I was at a big old get together yesterday evening featuring some people from the blogosphere, some old media types, folks with old media origins who now do some new media work, folks with new media origins who now work for MSM outlets, and even some people who aren't journalists or bloggers at all but who are familiar with these issues. The fascinating thing is that if you had to sort the group out into an "excited about new stuff" group and a "frightened by new stuff" group, the defining characteristic of the Axis of Fear is what strikes me as a fairly bizarre aversion to be criticized. Or, at a minimum, an aversion to being criticized in strong, blunt terms rather than a kind of polite disagreement between close friends or collaborators.
The way they would put it, naturally, is that they're only opposed to unfair or vulgar criticism. And that's probably even right -- nobody minds a fair, respectful criticism too much. But, of course, if you get criticized a lot -- as anyone with a moderately trafficked blog does -- most of the criticism is going to seem somewhat unfair to you. Opening yourself up to being criticized in unfair or obscene ways is part-and-parcel of the process of opening yourself up to being criticized at all; if you're not willing to read the occassional unfair or ill-informed slam, then you're really just not willing to go through the process of reading criticisms at all.
On top of that, there seems to be this notion that if there was no internet, nobody would be making the criticisms. As if before 1998 or so everyone sat around reading their morning New York Times with nary a peep of complaint. But of course people were always pissed off -- I remember Teenage Political Dork Matt and his father bitching about the media -- it's just that now you see hear from them more often. But if people are going to be pissed off at me, frankly, I'd rather have some sense of what they're pissed off about. Maybe they have good points and I should change things up. Or maybe their points are dumb, and I should press forward and ignore them.