Over the past few days, I couldn’t figure out why the portrayal of bloggers as mainstream media checkers didn’t sit well with me, but I knew that something was wrong. After reading a few more bloggers’ versions of what Google’s trying to do to America with their latest Toolbar beta, I now realize what it is: bloggers are just as bad as — and in some ways way, way worse than — the mainstream media about taking an out-and-out falsehood and running with it, usually without doing anything other than taking what they’re told and repeating it more vehemently. In this instance, it seems that all it took was a few people claiming that AutoLink automatically changes the text in web pages, and now that’s all anyone’s saying despite the fact that it isn’t true; website operator forums are literally exploding with outrage, media watchdog bloggers are repeating their complaints without any attempt to verify them, and scores of users are hopping mad that someone would dare mess with their web browsing experience (even though they’re happy to use popup blockers and other tools that modify the display of a web page’s HTML code). The only thing I can conclude is that none of them have even installed the Toolbar, the same conclusion I’d make if someone told me that they hated the graphing calculator feature in AOL Instant Messenger.

Don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of people maintaining weblogs who could factcheck anyone’s ass better than a huge chunk of the mainstream media (for example, cross the folks over at MetaFilter at your own peril!). But at least in most segments of the mainstream media, there are editors who would check to see if what a writer describes has any basis in reality. Then there’s the tabloids, and in the Google Toolbar outrage, that’s what a ton of bloggers are showing themselves to be.


Would you please let us know which forum literally exploded? I know you can’t link to it because it’s exploded, but perhaps you could point to a MNM news article somewhere which reports on the explosion.

• Posted by: Jeremy on Feb 20, 2005, 11:03 AM

Ummm, Jeremy, I did link to it — but they marked the thread as members-only as soon as it started getting any outside attention.

• Posted by: Jason on Feb 20, 2005, 11:13 AM

This reminds me of an early Matt Drudge story in which he reported that young female fans of Dean Cain were so excited they were “literally lactating.” Must have been quite a sight.

• Posted by: Rogers Cadenhead on Feb 20, 2005, 12:46 PM


Jeremy’s point is that you misused the word “literally.” The forum didn’t “literally” explode.

Learn what the word “literally” means.

Other than that, your post is right-on.

• Posted by: Tom on Feb 24, 2005, 9:03 PM

Tom, I hate to say it, but learn what the word “hyperbole” means, especially as it’s used as a literary device. (I was well-aware that Jeremy was trolling me; I wasn’t taking the bait.)

• Posted by: Jason on Feb 24, 2005, 9:12 PM

“Trolling” you? You weren’t “taking the bait”? What trolling, and what bait? He was simply pointing out your misuse of the word “literally.”

I’m not sure why you’re asking me to “learn what the word ‘hyperbole’ means,” because no one here has used or misused the word “hyperbole.” If you intended to actually ask me to learn what hyperbole IS, well… thanks, but I already know what hyperbole is.

There’s nothing in your post, or within the context of your post, to indicate that you were misusing the word “literally” with a knowing wink. Its use appeared to be, well, literal. There was no sign to the reader that you were knowingly employing hyperbole.

If you don’t want your writing to be misunderstood, perhaps you need to make your writing more understandable.

• Posted by: Tom on Feb 24, 2005, 9:56 PM

Seriously, it’s been an eternity since I had a grammar debate; I’m dying with excitement! My grammar teacher told me a million times that I’d run across people who feel that grammatical devices they didn’t “get” would immediately label the use of those devices as incorrect. Alas, at least I can remain comfortable that no matter how bad any lapse I might have made was, it wasn’t as bad as arguing about grammar as a technique to avoid having to defend illogical or indefensible positions — that’s the worst thing in the world.

• Posted by: Jason on Feb 24, 2005, 10:12 PM

Well, it’s a good thing, then, that no one here seems to be arguing about grammar to avoid defending illogical or indefensible positions. I can speak only for myself, but I know that I thought your post was “right-on,” as I wrote earlier.

The old “pointing out grammar/spelling mistakes is bad Web etiquette” myth is just that: an old myth, left over from the days when the Internet was filled mostly with math and science geeks who couldn’t spell or use grammar properly.

• Posted by: Tom on Feb 25, 2005, 7:05 PM

Tom, I certainly wasn’t accusing you of ignoring the facts for the grammar, but rather Jeremy.

• Posted by: Jason on Feb 25, 2005, 8:42 PM
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