Opportunity Wasted

This article sums up my biggest disappointment when it comes to the political blogosphere. Perhaps it is destined to be so, because anyone passionate enough to devoted the time and energy in keeping up with a daily post-count of items for the consumption of their readers is obviously going to be passionate about a candidate and their ideology as well. And in the end, many bloggers are seduced by the siren song of traffic volume, and maintaining links with other like-minded sites. It all could be an awesome source of checks and balance to our political system. We still see examples of real research and analysis that can bring real content to an issue. But instead it is only a shadow of what it could be. Truth is parceled out depending upon who, or what cause, it hampers or helps. Counter-facts are discounted, often disingeniously, in order to make sure one side wins the day, until the bulk of the blogosphere becomes extensions of their party’s campaign website. Political campaign operatives drop suggestions to favored bloggers and they do the dirty work of spreading a line of attack while campaign officials can maintain deniability and still get their message out.

The best recourse? I find it is to read respected blogs and media sources across the spectrum, keep an open mind, and realize the truth is slippery and can come from some unexpected places.

10 Responses to “Opportunity Wasted”

  1. ymatt Says:

    Good article. I think blogs and internet-based campaigning and fund-raising have made politics more personal, and with that certainly comes a measure of fairly depressing herd mentality partisanship.

    I will point out one example recently that I thought was really interesting and encouraging: the Ron Paul campaign. Here’s a fringe candidate who, in the pre-internet age, would have been virtually unknown — simply not enough cash or fame to carve out any mass media mindshare. But what we saw was Paul pulling in a really surprising amount of cash, mostly through the efforts of money-bombing drives with no official connection to the campaign. And we saw a huge amount of true grass-roots (not party-driven pseudo-grass roots) work by young people who simply found his uncompromising libertarian views and voting record compelling. I loved all the hand-made Ron Paul Revolution signs I saw posted all over Dallas — way more than I saw for any major candidate!

    As a result, he did vastly better than one might have predicted. I think it’s possible that just maybe somebody in the Republican party right now is saying “you know, maybe that guy had something right”. If so, that’s a point for the internet in my opinion.

  2. jbc Says:

    For all that I disagree with some of your conclusions, Craig, I’m continually impressed with your honesty, sincerity, and willingness to go out of your way to evaluate competing viewpoints. I can see where you’d be discouraged by the hive-mind behavior that goes on in most of bloggyland.

    I was getting criticized the other day in a chatroom I frequent for ranting (as I’m prone to do) about how much we need “grown-ups in charge” of the country, and what a contrast that would be to our recent national experience. And I had to admit, the person criticizing me had a point. At a certain point, that sort of ranting just becomes masturbatory. It’s easy to criticize. It’s hard to actually build something, or run a country.

    I hope Obama wins the presidency. I believe he’d be a good choice to lead the country. But if he does become president, I hope there will be some principled, intelligent conservatives like yourself who will be willing to help him by offering their own perspectives and insights into what he’s doing wrong, and how he could do better.

    I really don’t want to live through the Clinton years again. Not the relative peace and prosperity; that would be fine. But the constant rancorous partisanship. That’s the biggest single reason, I think, why I was terrified of a Hillary nomination. I desperately want to believe that Obama offers a new way forward, past that sort of bickering. As with any desperate desire to believe in something, I sure I’m destined for disappointment. Obama’s just a man, after all.

    But I like the example he’s setting. It reminds me of you, actually. I wish I was more like that.

  3. knarlyknight Says:

    Why don’t you two get a room?

  4. ymatt Says:

    Not enough partisan bickering between people with different viewpoints for you?

  5. Steve Says:

    I actually think the “lefty” side of the blogosphere does a great job of sticking to principles rather than party. At least among the blogs I read, Obama got a lot of flack for his FISA reversal. Many of those same bloggers are helping run campaigns against Democrats with whom they disagree.

    I’m not sure there are many high traffic lefty blogs that fit the criticism that’s being offered here, while there are lots of high traffic righty blogs that do: The Corner, Powerline, Instapundit, etc…

  6. enkidu Says:

    Obama raised over $150 million in September – the average donation was under $100 and he added about 600,000 new donors. Craig may want to dismiss this as typical, but it is the new grassroots, ground up desire for real and sustained change.

