The Weekly Imitates The Worst in Blogging

Profiling by government agencies and right wing organizations is certainly a matter that would produce histrionics in the most even-tempered of at the Orange County Weekly. (And it should!) Yet this week, the erstwhile watchdog of Orange-County-style leftist politics does just that with Dave Wielenga’s ballyhooed Orange County: The Quiz.

Quizzes are nothing new to bloggers. Many of us can’t resist undergoing the latest interrogations at Quizzila to see how some only recently deadolescencized pundit pigeonholes us. Now and then you do hit upon a quiz which demonstrates a better than average knowledge of the world — which theologian are you? (Karl Barth here) or which famous philsopher do you agree with (David Hume) — come to mind — or even one which can help you know where you fit in such as the exceptionally well designed Belief-O-Matic quiz (Theravada Buddhist, Unitarian, and Liberal Quaker here). And then you have the trash quizzes, the ones slapped together to fill a back section in a slick magazine or allow bloggers an opportunity to display a cool graphic.

Not only does it not provide a cool graphic for people to display (nor is it automated — couldn’t they have hired a programmer just this once?) but they made it the lead story this week. This in the semi-tabloid which is home of a vapid-angry leftist who not only assailed this blog as “the worst ever” because we complained about noise out on the street invading a coffee shop but proved completely unable to deliver an apology for her character assassination of the one fellow who stood up for her!

But the self-proclaimed “Commie Girl” didn’t write this quiz. No, this no-content wonder came out of another typewriter. As I noted, most papers would have shoved this to the back if they’d printed it at all, but the Weekly, like a bad blogger, made it front page news worth passing up. What’s worse is that they fell into the very kind of stereotyping which they believe their twenty-something target audience craves.

So, for a start, I’d love to extend an invitation to any Weekly staffperson to join us at one of our OC Metroblog staff retreats and get to know a few twenty-somethings(as well as a few older writers such as Miles, Windblown, and myself). There’s a lot of wind blowing out of New York City by way of Santa Ana (just read the fine print to see where the money for the Weekly really goes) pretending to know what is happening in the hearts and minds of Orange County residents. And we, here at the OC Metroblog, think we have a better handle on a few things than the purblind view down the stonewall alley.

Second, I’d just like to say to the Weekly don’t talk to us about substance when you run trash like this quiz. On my way along Chapman Avenue, I saw a line of Latino demonstrators walking in the rain calling for justice for the victim of the latest police shooting. My crew here may not get to talking about such stuff — we are, after all, an all-volunteer organization and mostly white (positions still open) — but the staff at the Weekly gets paid. Just what was going on? This is the kind of thing that I read the paper for and they let me down.

Thirdly, let’s get off the stereotyping. I live in a Portola Hills condominium. My wife is a software engineer. Guess what? Even though your quiz says that we register as “compassionate conservatives” we detest AHnold and love Ariana Huffington. We give money to organizations like People for the American Way and that beltline of Communism The American Friends Service Committee. What can we conclude? That the designers of the quiz don’t have a freaking clue about the diversity that occurs in our neighborhood.

Then you have to wonder about anyone who classes this answer to the question “You’re backpacking in some of the most remote wilderness in Orange County when you come across another backpacker who has collapsed, unconscious, on the trail. What do you do?” as “conservative”:

Play the Good Samaritan and share your water, use your cell phone to call for help and stay by his side until rescuers arrive.

My words for this writer: clueless and the last person I’d take on a hike with me. Or maybe he’s an RNC operative out to plant the idea that you can’t trust a leftist with your life?

My final message to the Weekly is that if you are going to try to imitate blogs, don’t chase after what we admittedly don’t do well. The OC Metroblog is a collection of impressions written by people living in Orange County. You haven’t seen us put up a quiz defining “what kind of Orange County resident are you?” because we — being largely computer science professionals and social scientists who have had some elementary training in statistics — know that most such quizzes tell you zilch. We don’t do a lot of investigative writing here because we don’t have the capital to fund the necessary photocopying, gas, bus fares, legal defense fees, etc. that come with that line of work. What we offer is minutiae and Orange County as it is seen by us. We don’t claim to have the Answer or the Ultimate Scheme for neatly classifying Orange County denizens so that they may be pickled for ridicule. Our focus is personal and, as much as we as individuals can manage it, truthful. We keep our eyes open to what happens around us — be it the rain, the bumper stickers which we see on cars, a bar that is not yet cool because you haven’t found it, back country trails, or the minor league hockey games at the Pond. Our prose is succinct or long as it suits the writer. Our photographs come straight in from the field. We don’t assume that because someone lives in Laguna Niguel that she must be a Christian Fundamentalist and we don’t waste time trying to make such a person into one to suit our preconceptions.

What the Weekly and other papers can learn from blogs is to listen to ordinary people. This folk revolution arose because we the bloggers were sick and tired of the media telling us how to feel. So we’re here to tell you how we feel. If your professional dedication is towards accuracy — as the propaganda for the Fourth Estate insists that it is — then learn to listen to us. And imitate us at our best, not our worst.

That jeremiad concluded, let me doff my hat to Gustavo Arellano for his article about the bad works of Courageous Christians United and the Arabic Christians Information Center.

The only thing I would add to Arellano’s account is the fact that Christ’s Good Samaritan was neither Jew nor Christian, but a member of an ethnic group entirely outside of either community. One of the messages that I read in the story is that what counts are the works you perform. It’s meant to be read as a lesson in behavior and religious/ethnic tolerance.

Telling Muslims that the Prophet Mohammed is Satan does not qualify as good works. Arellano’s denunciation of this unChristlike behavior is solid and precisely aimed.

1 Comment so far

  1. Lynn Gazis-Sax (unregistered) on November 27th, 2004 @ 7:57 pm

    Lousy choices for heterosexual female happiness; I guess getting it right on the second marriage is the best of the lot, but I’d rather get it right on my first marriage.

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