Battle of the Blogs

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The blogosphere's abuzz about a New York Times Magazine piece by Michael Crowley due out this weekend, which apparently will claim that conservative blogs are more politically effective than their counterparts on the left. Without wading too heavily into that debate, let me just point to this snippet from an interview I did with Joe Trippi last year:

The Republican Party is the most disciplined, top-down party. That's anathema on the Internet, even on the right-wing Web sites. They're the last people who're going to be comfortable letting go. The Democratic Party, for lack of a better way of putting it, is more dysfunctional and more open.

That's not a condemnation of Republicans. They've been more successful in electoral politics–their way is working. They've also been very good at adapting what works: We discovered direct-mail fundraising, and they mastered it. My fear is that Dean is the Japanese at Pearl Harbor–that we'll waken the sleeping Republican giant.

Maybe that's what's happened. Atrios counters that Crowley, who makes much of the synergy between conservative blogs and other media (talk radio, Fox News), misses the point that this is also what makes blogs more dispensable for the right, which has a better coordinated ideological media infrastructure. But I think this gives the blogs short shrift. What Trippi emphasized when I spoke to him is the importance of just this kind of synergy: The impressive distributed network of support the Dean movement built fizzled without the structure provided by a top-down campaign. That is, blogs are useful to the right precisely because they link a distributed-but-interconnected base (something I think Trippi's right to suggest the left was traditionally better at) with the top-down machine. So in a sense, blogs may be more advantageous to the right for something close to the opposite of the reason Atrios suggests: It's precisely for the left that blogs are more structurally redundant, and for the right that they provide a new complement to a pre-existing strength.

NEXT: The Foucault Pendulum

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  1. the right, which has a better coordinated ideological media infrastructure.

    Wow. Just, wow. I mean, sure, you can point to the relatively new social/conservative media outlets (talk radio, parts of Fox), but to consider these either (a) close to the scale and market penetration of left/liberal media outlets or (b) in some way more “coordinated” than the left/liberal media outlets, requires a suspension of disbelief more appropriate to a Harry Potter movie than to political science.

    The first requires a giant blind spot to the way in which the left/liberal worldview is still the default worldview in much of the major media. The second requires a quasi-conspiratoid belief in some kind of vast Rovian mind control network.

    And to make it even more amusing, it is broadly true that the right-leaning side of the blogosphere is made up of jillions of little blogs, while the lefties tend to congregate at a few mega-blogs. Now, which is more “coordinated” – lots of cranky little blogs, or a few blogs with known ties (whether financial or merely associative) to the Democratic Party structure?

    In short, I can find barely a single underlying premise to the above post that isn’t significantly out of touch with reality.

  2. RC Dean, you’re deluded.

    The major benefit the blogs have provided to the right is that they validate batshit crazy stories. The right can’t simply inject batshit crazy stories directly into the dread MSM, since despite all its demonization, the dread MSM at least pays lip service to facts and such.

    But if enough little rightwing blogs pass around a batshit crazy story, suddenly there’s a story: Why aren’t the MSM covering this batshit crazy story? Why the coverup? I mean, the buzz is all over the internet?

    I would cite examples from the last five years, but if dozens don’t immediately come to your mind, well …

  3. RC,

    I agree with you that the left-leaning media outlets outnumber the right-leaning ones in both quantity and strength. But I don’t think it requires a “quasi-conspiratoid belief in some kind of vast Rovian mind control network” to believe that the right-leaning media is more coordinated. Fox News leans right, and the WaPo leans left. But Fox News leans Republican in a way that no comparably powerful outlet leans Democratic.

  4. Yeah, Realish, ’cause leftwing blogs never pass around and validate batshit crazy stories.

  5. and fox is watched more than the close substitutes.

    “But Fox News leans Republican in a way that no comparably powerful outlet leans Democratic.”

    – agree – it reminds me to great extents of the euro papers, for the most part.

  6. But Fox News leans Republican in a way that no comparably powerful outlet leans Democratic.

    You’ve got me there. If, say, a national networks new division were to rush a story onto the air just before an election that cast a negative light on the Republican Presidential candidate, even though the story was based on forged documents, I might be able to point to a “comparably powerful news outlet that leans Democratic.” But, until that happens, I guess I’m out of luck.

    The major benefit the blogs have provided to the right is that they validate batshit crazy stories.

    I think you’ve got it just backwards. The major benefit that blogs provide to the right is that they invalidate batshit crazy stories by the major news media that would otherwise go unchallenged. It just so happens that, given their worldview, a lot of media outlets are credulous regarding stories that just happen to cast non-lefty/liberals in a bad light. Blogs provide a corrective to this unfortunate tendency.

