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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events

July 27, 2003

Only Democrats are Bloggers

Joanna Weiss of the Boston Globe has suddenly discovered the world of Internet blogging. Stop the presses! What a scoop!

Her story, Blogs Shake the Political Discourse, was first printed July 23rd, and appeared in my local rag today. When I saw the headline, I thought it was a story about the dozens upon dozens of blogs run by individuals, magazines, and organizations that comment on political affairs. That's what I get for thinking.

Instead, Weiss limits the discussion to a few bloggers supporting Democrat Howard Dean for president. Of the seven individuals quoted in the story, six are Dean supporters:

  • Oliver Willis "posted an essay" on his web site "promoting" Dean
  • Jock Gill is a "new-media consultant" working for Dean
  • Ron Schmidt is a "Dean supporter" from Minnesota
  • Anna Brosovic "co-runs a blog called Dean Nation"
  • Charles Donefer "helps with the Dean Nation blog"
  • Rick Klau is a "Dean blogger"

To add balance, Weiss quotes - who else? - Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's campaign manager. She also grudgingly admits, deep into the story, that other blogs support Democrats John Kerry, Richard Gephardt, Dennis Kucinich, and - gasp - President Dubya.

So, after reading this love letter to Howard Dean masquerading as an impartial news story, a reasonable person could conclude that blogs exist to promote Howard Dean, and only Democrats write blogs (with a few wackos plugging President Dubya).

This is not a story about blogs shaking up political discourse - it's about blogs supporting Howard Dean. Apparently, Weiss is either unconcerned or unaware that the blogging phenomena has been going strong for the last half-dozen years or so, and did not begin when Howard Dean began running for president. She's so busy gushing over Dean that she overlooks all the excellent blogs that pre-dated Howard Dean's campaign, like those run by magazines (National Review's The Corner, in my opinion the best blog on the Internet, Reason's Hit & Run, and the very lame Tapped by the American Prospect) and individuals (Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds, to name a few). There's even blogs dedicated to debunking The New York Times and its columnist Paul Krugman (see here and here for excellent examples).

This story is a fine demonstration of everything that's wrong with the media. It's blatantly biased toward a liberal Democrat, and it's lazy (couldn't she have bothered to speak with, say, John Kerry or Dick Gephardt bloggers?). I recently read an interesting book called Breaking the News, by James Fallows. I didn't mention this in my review, but he complains that reporters often allow politicians to set their agendas and make trends. Ms. Weiss waited until Howard Dean's campaign started a blog before writing about blogs, though blogs have been around forever (in Internet time).

Despite its many faults, the story does make some interesting points. Blog proponents, Weiss writes, claim that blogs "are harbingers of a new, interactive culture that will change the way democracy works, turning voters into active participants rather than passive consumers, limiting the traditional media's role as gatekeeper, and giving the rank-and-file voter unparalleled influence."

To varying degrees, that is all true. Blogs are influential, pervasive, and not only limit the media's role, but critique the mainstream press and keep it honest. More folks are reading blogs for their news rather than watching the network news broadcasts or reading their newspapers. Blogs are here to stay and will continue to grow.

However, there are "some skeptics" who "question whether every supporter's passing thought deserves a public platform, or whether the musings of an almost anonymous voter are worth reading."

The arrogance behind these criticisms is incredible. What "the skeptics" are really saying is that regular schmucks like me don't deserve a "public platform." Political commentary should be restricted to the professionals, like the talking eggheads on TV, pontificating pundits in the newspapers, and elitist intellectuals in colleges and universities. Undoubtedly, these same skeptics also whine that folks aren't interested in politics and should become more involved. Well, here's a cheap, easy way for folks to get involved. The question isn't whether bloggers "deserve" a "public platform," it's why shouldn't they have their own public platform. Bloggers don't impose their views on anyone - what's the harm? Besides, most bloggers pay for their own URLs and server space - they're not asking for handouts or freebies.

Perhaps Joanna Weiss could write a follow-up story about the power of bloggers to rein in the traditional media and steal its audience - provided she can remove her lips from Howard Dean's backside.

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