Remember back to the 2004 U.S. election when a dubious report by CBS’s 60 Minutes program questioning President Bush’s military record became the subject of heated debate on the Intertubes?

Key to the assertions implicit in that report was the legitimacy of certain documents purporting to show then-Lieutenant Bush had effectively shirked his service in the Texas Air National Guard to work instead as a political hack.

To quickly neutralize the potentially harmful effect these damaging allegations may have had to the reputation of the self-described “War President” and his campaign for re-election, countless “experts” immediately materialized on right-wing blogs claiming that based on their arcane knowledge of typewriter technology circa 1968, and most particularly, hairsplitting expertise over the intricate kerning of fonts, the documentation in question had quite probably been faked.

Hence, the “kerning” phenomenon, whereby anyone with an Internet connection and the ability to execute a Google search on a given subject could, with sufficient determination, become something of an “expert” on just about any subject in rather short order.

Watching the dramatic events unfold in Egypt over the last week brought this notion back to mind. All of a sudden, people who until last week probably couldn’t locate that country on a map of the world and who’d never even heard of the “Muslim Brotherhood” up to this point (e.g., Glenn Beck, who admitted as much in the preamble to his lunatic Coming Insurrection program the other night), are now authoritatively opining on the situation and have suddenly become “experts” on the deeply convoluted machinations of politics in the Arab world.

So I’ve coined a new word to describe this curious dynamic:


Hey, if Sarah Palin can get inducted into Webster’s with her inadvertent conflation “refudiate” then why not put forward a new word that adds some actual value to the lexicon?

Update: Here’s a perfect case in point.



Filed under Humour, Idiot Bloggers

12 responses to “Instapertise

  1. It’s an excellent word. It certainly skips off the tongue more dancingly than my alternative—“fucktardy”—does .

  2. Love it, I’ll certainly start using it (with appropriate credit given)… fucktardy too.

  3. billg

    “why do you read so many blogs”
    …”cuz they’re all instapertise’s”…

  4. jkg

    Ha! Brilliant, Red, I, too, will be using that new word. Thankfully, I can access some BBC programming through the interwebs, and I remember watching a three part series on the rise of the internet (yes, I am nerdy like that). However, there was one line of discussion that I found quite apt when describing this Brave New World where anyone with a fixed belief participates in discourse.

    Quite simply, Sergey Brin, one of the creators of Google in his graduate paper spoke of the liberating aspects of the free flow of information. He was quite an optimist, and that mirrored the very positive picture that was painted about the effect of the internet. That is, this free flow of information and ideas would serve as some sort of harmonizing force because open access to information and facts would somehow eliminate biases and such. This type of language, in my estimation, sounded very utopian, enlightened, and well,liberal.

    What the BBC doc discovered was that much of the opposite occurred, and they termed this ‘cyber balkanization’ because rather than actually breaking down previous barriers established by superstition, entrenched beliefs, etc., people simply started to group around based on whatever biases or beliefs they had. We see this intensification of entrenched beliefs all the time with the rise of “instapertise.” Think Islam is a death cult? There is info for that with which you can link storm anyone you would like on a forum to make yourself look like you studied the subject with intensity. Think homosexuals are destroying society? Well, there are ‘studies’ on a website somewhere about that as well, and in an instant, you can turn into some sort of expert in sociology.

    In my mind, this creates a strange paradox, the liberalization of information has resulted in an increase in cognitive biases (Hostile Media syndrome, confirmation AND disconfirmation bias just to name a few), but it has also resulted in the relativistic judgments on the value of information. Triumphs of our civilization through academia are now met with extreme suspicion in which skepticism is a code word for most deniers or knee-jerk contrarians. So, my question is, what are some conservatives actually conserving if the exhaustive work in scholarship is now on par with a dedicated afternoon google search? I could pose a similar question for neo-luddites or with progressives, especially given the fervent preoccupation with post-modernism. However, it is my limited understanding that at one point, conservatism meant defending, as I said before, the triumphs of civilization. The neo-liberal stream in conservatism today might partially explain this overlooked consequence of judging information relativistically. This might sound shocking to some conservatives given the protestations against moral relativism, but that doesn’t mean they should not examine the pitfalls of such relativistic thinking when approaching discussions on other aspects of the human world.