    Do me a favor, Realish – give me one batshit crazy story picked up by the major media because it circulated in right-wing blogs, just so I know what you’re talking about.

  7. My theory is that blogs are targeted media. They allow for closed room public discussions, if that makes sense. Specifically, I think that certain elements of the right coalition are primarily interested in subjects that are difficult to broach if you have to broadcast to America At Large. I think here about some anti immigration folks, some gun folks, and maybe some ‘traditional values’ types.

    By creating an issue blog or a perspective blog, you are setting yourself up as a maven (yes, I just read “The Tipping Point”) to whom ONLY similar minded people will flock.

    We are now in a state of democracy where motivating the base can be done in these closed rooms. This is a corollary to my “one big issue” interpretation of the average voter. If your one big issue is difficult to talk about in broad public spaces due to social pressure, you can still ‘gather’ in these rooms that the coalition can target.

    Come to think of it, there is nothing to say embarassment is the only reason this might work. The same logic would apply if your issue was sufficiently technical or required more specialized information than America At Large would pay attention to. I would expect that military bloggers are effective for the right coalition, for example.

  8. Now, let’s not bring up the subject of how politically effective libertarian blogs are…

  9. Blogs are more effective for the right because the right needs them more than the left does. It is my understanding that the liberal blog Daily Kos gets the most traffic of any other political blog. What exactly is in the Daily Kos that I can’t get from the New York Times, the major news mags or NPR? What is the added value of a blog when nearly all of the major news outlets already lean your way?

    The right in contrast doesn’t have the luxury of having its point of view put out by the networks and MSM every day. It therefore, derives great value out of the blogs because they serve as a counter point to the MSMs. It benefits the right not because Glen Renyolds or the guy who does Powerline is getting better instructions from Karl Rove than Kos is getting from Howard Dean, but because unlike Kos, Reynolds and people like him is putting out perspectives that wouldn’t otherwise have gotten any attention in the media.

    I have made the point before that 20 years ago CBS probably gets away with the fake National Guard memos because no one who could tell that they were fake would ever have gotten a megaphone loud enough to call bullshit on them. At best they would have been a local news story or a water cooler urban legend. It makes me wonder how many other BS stories the MSM got away with during the pre-internet era.

    Blogs have given the right a way to fact check and bird dog the mainstream media that is a tremendous benefit. The left cannot get the same benefit because there is no right leaning media to birddog. What are you going to do, “Fisk” the National Review? Yeah that going to mean so much to all 500 of their readers who might be swayed.

  10. Does anyone else remember after the election last year, when the DNC stopped sending Kos talking points and he begged them to resume? That was funny.

  11. That is funny. He is such a clown.

  12. Julian,

    The impressive distributed network of support the Dean movement built fizzled without the structure provided by a top-down campaign.

    Seems to me the Dean movement fizzed precisely BECAUSE the Democrats tried to force that distrubuted netowrk of support into a top-down structure. Top-down implies authoritarianism, something the right’s constituents are more interested in than the left’s. It’s like the right fuels a grass-roots movement for more top-down government whereas the left is fueling a top-down movement for more grass-roots government. The former isn’t nearly as self-contradictory as the latter.

  13. Could it be that Lefty blogs don’t appeal to as wide an audience (on the left) as the conservative blogs (on the right)? There seem to me (and maybe I’m not looking hard enough) much more hard left ‘progressive’ blogs as opposed to general ‘liberal’ blogs. This would explain Deans wide appeal and Net presence, but general fizzle.

    Also, doesn’t it seem that a few big blogs (on the left) seem to drown out a lot of potential rivals (on the left). And, certainly, while both sides will sometimes eat their young in a ideological battle, the big lefty blogs seem much quicker to de-link and cut down anyone who doesn’t toe the party line.

    [Really, it reminds me of listening to KPFA back in the day; they had more cross words for the heretics on the left than the evil rightests.]

  14. Russ2000,
    Name one large grass roots organization on the left that raises the majority of its money primarily from members. ACLU is all I can think of.

  15. Russ 2000,

    The Dean movement didn’t really fizzle, it was never really there to start with. The internet enables a few wealthy well connected and tenacious people to have a bigger effect than their numbers would normally allow. Good for the Dean people, but what we found out in the primaries was that there really werer not that many people who wanted to vote for the guy. A few hundred thousand people motivated, talking, and giving money is a huge deal on the internet. A few hundred thousand motivated voters is a drop in the bucket in a presidential race.

  16. Elam,

    I’m not sure I can, and that’s my point. Something like moveon.org was a small, grass-roots type of organization, and as soon as the Dems noticed it they tried to take it over and turn it into something big, which really wrecked it. Rather than encourage more organizations like moveon.org, they basically just threw their support behind the few most obvious ones and then ignored and alienated the rest. The right pretty much acknowledges each grass-roots organization, not matter how fringe they are, as long as they pay their tributes. Did that make my argument clearer?

