The last few days have been a bit rough in the blogosphere as many were rocked by finding out Nic, aka My Bottle’s Up fabricated a story regarding the TSA “kidnapping” her son for a full 10 minutes despite their clear policy to never separate a parent and child. With no hesitation do I use the word ‘fabricated’ because as of the time I write this post, TSA has updated their blog on this, and have now released ALL footage related to the incident, from every angle, and at no time was her son ever removed from her presence, period.
Oddly enough, the worst part in all this wasn’t finding out she lied. Yes, it was disturbing. After all, before this, I followed Nic myself, and liked her sense of humor. I respected her.
Yet worse than discovering she lied was discovering how sadly apathetic the blogosphere could be.
People twittered saying she fucked up, leave it alone, why does anyone care?
Blog With Integrity, whose badge she displayed on her blog (no small irony there), posted a statement taking no stand at all.
Other bloggers blogged, many with no real opinion either.
It has actually gotten to the point that those of us choosing to voice our opinions are being called out, at times rather rudely.
This is truly disturbing beyond words to me that people actually think this doesn’t and shouldn’t affect them.
The blogosphere is at it’s heart a community. An incredibly diverse, rather disjointed and often dysfunctional family of sorts consisting of those who enjoy writing and sharing their lives and opinions with the world. There are relationships among bloggers, and between writers and readers that on some very basic level must contain an element of trust to be maintained. Writers must trust those they link to to be accurate, and readers must trust the content they are consuming and the emotional relationship they develop with the writer are what they are represented to be.
Trust which is shattered when a blogger chooses to lie to their audience and to their fellow bloggers. That breech of trust makes everyone question whether anyone they read or know online can be believed, and in the end that affects how the blogging community is perceived as a whole.
While one can argue a few bad apples shouldn’t spoil the barrel, I point to the Blogging With Integrity movement itself as a case in point. Clearly many ARE worried that the ethical lapses of a few could spoil it for us all for the pledge to even exist.
Bloggers are at a disadvantage to begin with in terms of credibility. Traditional journalists are assumed by their title to be strictly reporters, with no bias, and with all the resources and skills to fact-check everything before they put a piece to press. That they are human and naturally will be biased, and that many news pieces have been printed and retracted due to errors or untruths is of no consequence. At the end of the day, bloggers are people behind a screen, and are not considered reliable. (A fact I’ve seen many a blogger rail about.) One of the biggest difference between bloggers and journalists comes down to accountability. A reporter fucks up on their facts, they can get fired.
Who is the blogger accountable to?
In my opinion, we are all accountable to each other. The blogosphere is and should continue to be a self-policing entity. That doesn’t mean letting bad behavior go without comment for the sake of peace or ‘respect’. It means doing as we have for the most part always done, and calling out those who do things to damage the reputation of all of us involved- those who fabricate, those who plagiarize, those who attempt to take advantage of the community for their own personal gain.
That’s not to say this should be abused. There has been behavior this weekend that clearly crossed boundaries. It’s one thing to call someone out on your blog, it’s something else to potentially put someone in danger by posting things like their home address online. There is a difference between policing and vigilantism.
At the end of the day, all bloggers have are their reputations, both on their own and as part of the community they participate in. When one part of the structure becomes unstable, it throws off the balance for all the parts, not just those closest to the weak link.
The only way we can maintain our integrity as a whole is to be willing to take a stand, and not sweep things under the rug after we’ve shot the messenger. It is not just the wrong-doer’s reputation at stake here, it’s yours as well.