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Thin skin of the Technorati Testosteroni

[Cross-posted at Big Brass Blog.]

Perhaps Atrios is using the “Chief Brody technique” of writing — throwing chum at his readers in an attempt to keep them hungry and coming back — while he takes a creative breather.

Sometimes being polite (and astute) doesn’t get you anything but grief. Talk to Jesse of In Search of Telford, who made the ungainly mistake of noticing that Atrios is coasting on his Big Blogger reputation with some pretty thin commentary on Eschaton. I don’t know Jesse, and have never been to Telford before today, but a whole mess of folks have been over to visit now because of a little electronic dust-up.

As I said, Jesse wasn’t exactly flogging Duncan Black for being a dimwit or gum-flapping fool on Eschaton; he has a lot of respect for the blog and the man:

Atrios is a heavy-hitter in the blog landscape. He deserves respect for simply being so successful. I read Eschaton daily and have now for a couple of years. He is a true pioneer in this medium and, for that, I praise him.

The fun begins when Jesse tells it like it is…call it what you may…lethargy setting in, the smell of death, reaching the point of “jumping the shark”, you know what we’re talking about…

One “open thread” after a cryptic, one line link, followed by another “open thread” smooshed in between a post about “Bobo’s World” or “Big Media Matt”. The total amount of thought put into the blog appears to be next to zero.

…He didn’t become a full time blogger who lives off ad revenue by doing what he’s doing now. He did it by fostering a community on his blog and supporting Democratic causes. He did it by developing a knack for getting right to the heart of a matter. He did it by not resting on his laurels.

My point is, he seems to have lost a step on his blog.

The response of Atrios to this mild criticism was to get his panties wadded up in a bit of snark:

Open Thread

Just to annoy the people who don’t think I’m keeping it real anymore.
-Atrios 8:34 PM

That’s a pretty lame, flip-the-bird response, but it’s truly disturbing and petty of Atrios to take it to the next level and point his band of “progressive Freepi” regulars over to Jesse’s blog to cut loose instead of giving a thoughtful response to the question of whether Eschaton is in creative hibernation.

Maybe Atrios is waiting for the next election cycle while he recharges, but damn, he could at least pass the baton to those with a tad more energy to take on the cause of political commentary, for crying out loud. The plight is simple — there are plenty of issues out there that people would like to see Atrios’s commentary on, but if he doesn’t have the time or inclination to do so, there are plenty of bloggers out there, as Jesse points out, toiling at their blogs for zip, trying to get their voices recognized. [And, no I’m not whining for an addition to a blogroll, a link or anything of the sort — as if writing a post like this is going to garner it!]

Eschaton has the feel of a blog that’s “done,” is all Jesse is saying, and I have heard this from many others around the blogosphere — they just aren’t posting about it. The fork is in it, people. No one is saying Eschaton can’t be meaningful again, but there isn’t a whole lot of cutting-edge politics/activism going on there right now. It’s coasting time. The saddest aspect of all is that the Atrios minions really did sink to Freeper mode, unleashing juvenile comments worthy of Freeperland…

Actual Atrios Creatures Quotesâ„?

“We’re all deeply sorry that Atrios has ignored you. Reminds me of my only lonely years being unable to get a call back from Brittney Spears. Why won’t she call?! Waaaaaahhhhhhhh!”

“fuck u cum junkie”

“Whoa – now *there’s* a concept: get mega-hits by taking a candy-assed slap at someone very well-established in the same field, then revel in the echo-chamber comment-section slobberings of a gang who would probably be bested in a ninth-grade civics flash drill.”

“Shorter Jesse: “Atrios didn’t kiss my feet! Waaahhhh! (But at least my whining conned people into visiting my site! Go me!!!!)”

“m coming oh god im coming oh yes fuck me oh god yes fuck im coming, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh put it in me oh yeah put it in me oh god oh oh oh fuck me oh yes oh god im coming oh yes oh fcuk oh god im coming im coming ohhhh ohhhh ohhhh ohhhh”

Are we back in kindergarten? So much for polite discussion about a legitimate topic in the growing, diverse, progressive, online political commentary community. The most embarrassing comment of the Atrios regulars that bombarded Jesse’s site belonged to none other than fellow big blogger bat Steve Gilliard, who picks on the guy’s blog design.

Boy, blogging is so easy. I mean, it’s so easy I’d have time to worry about how other people run their blogs. Take this blog, for instance. It really needs a new, easier to read design. Then it needs some art, yet art would help. I mean, how much time did you put into this design? You know they have other designs in blogger. Try using them.

Note to readers: Gilliard’s News Blog uses a tired Blogger template, so I’m not sure how this places him in an exalted position to throw design stones. C’est la vie.

Atrios only a couple of days ago, in his post Whiners, took Dem members of Congress to task (specifically Adam Schiff) for being babies over Dave Sirota’s critical letter that pointed out political contributions trumped constituent interest in the bankruptcy bill vote. The Dems lamely cried “personal and inappropriate.” The response of Atrios to Jesse’s post feels strangely similar…oh, the irony. It really is unseemly for a big blogger to send his “Frist!” faithful over to harass a smaller blogger.

Personally, I feel for Atrios. I mean it’s got to be hard to keep fresh content up all the time with all those readers to please — it’s a lot of pressure. You feel like you’re letting folks down if you don’t have something to say every day, or point to some new nugget or story that is flaming hot that might require mobilizing the next big move for progressives. When you have as large a readership and as high a profile as Eschaton, he has to feel like Amity Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) in Jaws, sitting on the Orca, shoveling bloody chum overboard to draw in the shark to Captain Quint’s boat. It’s hard to keep 100,000 daily visitors (and those advertisers) coming back, right?

The bottom line is that while keeping a blog current and relevant is hard, Eschaton is whatever Atrios wants it to be; he’s entitled to change the format or approach of the blog, or to simply call a content “time out” between election cycles. What is disingenuous is saying he’s “keeping it real” when there has been a change in tenor and content at the blog. Jesse’s
criticism wasn’t exactly a foaming-at-the-mouth rant; it deserved a response of equal courtesy. If Atrios didn’t want to bother responding, he didn’t have to link to him. By linking he knew full well his minions would follow the link to respond, not surprisingly, inappropriately. That’s being a baby, er, passive-aggressive, my friends.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding