Wednesday, March 22, 2006
THE OBITUARY FOR THE RIGHT-WING BLOGOSPHERE:
This morning we read, thanks to Kos, Chris Bowers’ pronouncement of the death of the conservative blogosphere. It got us to thinking all day and we can only really find the time to sit down and put it on pixel now.
We started this way back in 2002, when, as you either might remember or find faintly implied in Bowers’ post, bloggers were seen by the media as overwhelmingly conservative. No, they weren’t seen ... they were (Remember this New Statesman article? “Right-wing bloggers are thus creating their own world, in which their truth exists often without debate.” It sounds very quaint today). Mickey Kaus was regarded as speaking for the left. Demosthenes, one of the ur-liberal bloggers, felt compelled to put in the top of his blog that his was “a liberal response” to all the conservativism out there, writing in his very first post:Liberals are marginalized, isolated, and dominated by Libertarian and Conservative thought online. They live in the Shadow of the Hegemon.He was right actually ... Marshall was the only real liberal blogger of note then.
Several bloggers have written about how Liberal bloggers are hard to find, and they certainly lack the sense of community, sense of identity and famous proponents that Libertarian or Conservative bloggers take for granted. The Liberals have no one with the cachet of Instapundit or Sullivan (although Josh Marshall comes close).
But somehow, we knew times could and would change ... and how they have! We knew the playing field was level out here
Because Bowers didn’t go far enough. It’s not just that the right-wing blogosphere is dead. It’s that it was easy to see that, even in its post-9/11 glory days, it was doomed.
Bowers properly notes that the conservative media machine, the Mighty Wurlitzer, didn’t see or assign any special role to blogs or bloggers of its persuasion beyond merely reinforcing the memes it was already spreading. But that was because it didn’t need bloggers, not because it couldn’t or didn’t see how to make use of them. In this case, for once, the all-encompassing nature of the Wurlitzer, often an imposing strength, became a liability: it was unable to incorporate a new technology into its arsenal. Bloggers couldn’t do anything for it that talk radio didn’t already.
Bowers and Armstrong could have noted one interesting fact best framed as a question: name one conservative blogger who has vaulted himself or herself from obscurity to pundit stardom purely through blogging.
We bet you can’t think of any. Sullivan already had old-media cachet thanks to TNR and Reynolds had already published things at conservative websites and on Tech Central Station. Even today among the rightbloggers this pattern continues: Malkin was a conservative columnist first, and John Hinderaker of Powerline infamy had done some stints at conservative think tanks.
Really, the closest thing to a conservative blogger who became a star pundit in his/her own right was Stephen den Beste (and that might have had a lot to do with the fact that his blogging style was so markedly different from what everyone else was doing at that time), who got to write a few pieces for the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. And what does it say about blogging as a path to Mighty Wurlitzer lucre and glory that he is no longer doing it?
Liberals, on the other hand, had nothing near the Mighty Wurlitzer to create this problem, as much as we wished we did. That was the best advantage liberal bloggers could have asked for (and we knew it at that time, we think). Sort of like the Celtic-tiger joke that the Industrial Revolution was the best thing never to happen to Ireland ... there was no existing infrastructure to clash with. It was inevitable, then, that something like the Daily Kos and the Dean campaign would happen, and become what they became.
A second reason for this ascendancy of the left over the right as the defining political force of the blogosphere is the nature of the right itself. If conservative bloggers are selling out to the mainstream media, it’s because they always really wanted to.
Recall one of the early unheralded triumphs of the left blgosphere: getting it out there, in early summer 2003, just how sure various administration officials were that we’d find WMDs all over Iraq before the war, at a time when the WMDs themselves were proving elusive. Billmon compiled the quote list which began showing up in memos among Democratic congressional offices, then in newspaper articles, finally doing in the administration’s hard-lied-for credibility on the issue. Neither he nor any of the many other bloggers who linked to it and spread it around got a lick of credit. Nor did they care if they did.
We couldn’t imagine a similar phenomenon taking place on the other side. Powerline’s serving as a conduit for the Texas ANG stuff took it from an obscure blog best known for claiming it had been hacked by al-Qaa‘idah (seriously ... we’ll have to find the link) to Time’s Blog of the Year. And Hinderaker & Co. would not have had it any other way then to end up with their smiling faces in the magazine.
