HAIR-TRIGGER INSTINCTS….Jeff Greenfield protests that his comparison of Barack Obama’s fashion sense to that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was just a joke. Well, we’ve all screwed up a joke now and then, haven’t we? Explanation accepted. But then he takes a stab at fleshing out why so many people reacted so harshly to his original piece:

Most of what happened here, I think, is a demonstration of the hair-trigger instincts that have grown up among some of the bloggers….In a political world where partisans routinely assume the worst about their adversaries ? and where conspiracy theories stretch from Bill Clinton as a drug ring- and murder-enabler to Bush as planner of 9/11 ? there’s a tendency to find malice aforethought.

That’s several miles off, I think. Bloggers do tend to have hair-trigger instincts, but they’re largely aimed at the media, not their adversaries. Greenfield deliberately illustrated his point with a couple of conspiracy theories that didn’t get much play in the mainstream media, but the last decade has produced a hundred others that never would have crawled out from under their rocks if it weren’t for CNN, the New York Times, and other traditional mainstays promoting them. I’m no Bob Somerby, but even I flinch pretty hard when Greenfield tries to whitewash the media’s own culpability in producing the hair-trigger instincts he derides. Bloggers may overreact to this stuff sometimes, but there’s a reason for that. Maybe CNN ought to do a special about it?