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July 07, 2007

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It will be interesting to see how long the new interest in blogging persists.

Put another way, is it just a passing fad or is it something that will not only stay but grow.

so let me see if my diminished mental state follows the gist of this. the folks that get paid for their opinions don't like it that now all people have a "microphone"
now it becomes very clear what the internet is, a voice of democracy. will it be the death of the republican form of government and bring back the democratic type? one person, one vote? now we have a few hundred thousand people, and one person votes for them. sounds like something easily corrupted doesn't it?
the government we have has been revised for absolute corruption to benefit the elected representative and their campaign contributors. that must end. I am for democracy

Like democracy, the messiness of many blogs is unseemly or ineffective. But it's on par with the talk in bars and locker rooms, and the speech of Vice Presidents on the Senate floor and in the aisles of political fundraising ocnventions (when discussing the opposiiton). It is often ineffective, as many blogs degenerate into tit for tat insults or feeding the trolls, who dutifully spit right back.

But the best blogs, such as this one, FDL and TPM, have blog communities that have become must reading for their comments as well as their commentators. They are fast becoming the essential reinforcement for the MSM, which is in rapid decline owing to the inroads and priorities of "private equity" and the manipulations of global tyrants like Rupert Murdoch. I could never go back to just PBS and NPR, and would never watch Faux News without intellectual waders and disinfectant at the ready.

I think that makes the quality blogs as much a target for Karl Rove-like attention as purported voter fraud or the Watergate offices of the DNC. That aside, what can be done with this new "essentialism" and how can access to the Internet be made more available for the many who don't have it now?

DemFromCT,

You might be interested in Jay Rosen's takedown of Mother Jones' lastest foray into this issue:

https://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2007/06/27/mother_jones.html

Oops, that link doesn't display fully. Let's try again, breaking it into two pieces:

https://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/

pressthink/2007/06/27/mother_jones.html

Then preference for opinions over facts and true reporting has infected cable "news" outlets far more than the blogs. It is much cheaper to have a group of rotating hacks (some of whom appear for free) to spout opinions than pay reporters to go out and do investigative reporting. The cable news talk shows are worse than the internet because most of the time no one calls out the blowhards when they get their facts wrong.

Furthermore, there is a tremendous disdain on the part of paid DC/NY-centered journalists for everyone else. Media critics of the internet continuously ignore the statistics on the educational level and job experience of many bloggers--on this blog, for example, we have people with PhD, MDs and JDs who read widely and are pretty accomplished, as well as having much direct experience in politics and other aspects of real life, and most if not all of our commenters share this kind of background.

Many of those who have spent a life in journalism (especially the welfare kind that is subsidized by right-wing foundations and does not subject the writers to real market forces) lack this kind of experience and expertise, nor are they willing to put in the time to master a new field (as, for example, Marcy has done with law). Rather, they just go on spouting what they and their friends think as if it was received wisdom or gospel truth.

Wm Ockham, great reference! Jay's piece is (typically) excellent.

The writing and framing from the journalists at Mother Jones is another story. This will give you the flavor:

Are we entering a new era of digital democracy—or just being conned by a bunch of smooth-talking geeks?

New dawn or techo con game: such illuminating alternatives! Again:

Blogs, social networking, and viral video are redefining where political discussion takes place. But are they just replacing the old machine bosses with a new group of bullies?

And what an irony that would be. (See Meet the New Bosses.) Another:

Is old media dead, or is the blogosphere just a flash in the pan?

Because we know it’s one or the other. Those quotes come from a press release that landed in my box yesterday, provoking me with breezy hype about all the hype-busting going on at Mother Jones, an investigative magazine of the left.

Mimikatz, you're right that cable is something else altogether.

Jodi, there were at least 60 million blogs when I last checked on technorati.

I think it'll last.

Uh, I never met a "smooth talking geek". Tell me when one happens.

Good point, dude. That's an oxymoron if ever there was one.

Mimikatz--

Compare your description, "people with PhD, MDs and JDs who read widely and are pretty accomplished, as well as having much direct experience in politics and other aspects of real life, and most if not all of our commenters share this kind of background" with "smooth talking geeks," whatever that mythical animal may be.

What we are seeing in the rise of the blogs, in my opinion, is the revolt of the professional class in this country. Professionals have the furthest to fall if the moneyed interests who control both the Republic Party and the corporate media succeed in creating a new form of American feudalism. Unlike other groups that have suffered under the gentle ministrations of corporate power, we're not used to being powerless in the political marketplace. Starting with the stolen election of 2000 and carrying through to the pardon of Scooter Libby, we're getting a very strong taste of what it's like to be politically irrelevant, and we DO NOT like it.

