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Bolsheviks and Mensheviks


The Thornburgh-Boccardi report seems to have neatly divided the center-right blogosphere into two camps: Those who dismiss it as a total whitewash and those who are content to accept the "half a loaf" it  represents.

As I listened to Hugh Hewitt's radio show last evening, it struck me that what we now have is a sort of Bolshevik-Menshevik divide with folks like Hewitt, Jonathan Last and Jeff Jarvis demanding "dissolution now" (the Bolshevik bloggers) and Power Line, Soxblog, the Captain and others willing to be more patient as the mainstream media collapses of its own weight.

Perhaps, having waited so long for the report to appear, the whitewash (Bolshevik) camp feels betrayed that Thornburgh-Boccardi didn't resolve every issue and settle every score in favor of the bloggers.

The Mensheviks—I count myself in this latter group—are pleasantly surprised to see so many of our arguments from last September's uprising against CBS vindicated by those with better access to the facts and personalities involved.

Does it bother me that the report offers a few openings for face-saving rationalization to Rather, Heyward, Mapes, Corey Pein et al.?

Absolutely—but not nearly as much as it pleases me to see them knocked off their high horses.

I don't expect they'll get far on foot.

What worries me, though, is that fault line that emerged yesterday in the blogosphere's anti-idiotarian community could become permanent.

And we all know how well things turned out for the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks the first time around.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt has picked up my analogy from an earlier world-historical event, though plainly with misgivings. The Bolsheviks continue to do a fine job of poking holes in the Thornburgh-Boccardi report. I agree that Jonathan Last's piece on Appendix 4 is impressive; still, to be fair Michelle Malkin arrived at essentially the same conclusion within hours of the report's release. (I suppose you'd have to count her in the Bolshevik camp too.) Meanwhile, Soxblog—whose "half a loaf" metaphor makes him the Julius Martov figure here—has a well-reasoned defense of the Menshevik case, which you should read before taking up arms with Comrade Hewitt.

UPDATE: Seems I've really started something, though it's probably too soon to say exactly what. Jim Geraghty has a post about Bolsheviks and Mensheviks on the Kerry Spot: "This apparently puts me in the 'Menshevik' camp, the folks who wish Thornburgh and Boccardi had come out and said, 'Aw, heck, they’re biased, who are we kidding,' but who are otherwise pleasantly surprised at how detailed and critical the panel’s report is. My personal sticking point is that you shouldn't dismiss the entire report as a whitewash because you don’t like some of its conclusions; and that the four dismissals are not small potatoes."

Hugh Hewitt, meanwhile, agrees that Michelle Malkin is definitely a fellow Bolshevik and believes that Soxblog (on the evidence of this post) has defected from the half-a-loaf faction he created. I don't agree with Hugh's assessment, but I'll concede that James is definitely leaning in that direction, to judge from an email I got from him this morning.

Also in the Menshevik camp is Slarrow—a new blog to me but an excellent one. He notes that Peggy Noonan's gone Menshevik, though I'm sure Hugh would be quick to point out that she's much more one of "them" (the MSM) than one of "us."

Who knows?—Hugh (or more likely Dan Rather) may yet win the whole blogosphere over to the Bolshevik camp.

UPDATE: JunkYardBlog thinks my analogy a "bizarre formulation," but sides with Comrade Hewitt nonetheless: "Call me a Bolshevik, but a happy one. The Rathergate report is a whitewash on the major questions before the commission, namely, the questions of authenticity, origin and the role of bias. On all of those questions, the report punts a 60-yarder."

Posted by Rodger on January 11, 2005 at 09:11 AM | Permalink


For the first time in my life I am a Bolshevik.
Rod Stanton

Posted by: Rod Stanton | Jan 12, 2005 2:42:35 PM

And you can count me in as a Menshevik.

To dismiss the Boccardi-Thornburgh report as a "whitewash" is to denigrate its true value to the blogosphere as an instrument for MSM accountability to the public. The documentation of the story process and its Watergating aftermath is an object lesson for MSM journalists and producers on the importance of high standards and the power of the blogs.

