Guerillas in the Midst


If you can get past the alarmist tone, partisan lean, and bizarrely specific unattributed facts (like "only 23 blogs were known to exist at the beginning of 1999"), this Garance Franke-Ruta American Prospect article about the blog-scalpings of Jeff Gannon, Eason Jordan, Dan Rather and Joseph Steffen contains some useful and interesting mapping of the political DNA behind the blogosphere's most recent tempests. Franke-Ruta's interpretation of the ample evidence she gathers is that many right-wing blogs are engaging in out-and-out dirty tricks:

Scratch the surface and the same names turn up in each scandal, revealing the events of mid-February to have been part of an ongoing and coordinated proxy war by Republican political operatives on the so-called liberal media, conducted through the vast, unmonitored loophole of the Internet. […] Not only are most bloggers not journalists; increasingly they are also partisan operatives whose agendas are as ideological as they come. […]

But unlike traditional news outlets, right-wing blogs openly shill, fund raise, plot, and organize massive activist campaigns on behalf of partisan institutions and constituencies; they also increasingly provide cover for professional operatives to conduct traditional politics by other means—including campaigning against the established media. And instead of taking these bloggers for the political activists they are, all too often the established press has accepted their claims of being a new form of journalism. This will have to change—or it will prove serious journalism's undoing.

Besides that sky-is-falling last sentence, there is a point worth addressing here. Franke-Ruta warns against "partisan operatives whose are as ideological as they come," and who support "partisan institutions and constituencies," but, well, what was the American Prospect again?

[A]n authoritative magazine of liberal ideas, committed to a just society, an enriched democracy, and effective liberal politics. […]

The Prospect also convenes meetings of like-minded organizations in Washington. We co-host a biweekly strategy meeting of major progressive organizations to exchange ideas and develop a common message and a political and media strategy.

Nope, nothing partisan there! … The line between opinion journalist and professional operative can be pretty damned blurry, as evidenced by the back-and-forth resumes of people like Prospect co-founder Robert Reich. For my money, as long as writers are reasonably transparent and factually accurate, their motivations are a curio, not a disqualifier (let alone a danger).