    I am hoping for over 400 EVs, but the McStain smear campaign is tuning up to try to make the most ridiculous and despicable lies stick to Obama, facts be damned.

    I agree with Steve, and complained of Obama’s FISA capitulation on this site. We need more progressive pols, not the same corrupt wwnj jingo johnnys.

    ps – bush nationalized the banks, not Obama…

  7. Craig Says:

    Why would you assume that I would spin that as unimpressive?

  8. enkidu Says:

    Craig, to my mind your post and the link is trying to say the internet is a partisan wasteland of jabbering us vs themism. That the internet tsunami is just the usual japery, the awfulest angels of our worser nature (apologies for slight sarcasm here). However, I’d like to propose that the internet and blogs are something new, a change, indeed a sea change of immense proportions. Maybe, just maybe, Obama is nurturing a new wave of interest in government, in transparency, in participation, even argument if it serves to move our nation forward. The direction may be at issue (Rs want to move it too far to the right and Ds want to move it back towards the left) but by pulling together we can chart a middle course.

    Howard Dean was the right man for 2004 because he saw that the internet will change politics forever. From fundraising to transparency in government to making the beast smaller, faster and more effective. His 50 state strategy is a factor in making this election nation-wide. His internet fund raising innovations and networking are 21st century grassroots revolutions that have shown that politics and money can be people powered. Real world innovations that the Obama team have put into practice big time.

    If you are thinking the internet is too partisan, perhaps you shouldn’t be visiting Drudge. Ever. If you want to fill your head with partisan japery, then by all means, listen to rush, visit drudge and just ingest the koolaid. But it isn’t good for you, the nation or the world to only take in sugar water. The internet is full of real resources, real information (note – not conservapedia) real analysis and the truth. You just have to wander off the partisan path and accept that mistakes were made and it is time for a real and sustained change.

    It is time to come together and chart a new course for our nation and our world. You can either help or hinder that change, but if you choose to hinder, know that there is a new generation of progressives who won’t meekly take death threats from your side, who won’t wilt at the first fusillade of lies, who won’t shrink from calling partisan bullshit what it is – bullshit.

    I am sure we’ll have plenty of bullshit from an Obama administration. Plenty to wrangle over and plenty of snarky humor that the Daily Show can use to sell its advertising slots. But the old ways are done. If Obama can’t deliver the change or at least make a good start to cleaning up the disastrous mess of the w years, then I will be looking to replace him in 4 years. After all, these guys are supposed to work for us. Its our responsibility to make sure we get our money’s worth. Or hand them a pink slip.

  9. Craig Says:

    My point is that the internet and its political bloggers have a great opportunity to provide meaningful input to the masses that is outside of the limited and measured doses that people previously got from traditional media sources. But much too often it has become just another venue for divisive, stilted, partisan information that just leads people farther away from each other. Look at Memeorandum. Stories come out (of varying levels of accuracy) that are negative towards one party or another, and conservative or progressive blogs line up under them depending on who is getting hurt in the story. Almost always, it is a blogger using the story as further evidence of “us good, them bad” without even critiquing the validity of the story’s facts in the first place. Such bloggers are more interested in sculpting evidence to fit a narrative than to assess the accuracy of the information. This leaves those truly seeking the full picture of an issue or story with few if any go-to sites to get a accurate view of what is truth in the political scene today, and no reliable way to know if the sources being looked at are one of those. It’s the cyber version of two people yelling at each other on a street corner. A lot of emotion and hyperbole, but light on all the facts.

    This is the wasted opportunity. If you can’t see that, I don’t know what else to say.

