Open Season On Bloggers

As the Conventional Media strive to retain a sliver of stature, they are making all the wrong decisions.

As the calendar peels off pages, the world adapts to the renewal of spirit that each season represents. This fall, like many before it, we will pull out our winter clothes, set back our clocks, wind up our elections, and start bashing bloggers.

The New York Times will have a story on Sunday that warns us of the imminent threat that the Bloggers pose to the new Democratic majority in congress. How thoughtful of the Times’ Matt Bai to send up this flare:

“The influence of the netroots, as the growing Web-based Democrats have come to be called, is likely to stifle an inclination toward compromise or creativity, making it difficult for Democrats to transition from an opposition party to a governing one.”

Bai identifies, “a new array of powerful actors:, liberal philanthropists, crusading bloggers,” as usurping dominance from declining progressive institutions like labor. I don’t know how I failed to see it before. The armies of liberal philanthropists marching down America’s Main Streets are so obvious to me now. And you can’t walk twenty feet without tripping over a crusading blogger. Meanwhile, when was the last time you saw an American worker? If Democrats prove to be incapable of compromise, creativity, or governing, we have been given the green light to blame it on

Piling on is the Washingtonian, whose Harry Jaffe says:

“Except in a few races, the outcome of last week’s midterm election was determined in large part by the Mainstream Media. Bloggers and Internet chatters posing as journalists were not in the game.”

The core of Jaffe’s theory proposes that the stories that moved voters were all the product of the conventional press. The examples he cites include Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, torture, wiretapping, and the latest hit sensation, Mark Foley. Many of these stories were indeed the result of good work by dedicated journalists, and certainly had an impact on the nation’s attitude toward politics. And Jaffe seems to believe that they would have lasted beyond a single news cycle without the pounding of the net media. The Internet chatters had nothing whatever to do with keeping these stories in the public eye long enough for people to notice and be influenced by them. What’s more, Jaffe passes over dismissively the fact that Sen. Allen’s “macaca” moment and Rep. Foley’s page stalking were net-powered stories from beginning to end.

My mistake was not recognizing that the stories themselves were the candidates, not the people that actually ran for office. Folks like Jim Webb, Jon Tester, Jerry McNerney, Tim Walz, Paul Hodes, and 30+ others, may have won their races with the support of netroots contributors and volunteers, but it was the stories that won the election, not the candidates, their supporters, the voters, and certainly not the bloggers. They weren’t in the game.

The Conventional Media is struggling mightily to keep from sinking into oblivion. News consumers are abandoning TV and print in droves. As they strive to retain a sliver of stature, they are making all the wrong decisions. They surely know that cutting newsroom budgets and staff, and promoting sensationalistic stories will do nothing to repair their image, so they are now assaulting the image of their perceived enemy, the Internet.

But the critiques above, which are typical of post-election analyses, are almost comical in that they are entirely contradictory. Jaffe denounces the bloggers because, in the end, they had no impact and were irrelevant. Bai complains that they had too much impact and wield so much power that they will damage the new majority’s reign. All we need now is for Goldilocks to come along and announce that the bloggers role in elections and political life is “just right.” At least that’s how all the fairy tales I know ended.


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