The interesting thing to me about the media's dismissive response to bloggers is that the traditional media, even including left-leaning media like Mother Jones (!), don't see that we are also their customer base. Like the music industry before them, newspapers, magazines, broadcast and cable news seem to believe that the way to get their consumers to stop acting in ways that damage their bottom lines is to attack the consumers. It's almost as if they all skipped Marketing 101 in B school. Want to know why you're losing readership? Among other things, you're calling your readers "smooth-talking geeks" who are not to be either believed or trusted when they express their opinions.

I really liked the smooth talking geek line because I'm one of the few people in my profession that might actually fit that description. Not that I would rate as smooth talking among the general population, but in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Be that as it may, I have long realized much of my professional success is due to the fact that, despite being an average programmer who started in the field somewhat late in life, my liberal arts education and family history of verbal argumentation (my dad is a Baptist preacher) gave me an incredible edge over other geeks, the ability to explain things to geeks and non-geeks alike.

I said all that to say that, as the exception that tests the rule, I can speak with confidence in saying that one line demonstrates the false narrative of the Mother Jones piece. The "smooth talking" slur comes from a viewpoint that assumes the world is divided between true believers and con artists where anyone propounding a new idea is either Martin Luther King, Jr. or Elmer Gantry.

WO --

Truth to tell, I have a son who is something of a smooth-talking geek. Interestingly, he has found that his possession of both knowledge of the dark cyberarts and an ability to express himself well absolutely terrifies some people. Maybe that's the dirty secret behind all this media scorn of bloggers: journalists and pundits, who are, after generalists, realize that their new competition in punditing collectively possesses a huge depth of expertise, and it terrifies them.

Contrast Bill Moyers' attitude about political blogs with someone like Joe Klein or David Brooks and you'll see that getting the idea of blogging isn't about one's age. I'm roughly the same age as Klein and Brooks. Moyers was already leading a very successful life when we were still trying to work out our multiplication tables. That Moyers gets it and those other guys don't just shows what the real problem is in perceptions, IMHO. It's less to do with age or our behavior, and more to do with the state of mind of the pundit.

William Ockham: On the subject of geeks and communications, I've occasionally found myself explaining, in a somewhat irritated tone, that an engineer who can't communicate with others is much less use than one who can, no matter what his technical skills.

Great comments here, all around.

I think the very imprecision of the mainstream characterization of the blogs indicates how confused the establishment is about them. "Smooth-talking geeks" may be a perfect distillation of the flailing, wrong-headed critiques being tossed out -- i.e., the Brian Williams some-kid-in-pajamas description, which is wrong as to average age/education/ambition and probably even social class of the most prominent bloggers. What you get from this is, the ruling class doesn't really see the blogosphere clearly -- they give contradictory descriptions from one day to the next. The one thing certain is, they FEAR it.

Mamayaga, I love your Revolt of the Professionals idea. Judis & Teixeira in their Emerging Dem Majority book talk about this class as the primary source of Dem party growth in the country. I think the mainstream media, stuck in political and class lines drawn during the Reagan administration, are completely unable to see this group as separate from the old left/right divide. A good many in this group, for instance, were part of the war opposition from the start --and certainly are, now -- but, because anti-war has to be a hippie position, they've been shunted into a "college-kids" demographic, despite their far more advanced ages and status.

Worse, many Democratic politicians have been equally slow to catch on to this new class. For too long they've felt they needed to distance themselves from MoveOn/Deaniacs/bloggers/war opponents -- even as more and more of the country started to join the categories. At least at this point a good chunk of the Dem Congressional majority sees which way the wind is blowing, but a fatal minority -- the Salazar wing -- continually allows itself to be swayed by the ignorant Russert branch of the press, resulting in things like the Iraq vote.

I think the bloggers represent an ultimately unstoppable tide -- just as, in the late 70s, the Reaganites couldn't be held back forver. But right now we're watching the holdovers from the ancien regime -- both elected and broadcast -- make their last stand against this tide. It will be when the members of the government and media realize they can get aboard, and ride this tide, that we'll have moved to the next level.

DemFromCT,

let me put it this way.

Will the Democratic Bloggers like on TNH, FDL, KOS, etc., that give money, and time, and expect results for their increased activity grow disillusioned and fade away?

Not will they all go away, but as in all things when will the growth peak, and then start a gradually decline until some steady state is reached?

And I don't speak to extraordinary times where interest might spurt up again briefly.

Has anyone made predictions?

Ah. Will partisan blogging go away?

No. There may be explorations into new media and new new media. But the issues that sites like this bring up and try to deal with, from pandemic flu to constitutional issues, to progressive vs conservative approaches to governance have always been there and will always be there. They are not dependent on Bush or R rule, and it won't matter who is in power.

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