Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Chris Bowers of MyDD tries to figure out why so much attention has been focused recently on essentially harmless doings of left-wing bloggers (Kos vs. The New Republic and so on), while a top-tier right-wing blogger's death threats against Supreme Court Justices get no play in the mainstream press.

Interesting question, but I'm not sure I agree with Chris's answers:

The political and media establishment doesn't care about the right-wing blogosphere.... The right-wing blogosphere has comparatively little influence within the conservative movement and the Republican Party as the progressive netroots have within the progressive movement and the Democratic Party. They also have a significantly smaller audience, and the media clearly is not obsessed with them to nearly the same degree they are obsessed with us. The conservative movement does not need them, and basically they have very little impact on the national discourse. So people generally don't care.

... The right-wing blogosphere and netroots are only useful to the conservative movement and only successful in so far as they replicate established conservative political tactics and support established conservative means of information distribution. There isn't a single new tactic or idea to be found in the conservative blogosphere and netroots.

... this all isn't to say that the right-wing blogosphere and netroots aren't effective. In the end, they accomplish what the conservative movement needs them to accomplish: more of the same. They are effective in the way that they are needed to be effective, even if that doesn't mean a whole lot....

I'm not sure this is wrong so much as an upside-down interpretation of the facts.

Chris takes it as a given that political blogging has a higher purpose -- to integrate itself into the electoral process, with the intention of getting people elected. (The vast majority of the left blogosphere seems to agree with that, of course.) Chris notes that the right blogosphere isn't pursuing that goal -- and suggests that this as a failure to tap into blogging's potential.

I say it's just the opposite. I think Republicans have figured out that that isn't what blogging is good for, and are choosing to use blogging in other ways.

Chris sneers at the use of blogs by the GOP to reinforce its memes and messages -- "effective, even if that doesn't mean a whole lot," he says. But I think it does mean a whole lot. It means Net-reading voters' passions are continually stirred, a big chunk of the base is regularly fired up, and new messages are market-tested outside the mainstream media's line of sight, with the understanding that some will work their way up the media food chain while others will inspire only online hardcore types -- as necessary.

I'd also point out that the GOP blogosphere has "carriers" -- people who are part of the blog world who can transmit blog messages back to the offline world, via, say, talk radio (Hugh Hewitt) or cable news guest appearances (Michelle Malkin); our side has very few well-positioned pundits or commentators who've ever even read a blog, or so it seems.

In short, I think the Internet is working just fine for the Republicans. Time will tell, but I'm not sure the blogs-into-"netroots" strategy is working all that well for us.

I also want to address what Chris says about mainstream-media interest in the right-wing blogosphere:

The political and media establishment doesn't care about the right-wing blogosphere... the media clearly is not obsessed with them to nearly the same degree they are obsessed with us.

Well, that's now. A couple of years ago, of course, the mainstream press was obsessed with the Net right, with Free Republic's Buckhead and Time's 2004 Blog of the Year, Power Line.

Now the attention is on our side. But is that a good thing? I don't think so. Mainstream journalists have fit blogging and the Net left into (in the Daily Howler's phrase) "a story they like": namely, the old familiar story about how crazy and angry and self-destructive Democrats are, not to mention how attuned Dems are to overeducated interest groups that are overly insistent on ideological purity. That was the subtext of most of the mainstream coverage I read about the Yearly Kos conference. That's the message of David Brooks's column about Kos the sinister "Keyboard Kingpin," and his subsequent column about the digital barbarians supporting Ned Lamont. And that's the message of Richard Cohen's column "Digital Lynch Mob," though it wasn't literally about blogging.

Chris Bowers thinks this kind of attention from the mainstream press is a good thing?

Right-wing bloggers, by contrast, have found themselves spots on the message-dissemination assembly line and are quietly pitching in. Not that the mainstream press will criticize these bloggers even when they get out of hand, for the simple reason that most mainstream journalists think of themselves as (a) liberals and (b) hateful awful people because they're liberals (in other words, they've internalized the right's critique of them); overcompensating, they're going to give righty bloggers the benefit of every doubt, treating them just the way they treat, say, Ann Coulter, because not to do so would prove that they're bad biased liberals.

But why run the risk? Righty bloggers don't see any need -- and there really isn't any need. They're just doing their bit, as part of a well-oiled machine. I think it's working. If it weren't for the horrible ideology and the staggeringly awful politicians, I'd rather be them than us.

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