The Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the dominant newspaper in South Dakota, has been criticized for more than a year for its pro-Daschle bias: not running national stories critical of Daschle, not disclosing the main political reporter's past relationships with Daschle, and for putting an editor in charge of political coverage who sees Republicans as "evil" and has lauded Daschle in the past. The coverage of the Argus is critical to this Senate race given its monopoly power over political information. The editor of the Argus hasn't been fond of blogger criticism, which he sees as driven by a "violent" internet "cabal" of "yahoos" who lacked "guts" and hid "behind their computer screens" and wouldn't face him "man to man." After one such episode, Andrew Sullivan simply said: "An Editor Loses It." In other Argus columns, Beck has criticized "internet blogs" which "hurl venomous attacks" (June 27, 2004) from "every fanatic with too much time on his hands." (Argus, May 2, 2004) Beck has not addressed the substantive criticisms of the bloggers. Today, however, Beck announced the formation of an Argus blog to answer public concerns about its political coverage. In so doing, he noted how he sees blogs as places where the views of the "pinheaded" on the "political fringes" with "nutty opinions" can "now spew forth," worsening the "polarized climate" in politics. So, Beck is not a fan. Then, immediately after discussing the "nutty opinions" of those on the "political fringes," Beck plays the Hitler card: "If Hitler were alive today, he'd have his own blog."
It's hard to imagine a less constructive way to engage one's critics. Trotting out Hitler just seems like a really bad idea, especially since Moveon.org has recently been criticized for ads on its website comparing Bush to Hitler and given the criticism of Al Gore in recent weeks for his comments about the President's "digital brownshirts." Invoking Hitler is a conversation stopper. It betrays the absence of a serious desire to engage one's critics on the merits. If Beck wants to understand how important blogs can be, I suggest he take a look at University of Chicago Political Scientist Daniel Drezner's new study on blogs. Also, if he still doesn't take criticisms of liberal bias seriously, he should read the startling admission of The New York Times' ombudsman this morning.