  17. hmm I sort of thought Reason was part of the right wing media aporatus…I mean there does seem to be more wingnuts here then moonbats.

    *ducks for cover.

  18. Joshua,

    There is no right wing media apparatus in the blogsphere. There is not nearly the enforced orthadoxy on the right as their is on the left. Reason, Instapundit, NRO, and Powerline couldn’t be more different and disagree on a lot of things, but they are all “right” generally speaking. They are a heck of a lot more varied than say KOS and Atrios and Talking Points Memo.

  19. “Something like moveon.org was a small, grass-roots type of organization”

    WTF, i may be wrong here but i thought moveon was funded by soros…is a billion dollar man now considered grass roots???

    disclaimer (I am a libertarian and soros can spend his money anywhere he damn well pleases.) and yes joe his money is his speach 😛

  20. did i mention that “Moonbat” is my new favorite word ever…i love it like a fat 8 year old kid loves the word “poop”

  21. I’d like to observe that the big left bloggers tend to be significantly left of the democratic party, while the right bloggers tend to be shameless shills for the party. So, maybe, the big left bloggers are so desperate to move their party left that they actually undermine its electoral strength, while the adminstration parrots on the right help consolidate and reinforce the conservative narrative.

  22. R.C. Dean,

    There are reams of documents at The AWOL Project website, many much more damning than the Rathergate memo, that are not forged. But because this tepid exercise in investigative reporting resulted in CBS News getting burned, they were effectively innoculated against all the other stuff. If 60 Minutes had done any REAL digging into the stuff that was available on Bush, he’d have fucking imploded.

  23. and for the right that they provide a new complement to a pre-existing strength.

    I think that’s the right idea. Keep in mind that the Republicans really started this recent power surge in ’94. Granted, Rush was in his prime but he was the only real power in conservative media, and he can hardly be credited with changing the face of Congress. Fox News didn’t come along until 1996 and blogs weren’t an issue until fairly recently. The Republicans were already on the march long before the internet was a real factor, and that’s not to mention that they had 12 years in the Whitehouse before that, and it probably would have been 16 if it weren’t for Perot. Right wing blogs simply reinforce the power base that has been growing for the last 25 years.

    Left-wing blogs are faced with the more difficult challenge of actually rebuilding a fractured constituency, which they haven’t been able to do effectively despite the galvanizing effect of this administration.

  24. John,

    “… 20 years ago CBS probably gets away with the fake National Guard memos …”

    Why are you using the present tense in a subjunctive setting? This isn’t a fucking sports broadcast.

    Holy fuck, that has to be one of the most annoying developments in modern English usage. “If Bryant nails the shot, the Lakers win the game” — uttered days after Bryant missed the shot and the Lakers lost the game.

    Seriously, write it right: “Twenty years ago, CBS probably would have gotten away with the fake National Guard memos.”

    Goddammit.

  25. Hey Grammar Asshole Guy,

    Its a message board, not a graduate thesis. Fuck off!!

  26. I’ve got to agree with GAG. The lot of you could use the “Preview” option more often. Oh, but perhaps you do . . . and therein lies the problem.

    John, a grip on the language is the last thing a graduate thesis has. If you had read one of late, you would know that.

  27. If you want to know why conservatives are doing better, check out the daily comments on this blog. Swearing is a sure sign of immaturity. The best conservative blogs do not allow it. I laughed how the liberal blogs got behind Howard Dean, and then seen how little support he had in the real world. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that most commenters to liberal blogs are not old enough to vote. Now go ahead and swear at me, and call me names.

  28. AllenS is a poophead, poophead. Go have violent sex with yourself!

  29. Dorita,

    Get over yourself. And one more thing, if the Celtics play better last night they win. There I hope you and GAG can choke on that for a while.

  30. Lighten up, John. You’ve still got 14 shopping days left until Christmas.

  31. Even when the people at the top of the Right Wing media machine, like Irving Kristol, admit that their media-bashing is just a strategy to “work the ref,” little toolsl like John and RC can be counted on to keep believing, baby, keep believing!

    They’re like Scientologists. Hubbard did NOT make it up to make money! It’s true! I don’t care whether he’s been quoted saying it’s bullshit, IT’S NOT BULLSHIT!

    Funny, really.

  32. This thread probably ended long ago —
    As far as policy goes, what is the most outrageous policy Atrios has ever supported or condemned?

    I would argue that Reynolds and Volehk’s (if I am not mistaken, at the Libertarian end of the right wing blogs) support for torture is not comparable.

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