  5. Wow. There’s a lot of stuff to unpack in that comment.

    The phenomenon you describe about the “balkanization” of information and the unfortunate tendency of people to seek out pleasing opinions and corroborating “facts” that serve only to reinforce their existing prejudices has definitely been an unintended consequence of widespread access to the Internet. In retrospect, Brin’s notion that open access to information would somehow eliminate bias seems quite absurdly unrealistic. If anything, it’s had the completely opposite effect; helping in large part to fuel the highly polarized and frequently toxic climate of discourse that we now experience.

    As to the relativistic judgements on the value of information, what seems to be lacking in this regard is the increasingly lost discipline of critical thinking. Absent that, we seem to end up with a confusing mass of false equivalencies and nonsensical “controversies” that exist solely for the sake of gainsaying contradiction.

  6. Tomm


    Last week I didn’t even know how Tunisia was governed by thanks to our western jounralaists who all shared their instapertise, I now know just enough to be dangerous.

    Even better, when everybody was linking Egypt to protests led by intellectual youth and the coming ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood and how that mimicked Iran’s revolution, I found it hard not to show my own instapertise when talking with others.

    Great word. I will try to remember to use it. Are you seeking royalties?

  7. Tomm

    pardon the typo’s. The older I get, the more I need a spell check.

  8. The notion of royalties never occurred to me. I just felt the language was in need of a new word to describe a certain aggravating phenomenon. One that didn’t involve the root “fuck”…

  9. Tomm


    Going the Buckminster Fuller route are you; just looking to do your thing and let the money just happen?

    It worked for him. Perhaps you could link this with the Windows operating system and share the profits with Mr. Gates…

    Or, get 1 billion people to use your word and then get people to invest like Mr. Zuckerman.

    We all generate our own instapertise. Thank God most of us aren’t used as TV experts.

  10. I don’t particularly like money. Not that I have an objection to it per se, but it’s never really been something I was all that concerned with. Basically, it’s just a bothersome annoyance that I deal with reluctantly.

    Great quote from Bucky:

    “You either make sense or you make money.”

  11. jkg

    Wow. There’s a lot of stuff to unpack in that comment.

    Yeah, sorry about that. I fluctuate from single lines to just straight bursts of dense posts.

    In retrospect, Brin’s notion that open access to information would somehow eliminate bias seems quite absurdly unrealistic.

    That is precisely the view that the BBC doc took at the end when concluding about the social implications of the information age. It was fairly muted optimism, guarded in a way.

  12. Eowyn

    Love the coining of the new word — most attempting Instapertise are cringe-inducing, regardless of orientation. Insta-reaction!

    However, I must take some issue with the inclusion of the Dan Rather/phony document case as an illustration. Sort of.

    To explain: I watched the “outing” of the Bush Texas National Guard documents in question unfold from its nascence. That is, at that time I read the Power Line blog frequently, at that time, and I saw the actual comment (in real time) by poster “Buckhead” questioning the document’s format for the very first time. I followed the tangent from start to finish — that is, its culmination in proof positive that the document had, indeed, been forged.

    (Alas. In the time compression that is the Internet in its evolution, where so much is lost in the interest of RAM preservation, the best proof I can offer is a post by now-despised Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs. Nutty he is, I believe, but his (nonInsta)expertise in the printed word is obvious. Here is the link:

    Which brings me to an observation:

    Truth exists on oxygen, and the Internet is the last full tank we’ve got. Do Instaexperts come forth with each new topic, and do they command Insta-acceptance from the now-hackneyed Sheeple? Undoubtedly.

    Does that — and the characterization of information providers as “nuts” — exonerate us from testing not only their, but other, assertions to find out if they’re true? No. Filters, however reliably they are perceived, are still filters.

    The right brain applauds the attempt to smear the former president. The left recoils at its sadly pedestrian attempt.

    Anyway — always best to follow Aristotle’s advice to check EACH premise.

    (An aside: I see myself plugging a blog exposing Instaexpertise wherever I see it. Mark Twain springs to mind: Better to let people think you’re a fool and keep your mouth shut, than to open it and remove all doubt.)

    (Another aside: So glad to find you still here, after my prolonged absence from Internet connection and a good deal of personal evolution. You may not believe it, but … oh, never mind 🙂

    (Last aside: I wish your commenters [for the most part] had at least a fraction of your clean detachment. Right and Left, I weary of Insta-opinions.)


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