Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who do you trust?

So I've been observing a fascinating little Newfoundland blog war going on between Geoff Meeker and Peter Whittle. Now, the origins of this little blog war, like all these online skirmishes, is kind of weird. It involved whether or not Geoff slandered a local CBC reporter, and what should journalists do when they've made a mistake on a story online. Should they correct it and, if so, how should they go about doing it.

Peter jumped on Geoff, he took it personally and we're off to the races. Now, for those interested in such things, there is an interesting debate in the mix about correcting mistakes online. Should you leave the story as is, run a strike through the offending text, change it without telling anyone, put up a notice letting readers know there have been changes made to the original story. If you're into that sort of thing, it's interesting reading. Once you get past the bile, of course.

No, the interesting thing for me was why I was immediately willing to give Geoff the benefit of the doubt and assume Peter was being a git.

It's not like I know one better than the other, I don't think. If I counted the number of times I've met each of them in person, I would suspect Peter would tip the scales as I served on student council with him back in the mid-90s. I stand to be corrected but I've only met Geoff a handful of times.

However, I think I understand Geoff. When I read their last two salvos in this spat (Geoff's is here and Peter's is here) one feels like as if it is written by someone clearly angry, but still measures that anger with a well reasoned argument. The other reads like it was written by a smarmy high school student who thinks he's much more clever than he actually is.

I think I simply "get" Geoff better. I don't pretend to know if he has any political allegiances, but if I had to hazard a guess, I suspect it might be something like mine - he's a professional opposition member. Some anonymous idiot posted on either Geoff or Peter's site that Geoff was simply jealous of Premier Williams wealth and power. It's a statement so ludicrous and off-base that I hesitate to mention it.

If it was Roger Grimes or Brian Tobin in there, Geoff would be doing the exact same thing. Maybe it's not the most noble or glamorous of political callings, but someone has to tell the emperor he's wearing no clothes. That's what Geoff likes to do, be it with politics or media. And good on him for doing that.

I've just never gotten a handle on Peter. I know where people like Ed and Wally are coming from and measure their comments and statements accordingly. But I can never get a feel for Peter. And I'm a touch distrustful of people whose writings I can't trust but I don't know where they're coming from this week.

I don't mind people being persuaded by a powerful argument. That's good. I like people who do not follow one political party with blinders no matter how far off the path they go. You should think and consider the policies and the people in a party and not just blindly vote for them just because they're wearing the right badge.

However, I just keep wondering what the angle is with Peter. I keep wondering what the angle was on this blow-up. Because what started off as a simple debate on a statement on an energy corporation and the role of media escalated in a pretty big hurry and Peter is at least partially responsible for adding the extra napalm. I wish I could say it was genuine intellectual curiosity by Peter and willingness to debate the issue.

But that's the problem with someone whose writing you don't trust. There's always that hint of suspicion about what they're really up to. Quite frustrating, really.

Last Five (four of these five songs are awesome and I can't choose)
1. Blackbird/Yesterday - The Beatles*
2. Lowdown - Tom Waits
3. No you girls - Franz Ferdinand*
4. Go back to your woods - Robbie Robertson*
5. Galician Overture - The Chieftans*


SRD said...

Dunno, I've known Peter a long time, and rarely agree with him on anything (at least that used to be the case, I do often see things on his blog that make sense these days), but would have said that he was just always up for an argument - anything, anytime, anyplace. but he was never gratuitously rude, or offensive. Of course, I always thought that was just because he was too good a politician, and never wanted anything to come back to haunt him...

Winston Smith said...

As for the question of the angle, one place to start is to quote P&P directly: "I am a little bashful about all the attention he is giving me. I only wish I had a commercial site so that I could capitalize on all of the traffic the Telegram has been sending my way."

Megan said...

You beat me to it. I've been trying to figure out how to blog about this.

I've decided that I really like Craig Westcott, though. This morning in the "Plot Thickens" thread he said everything I was thinking.

towniebastard said...

Eh, not sure I buy the traffic argument. So he goes from 300 page loads to 500 page loads a day. Is that really such a big deal. In the grand scheme of things its a little Newfoundland politics blog. If he pulls even a third of the traffic that Ed or Geoff pulls, I'd be astonished.

And Megan, I've said versions of this before, but Westcott remains one of the most important voices in Newfoundland. If more journalists in the province had that man's balls, the sheer willingness to do what they believed to be right and God damn the consequences, politicians wouldn't get away with a fraction of the shit they do. I've always been proud to call him my friend.

And a reference....;)

Mark said...

"I don't pretend to know if he has any political allegiances..."

If a person with a poltical allegiance, real or perceived, make a meritous argument or a valid point, does it become less meritous or valid?

Anonymous said...

No, but Meeker is a big ol' Liberal, and that point is well known in the NL blogosphere. That said he's entiled to his opinion.

Geoff Meeker said...

This same troll appears elsewhere too, calling me a "big ol' Liberal." Always anonymous. I think it's funny, since I was never a Tobin fan, and was glad to see Grimes go. And I have never been a card-carrying member of any political party. I am happy to write "positive" (yeesh, I hate that word) things about a politician, but only when the good things really and truly outweigh the bad.

Mark said...

9 out of 10 dentists recommend Colgate toothpaste.
10 out of 11 anonymous commenters recommend Polemic & Paradox.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing that up Geoff.

Were you a member of the Liberal Party when Wells was attempting to sell off hydro?

Were you paid by the Liberal Party in any way when Wells was attempting to sell off hydro?

Have you ever been a member of the Liberal Party (federal or Scott Andrews)?

Edward G. Hollett said...

And how many of the 11 are actually Peter using sock puppets, Mark?

That's one of the funny things about it all. The anonymous comments are curiously similar in many respects.

Edward G. Hollett said...

And for the record Geoff, treat that 904 troll like I do:

Provide the information once they disclose their identityn including a verifiable e-mail address.

If you have the stones to be out in public putting up with abuse left and right, the least they could do is show the same integrity when question yours.

Without evidence of course.

It is really interesting to see how quickly the anony-trolls/sock puppets reveal that they have something very important they must hide.

Geoff Meeker said...

Anonymous: The answers to your questions are No, No and No. I don't like Scott Andrews. He jumped all over Fabian Manning about equalization, then "sold the shop" when it came his turn to vote.

What are you pussyfooting around for? If you have an allegation, come out and say it.