As we said after the WMD meme spread, and got quoted (although we can’t seem to find the link now; maybe later), conservative bloggers want to make a name for themselves while liberals want to make a difference. Scratch a conservative blogger, and you’ll find a guy who just wants to make a few bucks selling clever T-shirts. As Steve Gilliard put it in a post to which we will return later, “ On the right, it’s all about getting noticed and linked to.”
It shouldn’t surprise anyone when they jump for a big-money Big Media offer no matter how vitriolic their previous commentary against the dread Emm Ess Emm.
Another problem, of course, is that the medium may just, as Josh Marshall once speculated, be inherently more favorable to Democrats and liberals. Blogging is a cooler medium, we think, to use Marshall McLuhan’s term, than talk radio (where conservatives just have a natural advantage).
For one thing, it’s more resistant to (and therefore less dependent on) central control. It could be argued that, in fact, the Mighty Wurlitzer couldn’t allow the development of a thriving right-wing blogosphere for that reason — it could not be brought back into the fold the way Bruce Bartlett and The American Spectator were at different times (We don’t envy the GOP establishment looking at Howard Dean and contemplating the prospect of a similar groundswell underneath Tom Tancredo in a couple of years).
For a concrete example of this, one should remember that during the bankruptcy bill debate, the Mighty Wurlitzer was pushing the credit industry narrative that this was all about forcing responsibility on irresponsible borrowers. Nothing more. Conservative bloggers sort of nodded their heads ... yet many of them, living lives outside of the conservative media cocoon, wondered why it didn’t curb the irresponsible lending practices of the industry as well, particularly the voluminous credit offers sent out to just about anybody with an address, something they were as familiar with as the rest of us. That could never have been allowed to become part of the GOP narrative, not when so many corporate contributions are at stake.***
However, for a group like liberal Democrats who are infamous for resembling a herd of cats, the looser nature of the blogosphere may actually work in their favor by accomodating that better. Our mere defects prove our commodities, as Shakespeare has someone say in King Lear.
Gilliard, in the post we linked above, notes that far too many right-wing blogs are known for zealously policing their comment sections ... assuming that they actually have them (as Sullivan and Reynolds do not). Elsewhere, he notes, redstate.org, the only real attempt on the right to emulate the Daily Kos model which has worked so well on our side, has failed on the right because, as one Republican Matt Stoller quotes says, “[We have] to convince a generation of political professionals to see the net as a community, rather than an audience.” Says it all, doesn’t it?
posted by Sully 3/22/2006 08:04:00 PM
IT’S SO NICE WHEN CONSERVATIVES BECOME PREDICTABLE:
As you may know if you’ve read other liberal blogs today, newbie Washington Post blogger Ben Domenech has neatly proven our theory about the influence of ’80s action movies on today’s conservative mind.
The Poor Man has a great post on this here, in response to Digby’s aside.
posted by Sully 3/22/2006 07:59:00 PM
Monday, March 20, 2006
SOME SMALL CONSOLATIONS FOR OUR FAVORITE BLOG QUEEN:
We were going to snarkily express surprise that we and Bruce Carroll, the only editor-in-chief of the Syracuse University Daily Orange ever to get fired, actually agreed on something.
But frankly, that Carroll implies complete agreement with Sullivan’s emailer’s suggestion that gays are inherently leftwingers, even after reprinting the statement in full, makes us really worry that he might be one of the people who wrote postcards into PostSecret a long time ago: “I’m gay and I absolutely hate gay people.” There is no other explanation for a man who claims to be both conservative and gay to accept such an insult.
In fact, there’s no other explanation for Carroll’s entire career as a gay right-wing blogger.
posted by Sully 3/20/2006 10:38:00 PM
KRUGMAN, LAST BUT NOT LEAST:
And finally the whining self-pity, when Sullivan has the nerve to complain that despite all his being a good doggy and endorsing Kerry Krugman is still picking on him ... well, Andrew dear boy, do you remember the way you went out of your way in them days to pick on Krugman? The many times you did? You could scarcely be surprised that The Krugster wants to collect even a fraction of the payback he’s owed.