Posted by: PhantomObserver | Jan 12, 2005 3:38:29 PM

The report is not really a whitewash at all. It's not really half a loaf, either.

The REPORT is more evidence in the long-building case against MSM. Its factual content is nothing short of damning, on many levels, in many ways.

The CONCLUSION is the "whitewash." But the conclusion contradicts the content of the report.

What's significant is that it's in the same document, and thus makes such contradiction downright comical, and at least a bit Orwellian. Or it WOULD be Orwellian, if MSM were still Big Brother that is watching us. But its not.

Therefore, we must seek further for our literary metaphor, but not much further. What we have here is "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

The fact that the blogosphere points this out is a good thing, I think. Of course, we can laugh rather than rattle the sabers, because the world -- even the Kerry-campaigning New York Times -- is laughing with us, right now. The rest of the MSM is laughing nervously, because they know who has the sabers, rattling or not, and they know that "there but for the grace of God," go they.

Posted by: Barry | Jan 12, 2005 6:52:21 PM

Count me as a Bolshevik. The way I believe you must grade the report is one of 2 grades, an "A" or "F". The report either was a thorough and comprehensive report or it wasn't. There is no middle here. By not being thorogh and comprehensive it is a failure of a report.

Posted by: d meyers | Jan 12, 2005 11:08:22 PM

I am curious. What did the blogosphere hope would happen? That CBS would commit seppuko due to dishonorable conduct. Overall, their previous conduct could only lead a person to believe obfuscation and delay would be the ultimate result. However, just the existence of a report shows that CBS is, and always has been, a partisan mouth piece. CBS, and fellow networks, will remain suspect until it, and they, officially announces its true incarnation to itself and the nation.

Posted by: Jeff Riemersma | Jan 13, 2005 9:54:58 AM

With all the carping Hugh is doing, he is beginning to sound like my mother. "You can do better!"

Since Glenn Reynolds is the "Blogfather", can we now dub Hewitt the "Blogmother"? As in, "No tsunami-blogging until you finish your Thornburgh report.....AND EAT YOUR PEAS!"

Posted by: TomB | Jan 13, 2005 1:05:45 PM

Oh, Peggy Noonan might be one of "them" indeed, but I really wanted to cite her because I think she set realistic expectations. I think Stanley Kurtz hit the nail on the head this morning: "Deep down, this Dan Rather business is about honor." I think that's what Hewitt wants: an official acknowledgement that CBS News was IN the wrong, not just they made mistakes, and he's trying to sustain fervor based on that righteous indignation.

I don't think that's all that reasonable to expect, nor do I see that it's particularly useful. It depends on what you want blogs to do vis-a-vis the mainstream media. If you want to bring them down, I should think you'd be perfectly happy to let them continue in their mistakes. If you wanted them to improve, then the tone of your comments would be wistful like those Republicans who say they need a healthy Democratic party for competition's sake. But Hewitt's claims seem to me to be pique at the overlooking of bloggers and the refusal to acknowledge the truth about their charges. That, it seems to me, becomes a problem of self-referentialism--look at us! we're important! (Granted, Hewitt just wrote a book called Blog, so no wonder he's interested in that side of things.)

So I suppose I'm still a Menshevik...although this is probably the only context in which I'd claim Marxist club membership!

Posted by: slarrow | Jan 13, 2005 3:56:59 PM

You state: "I don't expect they'll get far on foot."

I don't expect that they will be on foot for long. With such an exceptional liberal resume, I would be surprised to see any of these, especially Mapes, wearing shoe leather for more than a couple of days. They'll land at something easily, just because someone likes their style. Forget the ethics. It's pretty much a moot point with the MSM as it resides today.

I was surprised that the report did support the blogsphere data so very well. Though taking the stand that the documents haven't been truly proven fabrications is just astonishingly week. I'd say that they didn't do their job if that's the only conclusion that they can come to on that topic.

The fact that those four were purged is a good sign. Though Dismal Dan gets to rant again that the documents are true because they are topically right on. Someone has really got to set his tin foil beany back into place.

Posted by: Nylarthotep | Jan 14, 2005 6:24:56 AM

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