The Quest For Online Integrity

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Old Mr. Webster defines integrity as “the quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity.” That seems simple enough. But in the bitterly partisan, shoot-from-the-hip realm that is the blogosphere, defining integrity is anything but simple.

Just ask Josh Trevino. He is the motivating force behind a blog called Online Integrity, which bills itself as “a nonpartisan, non-ideological commitment to basic decency.” The project generated both enthusiasm and endorsements for a few days in early May. But its call for bloggers to respect people’s privacy on the Internet quickly deteriorated into the kind of partisan, virtual shouting match that is endemic to the blogosphere.

Though more than 200 bloggers have signed the “statement of principles” at the site, the quest for a nonpartisan consensus about virtue among bloggers is all but dead. There have been no posts at Online Integrity or the related Yahoo group in weeks, and much of the commentary since the initial wave of praise has been critical. The project even spawned a satire blog.

“A very frustrating and informative exercise in coalition-building,” Trevino lamented of his efforts.

Trevino, a co-founder of RedState, had high expectations at the outset of the project. Having witnessed personal attacks against some of his blogger friends on the right and the outcry on the left over the decision by Michelle Malkin to post the contact information of anti-war protestors, Trevino thought the time was ripe for an ethical consensus.

Four bloggers, two each from the right’s RedState and Daily Kos on the left, supported Trevino’s plan for a “code of practice.” About a dozen other bloggers — more from the left than the right, Trevino said — were invited to help draft the understanding.

“With the exception of Oliver Willis, who sent a rather petulant e-mail charging us with covering for Michelle Malkin … and Georgia10 of [Daily Kos], who remained silent, all the invitees agreed to participate,” Trevino said.

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