In a move drawing much scorn within the blogosphere (led by ultra popular sites like BoingBoing and Instapundit), Forbes magazine’s cover story next week is “Attack of the Blogs,” a venomous article by writer Daniel Lyons — a figure already despised by many within the Linux community for his advocacy of SCO intellectual property lawsuits.
What will generate such contempt? Well, certainly such blanket generalizations as “Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective” won’t garner much accolades from bloggers. The premise of Lyons’ argument is taking small examples of bad behavior bloggers (a pump-and-dump scammer who is now under indictment for the same crime from 2000) and skewering what many consider good blogging and fact-checking (“Microsoft has been hammered by bloggers; so have CBS, CNN and ABC News, two research boutiques that criticized IBM’s Notes software, the maker of Kryptonite bike locks, a Virginia congressman outed as a homosexual and dozens of other victims”).
But what is sure to raise the ire of many bloggers are some of the dastardly solutions to negative blog coverage: astroturfing (paying other bloggers to support your viewpoint in the blogosphere); mudslinging (digging up dirt on the blogger attacking your company to discredit them); censorship (find any possible copyrighted item on the blogger’s website and call their hosting company to snitch); suing for defamation (if all else fails, just destroy the blogger with your multi-million dollar team of lawyers).
Now, unfortunately, the article fails to give even a cursory look at the good things the blogosphere promotes when it comes to businesses. Like when Savvis CEO Rob McCormick frivolously blew $241,000 at a strip club (he’s been sent on unpaid leave), or when Dell’s customer service causes one blogger to coin the term Dell Hell (and Dell’s subsequent failure to adequately respond drew the criticism of Business Week), or the various political bloggers who demanded spending cuts after Rep. DeLay declared ‘victory‘ in the war on budget fat (a project called Porkbusters was born).
And there’s hundred of similar, good tales for every negative tale about a scammer. Unfortunately, Lyons misses the big picture, that the blogosphere is a community of millions of people who are just as good or bad as the people we meet in real life. Fortunately for us, his doom and gloom outlook isn’t quite as dire as he makes it out to be. But unfortunately, we have to wonder how many businesses will now take his advice and use his guide to counter-attack all criticism, legitimate or not.
Update: VodkaPundit posts an insightful email from one of his readers:
The article’s really quite astonishing. You know, after reading [Gillmor's post] and the accompanying comments, it occurred to me that one reason blogs are viewed as dangerous is that they serve as means to the (at least ostensible) ends of both liberals and conservatives. Those ends are definitely not always the same, and they come from different motivations, but if liberals want “freedom of information” and conservatives want the “marketplace of ideas,” those are both at least neighboring territories, and blogs go a little ways toward making them more of a reality. Corporations, big media, the government–any entrenched power–can’t help but be nervous, and will eventually seek ways to fight them.