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May 02, 2008

Jeffrey Goldberg Battles Manfully Against Internet's Glaring Flaws

Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg has a new blog at the Atlantic.

This is great news, because Goldberg is one of the few people anywhere willing to grapple with the horrible weaknesses of the internet. For instance, here's Goldberg writing in Slate in October, 2002 in support of the Iraq war:

There is not sufficient space…for me to refute some of the arguments made in Slate over the past week against intervention, arguments made, I have noticed, by people with limited experience in the Middle East (Their lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected.)

Yes—Goldberg would have demolished the ridiculous arguments against invading Iraq, if only there were enough space on the internet. Man, he would have ripped them to shreds! But that's the problem with the online world, one that no one but Goldberg is willing to face: the internet has an extremely limited space for words.

Goldberg ran into exactly the same roadblock in one of his first posts:

I was telling Andrew about an on-line mugging I experienced at the hands of a person named Matt Haber, who is associated with the New York Observer...What bothered me about Mr. Haber's post was not its insults (a couple of which were funny) but that he repeated a discredited accusation made by an ethically-challenged journalist about my reporting without having sought my comment.

You can understand how frustrated Goldberg would be by this. Matt Haber had quoted Ken Silverstein of Harper's saying that Goldberg's pre-war Iraq reporting "relied heavily on administration sources and war hawks (and in at least one crucial case, a fabricator)."

God, it would be SO GREAT if there were some invention that would give Goldberg enough room to demonstrate with evidence that Silverstein is ethically-challenged and his claim has been discredited. Even better would be if this invention allowed Goldberg to easily direct readers' attention to such evidence elsewhere, thereby "linking" his post to it.

Perhaps someday science will provide us with such a glorious new means of communication. Certainly if it ever exists, Jeffrey Goldberg will make full use of it. He hates being forced to baldly assert things as fact and expect everyone to take his word for it. But given the internet's terrible shortcomings, he has no other choice.

IT'S A COMMON PROBLEM: Other people who desperately wanted to explain themselves but just didn't have the space include Madeleine Albright and Saddam Hussein.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at May 2, 2008 01:54 PM

Along the same lines, I have this wonderful proof of my theory for bringing about world peace and a just social order, but this comment section is too small to contain it.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at May 2, 2008 02:00 PM

No, no, no, that's not it. Fracking amateur. My plan is so complex and detailed that even in alluding to it I'm only alluding to an allusion of it, because an actual allusion would be longer than War and Peace.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at May 2, 2008 03:23 PM


Posted by: abb1 at May 2, 2008 03:25 PM

Did Goldberg call Saddam Hussein for comment on his pre-war pieces about Iraq?

Posted by: darrelplant at May 2, 2008 03:42 PM

What is it about people named Goldberg?

Posted by: at May 2, 2008 04:38 PM

THE INTERNET IS THE NEW THIRD PARTY, and Mr. Goldberg, a possible Republican, may not find favor on the Net with anything he says. (I'll check the wingnuts later to see)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 2, 2008 05:11 PM

Yeah, the space limitation is unfortunate. As is the lack of a feedback mechanism for his readers to shower him with the praise he so richly deserves. Call it, say, a comment section.

Posted by: BobS. at May 2, 2008 07:34 PM

What is this device, this "comment section" of which you speak? Perhaps you could explain its workings to him.

But that's his right. Fortunately, we can comment here. I looked at his interview by the Haaretz columnist and found this gem--

"I don't argue for a withdrawal from the West Bank because I'm a fervent believer in the Palestinian cause. I'm not such a good person that I can easily forgive the Palestinian national movement its record of brutality and self-destructiveness. I advocate this because I want Israel to remain a Jewish-majority democracy."

Yes, it is unfortunate that the Palestinians are so murderous, because most national movements achieve their goals by sending flowers and chocolates to those who might otherwise oppose them. Take Israel itself--it became that Jewish-majority democracy because of a series of events in 1948. Chocolates were exchanged, people picked flowers, and the rest was history.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at May 2, 2008 07:50 PM

Though I actually would like it if the Palestinians had all gone in for a Gandhian approach. It's just that odd discrepancy in how two different national movements that used the same tactics are judged--I can't explain it, but it's almost like two different standards are being employed.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at May 2, 2008 08:08 PM

True, it's his right, but can he feel our love and approbation and really, would you want to keep trudging the digital miles between there and here just to take a virtual pie in the face?
Speaking of pastry, you do have to love the zany antics of those Goldberg boys- makes the brothers Marx and Howard look like amateurs. I can't wait to see what Judah or Joshua do for an encore.

Posted by: BobS. at May 2, 2008 08:18 PM

At least it's not JONAH Goldberg...

Posted by: James Mason at May 3, 2008 10:33 AM

I think I may actually prefer Bernard and Jonah. More unabashed.

Posted by: StO at May 3, 2008 10:55 AM

This is a shonda, any way you look at it.


Posted by: aimai at May 3, 2008 12:14 PM

Pierre de Fermat, too.

Posted by: Mike at May 3, 2008 02:39 PM

Speaking of gems - from the keyboard of JG:

"This is almost certainly a mistake.

Friends tell me that I will take naturally to blogging because I am in possession of many poorly considered opinions about issues I understand only marginally. I am dubious, however. My day job is to produce overlong narrative stories for the magazine that sponsors and funds his website. These stories are meant to be exhaustively researched, carefully constructed and closely edited. Whether they justify the effort is for the reader to decide. In my opinion, they occasionally do, but I don’t like most writing, including my own."

You couldn't make it up, could you!!!

Posted by: Simon at May 3, 2008 05:16 PM