My longtime colleague and friend Micah Sifry over at Personal Democracy Forum sent me a sharp and smart note after reading my latest Washington Post column. I think he makes an important and valid point, though I’m still unsure how the "Streisand effect" mitigates what seems to me an interesting point by Hornaday. In the WP column, I simply wanted to raise some questions about the value of the Web; start a debate if you will. I didn’t intend to offer conclusive answers. But Micah’s note is a thought-provoking one, and makes me better understand the many good reasons to respect the web’s democratizing role in our rapidly-changing media ecology. Micah Sifry writes: You write in your most recent Washington Post column:
Can the Web fix the problem? In her three-and-a-half-star review of the Ellsberg documentary, The Post‘s Ann Hornaday keenly observes: "Contemporary Web-centric media culture, with its proliferation of voices and reigning ethic of decentralization, makes everything equally important and unimportant, with each bit and byte of information just another bee to be herded, heeded or tuned out. Had the Pentagon Papers first been published on the Web, one wonders, would they have been all the more easily marginalized or ignored?" Indeed.
Indeed? I’m sorry, but this is really wrong and I wonder if it’s what you really believe. The problem is not the web, it’s "The Village" and it’s fading but still strong hand on framing what matters. The web is your and my friend. It’s what propelled the Downing Street Memo into partial view, after all. In an age of Wikileaks (which could use a plug by the way) it’s really silly to write things like "In the name of access, today’s Pentagon Papers might not be published at all, lest an embarrassed government turn off its spigot of information to whoever published them." Haven’t you heard of the "Streisand effect."