I wrote this for a class so, although I’ve tried to avoid it as much as possible, there are a few technical words which I’ll explain here:
Epistemic reliability: A source is epistemically reliable if it produces/conveys more true beliefs than false beliefs. Epistemic just means having to do with knowledge.
Knowledge that is vertistic: knowledge as true belief.
I think that’s it!
I will briefly outline Coady’s main argument then I will argue thatbothGoldman and Coady are mistaken to focus their attention on evaluating the relative epistemic reliability of the blogosphere because (a) no meaningful distinction can be made in terms of reliability and (b) whatever current distinction there is will likely soon evaporate. I conclude that (c) even if we assume that one or the other class of media is more reliable this doesn’t matter one fig given the wide range of reliability within each class; what matters is whether the citizenry is able to distinguish between good and bad arguments and good and bad sources. A citizenry with low cognitive abilities will easily be mislead by the sensational and find themselves sucked into epistemic black holes–despite the existence of some reliable sources, conventional or otherwise.
(P2) The conventional media’s ostensible virtue of balance actually excludes genuine balance because it omits points of view that aren’t those of the dominant parties. The blogosphere, on the other hand, can accommodate every micro-perspective. This is an epistemic benefit to the citizenry.
(P3) Despite Goldman’s argument that the blogosphere isn’t independent from the conventional media, the dependance relation also runs the other way. The conventional media often turns to blogs as sources because blogs can do things the conventional media can’t or doesn’t do (like close examination of public documents, in depth analysis, etc…). These activities, which are most typical to the blogosphere, are an epistemic benefit to the citizenry.
(C) It follows from (P1), (P2), and (P3) that the blogosphere provides an epistemic benefit to the citizenry because it does things that the conventional media can’t or doesn’t do much of.
Instead of focusing on the central argument I will attempt to make the case that this debate over the relative epistemic benefits of the blogosphere and conventional media, while interesting, is of minimal importance. If our chief concern is epistemic well-being and good democratic decision-making, what really matters is the general level of critical thinking in the citizenry. An important part of the debate between Goldman and Coady hinges upon there being a meaningful distinction between journalists in the conventional media and bloggers. To begin making my case, I’ll try to show that this distinction cannot be sustained.
Given massive cuts to education, emphasis on rote learning for standardized tests and its consequences to the critical thinking skills of the general populous, its hard to see how the rise of the conspiratorial and sensational in the blogosphere should be counted as epistemic gain.