Once again we think of that Roadrunner cartoon where the Coyote gets this computer he can use to tell him what to do to catch the Roadrunner in certain situations. After the usual series of amusing misfires, he finally gets to the point where a huge boulder is about to land on him. He steps out of the boulder’s path and asks the machine what to do.
It spits back a piece of paper that says “GO BACK AND TAKE YOUR MEDICINE.” Sullivan should likewise.
posted by Sully 3/20/2006 10:30:00 PM
BUSH AND SULLIVAN ... MADE FOR EACH OTHER:
But the real howler comes when Sullivan is finally held accountable for the “smokescreen” quote so ably noted by Spinsanity at the time he actually said it. (See sidebar for link ... it still works).
His response? “Krugman is grotesquely misrepresenting me.” Huh?
Incredibly, with the full quote right above, Smalltown Boy tries to switch the issue and ... put it on Bush, just like Bush would have. See, his urging that Bush deceive the public is immaterial because Bush was deceiving him.
One more time, Krugman isn’t lying, dissembling or doing anything other than representing the clear and literal truth when he says Sullivan “celebrated the president’s dishonesty” and “approved the deception.”
Let’s go over it, as the guy in the fried-egg anti-drug ad used to say, one more time:Yes, some of the time he is full of it on his economic policies. But a certain amount of B.S. is necessary for any vaguely successful retrenchment of government power in an insatiable entitlement state.There is no other way to parse that statement other than what Krugman said.
When you say something like that, you forfeit in perpetuity any claim on victimhood in deception.
posted by Sully 3/20/2006 10:17:00 PM
THE PLAIN, EMBARASSING RECORD:
We hadn’t really planned to blog today, but reading Sullivan’s latest attempt to deny he’s in the pickle Krugman ably places him in leaves us no choice.
First, a serious misstep:The plain record shows that I have been criticizing it since the first week it was launched.But he cites no evidence, odd for a blogger, to say nothing of such a Blog Power booster, who should know quite well that a statement like that will send a self-appointed watcher rummaging at once through his online archives to call him on it.
Paging through his posts from three years ago on, we haven’t found any real criticism. No, scratch that — we’ve found plenty of criticism, alright ... of the antiwar movement. Every sin, every over-the-top pacard, was lovingly quoted and chronicled. And there’s this gem, which to us proves incontrovertibly that this war had (and has) far more to do with domestic politics than foreign:If this war continues as well as it has been, won’t the anti-war left not merely be defeated but beyond humiliated? And won’t that leave an impression on at least some of them? The younger ones, perhaps? You’ve got to keep hoping.“As well as it has been.” Remember that. Oh, this too:The forces of evil are being dealt a terrible blow on the battle-field. But their chattering enablers are about to be politically annihilated.As before, quod era demonstratum.
There’s also a political and ideological war within the West. The anti-war crowd have lost the argument about going to war; so they are determined to win the case during and after it. They want this war to be regarded as a disaster. And it’s up to the rest of us to fight back, expose them, and keep people focused on reality, not pro-Saddam and anti-Western spin.
Might this be what he means by criticism? It’s certinly an accurate prediction, but it’s not phrased as a criticism:After an initial hope that this thing could be over swiftly, I think it’s obvious by now that we're in for a nasty fightOr this:Do we have enough troops in time for the final battle? Have we gone too fast too soon? Those seem reasonable concerns to me, although I’m not qualified to take a side in the argument. But it is not too unreasonable to worry that with one northern front denied us, we need overwhelming force to smash through to Baghdad quickly enough. Do we have enough?Again, if he wants to pass that off as “criticism,” we’re not buying. This was an entirely prescient worry, but by putting everything into the interrogative he avoids seeming critical while leaving the door open for the kind of statement he’s making now.
And he was rewarded with the usual “con” from the administration:What is making armchair generals and some bloggers like me nervous is all, apparently, part of the plan.Yeah, if the plan is “failure.” That does lead to something, though, that seems critical:We need to know more about how we're winning. We need a useful summary-cum-pep-talk. C'mon, Rummy. Tell it like it is.And he sure did, didn ’t he?
That’s it, then, for “criticism” from three years ago in the first week of the war. Rumsfeld might have had a communication problem, but Bush ... well, he was Our Leader still back then, and he was blameless.
posted by Sully 3/20/2006 03:41:00 PM