Saturday, October 08, 2005


I've only been blogging for a very short time. On the other hand, I've been reading blogs for well over a year. And there's something I've noticed about the left-wing bloggers.

I think Garance Franke-Ruta said it best:
One of the reasons the left has such a difficult time moving public opinion is that, all too often, it reacts with cleverness to situations where outrage would be a more appropriate response.
Too bad she didn't remember that when the protests were occurring in D.C.

It seems like it's really cool in the liberal blogosphere to be oppositional. Take an issue. Virtually any issue. The conventional wisdom of left-wing response will begin to emerge. But then, in short order, some prominent blogger/s on the left with a big megaphone will come up with an oppositional viewpoint. And the fur begins to fly.

Let's take the example of Bill Bennett's comment on aborting black babies to lower the crime rate. Most of the left responded with appropriate outrage over his racist remarks. Hell, even the White House came out and condemned his remarks.


But in short order, two prominent liberal bloggers Brad DeLong and Matt Yglesias came out with arguments in defensive of Bennett. In typical liberal fashion, both bloggers produced arguments with analysis and parsing to the nth degree to try and find some level of logic and understanding. Of course, the arguments were ridiculous and completely off point. But the links flew and the fight was on.

Another example, and a personal favorite, is the recent peace rally/march in Washington DC. I've beat this horse to death, but it's yet another example where some liberal bloggers took an oppositional position rather than a supportive one. Not everyone agrees with specifics of how to get out of Iraq. But few liberal bloggers support Bush's conduct of the war. In short, there was plenty of common ground for which to write rather than finding disagreement in the protest march.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I have a couple of theories. One obvious reason is that these people really believe what they are saying. Having integrity and staying true to yourself politically is an important trait, especially in a blogger who may influence opinion. But are Brad DeLong or Matt Yglesias really racists? When they stand back and look at the forest rather than the trees in Bill Bennett's statements, do they really think Bennett got a raw deal? I suspect not. And do liberal bloggers really support President Bush who was the target of the protest in D.C.? Again, I suspect not.

How about ego? There's no shortage of it. I think this was a factor in Kos coming out against the protest. The large turnout was a surprise, even to him. And protest isn't his gig, so he was, shall we say, less than supportive.

I think a larger real reason why liberal bloggers tend to be so oppositional is to differentiate themselves from the crowd. Like it or not, page views and unique visitors are important to the big bloggers often because revenue is attached. Believe it or not, quality blogging, like quality journalism, is very time consuming. People gotta eat, pay rent, raise kids and so on. Once an oppositional controversial point of view is put forth, the hits have a way of going way up. Unfortunately, there's much reward in carving a niche in the herd of the blogosphere as being "different" or in some way incisive. It's really the same dynamic as all media in attempting to attract ratings. We all know that ratings = $$$$ and power, both of which are highly sought.

This "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" by progressive pundits has a pernicious effect on other liberals, and the body politic at large. It promotes the image of liberals as eggheads in the ivory tower with nothing else to do but sit around and try to analyze an issue to death. And it weakens our image as leaders, people with firm convictions, and the ability to implement them. Rather, we appear to make great debaters with no real foot in the real world.

It is understandable. The right-wing has built a message machine that is not nearly so dependent on financing from advertisement. Many of the most prominent conservative bloggers derive income and support from well-financed conservative think-tanks, foundations, and other conservative supporters. By nourishing the conservative blogosphere, the temptation to "eat one's own" is not quite as tempting.

Liberals are just now starting the process of building this infrastructrue. Hopefully we'll be as supportive (meaning $$$$) of our blogging machine in the future so the temptation to depend on advertisement is not so great. But that support needs to come by larger institutions and foundations who see the value of blogging as a way of messaging, rather than funding via donations, subscriptions or fund-raisers.

It's time for liberals to stand on look at the common sense that exists in all issues and our position. We need to avoid the ego of differentiation and stay focused on our message. Let's use our brainpower to make our case, not pick it apart like some possum picking at roadkill because we've got nothing else to eat.


At 2:52 PM, Blogger Lynne said...

If more people at the grass roots level would get involved, I'm not sure the party would need the vast sums of money. Isn't most of that money spent to get the message to the people? What if people talked directly to other people, the way they used to do it before the mass media influence. We had elections in this country for over 100 years prior to television. And I agree about staying on point. I suspect some people just like to argue.


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