How The Lefty Blogs Can Win The Blogosphere, Revive Their Party, And Save Our Country (And Why They Won't)
The recent drama in the blogosphere, with righty blogs ostensibly forcing the resignation of CNN Executive Eason Jordan while lefty blogs forced the resignation of lightly credentialed White House journalist "Jeff Gannon", has prompted a spate of "where do the blogs go from here" punditry.
Howard Kurtz rounds up the action.
Michael Barone of USN&WR opines that "The left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans' adversaries in Old Media. Both changes help Bush and the Republicans."
Jonah Goldberg observes that, when the blogosphere play media watchdog, "The Left must either focus entirely on the conservative media or it must move even further to the left so it can get out of its clinch with the mainstream media. You can't punch the New York Times if you're hugging it. So far it's done both."
And Kevin Drum wrings his hands, worrying that "it might be time for liberals to realize that even if we manage to collect a few scalps of our own along the way, conservatives gain strength from promoting this brand of warfare far more than liberals do. I hope we're not just being useful idiots by joining in this game."
Well. This is a battle in which the lefties have some interesting advantages, and which they can win. I will explain how in a moment.
First, a brief digression into the structure of the blogosphere. The largest Lefty blog is the Daily Kos. One must register to enlist there; members can leave comments, or write "diaries", which function as blogs within a blog. In addition to leaving their own comments on other blogs, members can vote on diary entries, to move them up the in-house rankings and call them to other people's attention. So, for a member, the hours can be whiled away, and there is always plenty to do in Kos World.
But it is a separate world. Having casually observed them in action on the Gannon hunt, it is clear that they can summon tremendous energy, manpower, and talent to a particular task. However, I would suggest that a tendency toward groupthink, and a weakness in gathering information from blogs outside of KosWorld, are significant weaknesses which, with experience, may be overcome. Because the folks there spend so much time in their own world, but can still generate significant buzz, we will call them The Hive.
And who stands against them on the right? Essentially, an almost totally disorganized pack of hungry bloggers led by the hypercaffeinated Glenn Reynolds, the InstaPundit. Do people on the right "vote" a blog post into popularity? No. Are research tasks assigned, or project volunteers sought? No. Glenn Reynolds provides a link to a blog, an Instalanche results, and whatever message was there is widely dispersed. Of course, there are plenty of other large blogs directing traffic, so readers and ideas certainly move independently of Glenn, but he is a major hub. And since Glenn does not have a comments section, there is no reason to linger at his site- people stop by, and head off into the blogosphere.
So, the Hive versus the Pack - which organizational structure is better at influencing the national debate?
For righties, the answer is important, because we have demonstrated neither the temperament nor the talent to form a useful hive.
But lefties have a significant advantage, because they don't need to choose - although their largest blog is a successful Hive, there are hundreds of lefty blogs out there that could form a powerful Pack.
So how might they improve? Here are a few specific suggestions:
It is unlikely that a major new hub could simply emerge, so one of the big, established lefty bloggers would need to decide that to beat Glenn, he was going to be Glenn. Atrios is already a prolific linker, so let's nominate him for the role. He should do two things.
(1) Link, link, link to other blogs. Yes, even more than currently. And this is your big opportunity to promote moderate voices in the left blogosphere, if that is also a goal ( I think it should be, but who am I?).
(2) Turn off the comments: they are too numerous to be useful, and if your readers are commenting at your site, they are not out in the blogosphere, are they? Send those readers out to meet new lefty bloggers, and let them comment there - new blogs will develop, new channels for ideas will develop, and more ideas will be shared.
Now, Kevin Drum frets that hunting media scalps may be a fool's game for the left. Well, if you can't win on the battlefield in front of you, pick a different battlefield!
- promote new Democratic faces. Philip Bredesen is being touted for President; Eliot Spitzer may run for Governor of NY; maybe the Left should talk about Spitzer and Bredesen rather than Guckert/"Gannon". I'm just thinking out loud, here.
- promote Democratic issues. The left blogosphere has done a good job of driving the debate on Social Security. For example, Kevin Drum's "Crisis? What Crisis" theme migrated to the LA Times, and is now the CW.
- promote the Democratic agenda. What do Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid hope to accomplish this legislative session? I don't want to know, but lefty bloggers might be intrigued.
- promote new Democratic ideas. Are there any? Give some oxygen to lefty think tanks, or any university professor, all of whom are lefty - there must be something more interesting to talk about than Jonah Goldberg's paycheck, or the minimum wage.
Other than turning off the comments (And a few of the other large blogs should follow suit on this), none of this is different or difficult. The change would be emphasis. And the result could be an invigorated left blogosphere with a deeper bench covering more issues.
So, does the Right need to start drafting its concession speech? Hardly. First, the changes I mentioned won't happen - turning off the comments would be the single most important step, and now that a righty has suggested it, they can't. And if they do, I want to head to Jeff Goldstein's site to savor the brutal mocking.
We also have obvious countermeasures that we ought to be taking anyway - for starters, each of us could probably do a bit more to promote the well-done but not well-known blogs on our side.
And I believe there is a specific burden on Kathryn Lopez of the NRO. My thought - she could increase the readership of the NRO and improve the blogosphere if, through a combination of great personal charm, whip-cracking, and editorial edict, she exhorted the Corner Crew to look for and link to more blogs.
The NRO will win because (my guess) bloggers will be more likely to read and link to NRO articles if they think the payoff might include being Cornered. I recall the legendary Steven Den Beste saying that his early blogging days were given a big boost by a Corner link. Well, the next Den Beste is out there today! (The Left trembles. What are you waiting for, K-Lo?)
The right blogosphere wins because the many eyes of the NRO will be
out looking for blogs to which they can link in order to placate K-Lo.
Smart people will find smart blogs, and we will all benefit.
So. If the left blogosphere decides to rouse itself for a march
towards the center, it may well revive a similar instinct in the
Democratic Party. That would, in my humble opinion, be good for the
Or, if the Left simply rallies towards a broader range of issues, we on the right will find ourselves with more to do.
Can the Left do this? Probably not. By all appearances, the
energy, ad revenue, and readership is all on the far left. Lefties who
march to the center will march alone.
But can the Right continue to do its thing? Stalking the MSM should provide
years of value and entertainment, so we are the favorites in the
ongoing tussle. My advice to the Right - stay humble, stay hungry, and smile when
you say, "Bring It On."