetics was invented and Claude Shannon did his ground-breaking work. Now, three generations later, the Theses are nailed to the door.
In the three centuries following Luther's challenge to the Church, the same information revolution powered an explosion of scientific and technological innovation that ushered in the Industrial Revolution and guaranteed the ascendancy of the Christian West. Also during the same three centuries the Islamic tide threatening Christendom in the advance of the Ottoman Empire was finally stalled and reversed.
When the Turks fell back from the Gates of Vienna in 1683, they were retreating from the technological and cultural powerhouse that Europe had become during the information revolution. Christianity regained its ascendancy; the West regained its vitality; and Islam began its long decline.
The Islamic world was unable to generate the technology and organizational innovations which made the West supreme, but they borrowed and stole what they could. Unable to match the genius of the West, they were always a few steps behind, and could not keep up.
Now, during the Age of the Blog, the same thing is happening: the Islamists borrow the technology and ideas of the West to advance their ends. They cannot build the machines or create the software, but the enemy acquires them and learns to use them against us.
We can only hope that they remain several steps behind us. Our advantage in the West, since the time of Gutenberg, has lain in the free and open flow of information. If each individual is empowered with complete and trustworthy information, as a collective we are undefeatable.
What will the next three centuries bring for us, powered by the new Reformation? Will the old enemy stand at the new virtual Gates of Vienna and be driven back? If so, it will be due to the quality of the information swarms racing through our networks at the speed of light.
In Blog we trust.