    I knew you weren’t really “joking” about my reference to Drudge. I’m a fairly intelligent person. I can usually tell what smells bogus and what seems legitimate, regarding news stories. I can usually read a posting and have my first thought be “hmmm, is that the full story” rather than some primal, reflexive “yeaaaah, suck it Demo-Socialists!” Most of Drudge’s rightwing-favored links are to mainstream media sources and are not original content by the editor. Frankly, I mainly look at Drudge for the wacky “stupid human tricks” articles that it often links to. So, since we are judging sites as inappropriate for people who want to be serious about adult (or grownup as John says) political discussion, let’s include Daily Kos, Think Progress, Crooks and Liars, and Balloon Juice, as well as Newsbusters, Hewitt, Limbaugh, Redstate, Gateway Pundit, and Little Green Footballs.

    Anyone who takes any of these sites seriously is immediately disqualified to argue what should or shouldn’t be considered legitimate sites, imo.

    Apparently, you’d be surprised at all the political bookmarks that I do have listed as favorities. Moderate Voice seems decent. As does Talkleft, Politico and sometimes Kevin Drum.

  10. enkidu Says:

    I was indeed joking (you might think of it as poking) about you visiting Drudge. Drudge is a partisan hack site of the worst stripe (I haven’t visited in years until today just to see if things have changed much, things haven’t, at least to my brief survey.

    Do you include the google, wiki, BBC, Al Jz, Media Matters, factcheck.org, NPR and CNN in your list of verboten sites? You left out Talking Points Media, the partisan dem/left/prog site that spearheaded the AG firings scandal story, the one the MSM weren’t interested in (you know, where the USAG fired local state AGs because they refused to push politically motivated voter fraud sludge, er drudge, er, nm).

    I think the idea that blogs are just too noisy is because folks aren’t good at filtering signal to noise: our biases creep in (always) and make us see what we want to see. Read what we want to read. I am indeed somewhat surprised to read of your link list, tho i wonder what you think of when you are at each of these sites.

    Knowing when something is factually true when you just read about it on the computer screen takes a small leap of faith. You have to trust. Trust like our money is built on trust. One way I judge whether something is BS or not is to reserve judgement until more information comes in. I don’t trust much of what I read on the net for this very reason. I trust things I can see with my own eyes. Would George Allen’s “macaca” moment have made any difference at all if we couldn’t watch it in real time? No. It would have just been another he said, she said partisan football. But since I could watch it and hear it on crooksandliars, it was easier to trust that it wasn’t some 3d model cleverly manipulated by those scheming the destruction of all things holy.

    Which brings me to the dailykos ;-) What is it with Rs that you just don’t get it? Kos isn’t run by a guy or a couple guys copying and pasting links from other feeds and writing a few screeds. It is a people powered web site. People write their diaries or essays because they care. It is the same principle that drives wikipedia. People who know and give a hoot band together on the newly created information superhighway and create something out of nothing. A organizing network out of chaos. Evolution takes place and the many single celled blogs (one guy writing his thoughts in the web server log, just cuz it was there, he’s bored or frustrated or horny or some combination of all of the above) and the single cells begin to clump together, change and mutate. Eventually, a few burst out into the next phase and develop even more wildly, adding not just a new handful of cells and editors and opinion, but a limitless number of interested readers, commenters and creators, researchers and experts. It is generally called crowdsourcing, an offshoot of the open source movement. In a way, elections are a type of crowdsourcing, winnowing the wheat from the chaff, the people’s voice expressed by a representative. But you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

    kos is dedicated to electing Democrats (progressive Dems) and not the destruction of civilization or the coarsening of our public discourse. Sure in the crowd you can get folks yelling obnoxious things (on both sides, see Palin rallies), but noise or lies quickly sink to the bottom, while a general consensus will rise to the top. Good creative, insightful or humorous comments that entertain while they inform are the way forward. Driven on the tiny legs of the largest human millipede yet devised, we lurch towards the horizon. Some push forward, some push back. But that is progress. And why I am an IND, a progressive and an optimist. I push towards the horizon, and away from the pit. You may think I spend all of my time kicking the legs of those pushing back, but humor and mockery are more pleasant (and more constructive imho) than the violence and stupidity of the other side of the fence.

    I know it is unfair to smear you with such a broad brush, so I’ll close by saying I see why John thinks so much of your opinion and insight. I’ll try harder not to kick your legs so much. Cheers.

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