Following the delay of keynote speaker Elizabeth Edwards, the Personal Democracy Forum had to rework its morning schedule. After a panel which had Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington on the left cast herself as the absolutist and TownHall’s Chuck DeFeo, from the right, as the relativist. Arianna argued that the rise of online media allows the end to the hypocrisy of “neutral reporting.”
– Mixed bags: Huffington: “Some things are just facts: the world is round, evolution is how we got here, global warming is real and the war in Iraq has been a disaster.” Saying that the the mainstream media coverage saying that Iraq has been a “mixed bag” is akin to a doctor telling you your health has some good and bad after saying “you have a brain tumor, but your acne has cleared up.” DeFeo, gamely shaking his head at points, struck a more even-handed note, saying that credibility is an issue for the new media outlets, but that the give and take from readers and writers were offering the kinds of fact-checking balance needed for online pubs to gain respect.
– Social media, protest and ice cream: After that, Clay Shirky offered a survey of how social media is actually getting more individuals interested in foreign news and helping create awareness of movements and issues that otherwise would meet with little interest from traditional news sources. He brought up examples he has used before at other conferences: one favorite Shirky anecdote concerns a protest by Belarus youth in 2006. In an attempt to show the absurdity of preventing groups from gathering, about 10,000 Belarusians organized a massive flash mob in October Square where they all ate ice cream. Shirky: “Nothing says dictatorship like not letting people eat ice cream.”