CommunityPam's House Blend

Progressive politics and blogs



Amanda Marcotte
, the blogmistress of discipline over at Pandagon (I am a contributor there), has a post up on the In These Times piece about progressive politics and the blogosphere, “Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics?” She was interviewed for the article. [Make note the order of the blogs featured on the cover…]

It’s a really interesting read on the state of things.

Some comments over at Pandagon about the piece caught my eye; I am just passing them along…

I really like where Kos says women and minorities don’t matter. THROUGH THE ENTIRED FUCKING ARTICLE.

Jedmunds is back on my make-out list purely for being anti-dicKos.

***

At least this article isn’t like pretty much every other article on the progressive blogosphere that paints Markos as a fucking god. It’s almost truthful in showcasing his douche-iness. Almost.

And maybe it’s just the place I’m reading it from, but it seems to be pointing out that the problem with the “progressive blogosphere” is getting to be pretty much the same problem with the Dems — like Mickle said, rich or otherwise privileged white guys who pretend to be like “the common folk.”

***

With guys like that in charge, no wonder we keep losing. (Let’s see, I get to choose between a rich, white guy who pretends to be like me, and a rich, white guy who’s rather more transparent in his condescenion. Gee, which do I pick?)

The fact that Markos can’t differentiate between meritocracy and democracy certainly explains a heck of a lot as well.

***

At some point, people have to start making distinctions between a progressive medium and progressive agendas. As it stands now, some sites are immediately coined “progressive” because they fit into this neat, media created, box. Does anyone really believe that Markos is a progressive? The watering down of the term to encompass anyone with a keyboard that makes some noise, does a disservice to the true progressive. Sites like Daily Kos use progressive technology, but they don’t foster progressive ideals- as a matter of fact they rail against them.

Whew; I think my keyboard just caught on fire…

Kos recently deleted Pandagon from his blogroll, presumably over my colleague Jedmunds’ review of Kos’s book, Crashing the Gate. Kos posted about the review here. OK, maybe it was just a coincidence that it happened after that review…who the f knows, but it seems, well, petty and strange, but it’s his blog.

Amanda weighs in during her interview for the article.

Elite bloggers can play a key role in generating that audience. As Marcotte points out, “A lot more women are moving up in the Technorati rankings” (Technorati is a search engine for the blogosphere) because A-listers like Duncan Black and Kevin Drum in 2005 made it a priority to promote female bloggers. But when someone like Moulitsas decides to stop linking to other blogs—as he has recently done because he doesn’t want to play “gatekeeper”—or when top bloggers repeatedly cite their fellow A-listers, it has enormous consequences. “It’s pretty darn hard today to break in to the A-list if the other A-listers aren’t linking to you,” says Global Voices co-founder Rebecca MacKinnon.

Why do I feel that the big bad blogging dog thing is happening all over again? Let’s not put any words in anyone’s mouths. Here’s the deal, right from the In These Times article. Judge for yourself whether there is paranoia over the perception in some circles that there is a closed circle-jerk club or not.

If blogs derive their credibility from being the “voice of the people,” surely we should be concerned about which opinions get attention over others. The question of representation affects not just who is blogging—and with great success—but also the audience of these blogs. What kind of democratic consensus does the blogosphere reflect when the people participating in it are most likely to be white, well-educated men?

Yet when it comes to issues of diversity, A-list bloggers like Moulitsas and Stoller can get defensive, and at times, dismissive. “Take a look at what you have today. Take a look at the folks who’re leading the party, dominating the media, or even within corporations. Do you think the top ranks of any of those institutions is any more representative?” responds Stoller, his voice rising in indignation.

Where Stoller openly acknowledges the problem—describing blogs in one of his posts as “a new national town square for the white progressive base of the Democratic party”—and the need to take steps to tackle the disparity, Moulitsas is less generous. In his view, it’s simply absurd to demand what he sarcastically describes as an “affirmative action of ideas” within an inherently meritocratic medium such as the blogosphere: “I don’t see how you can say, ‘Well, let’s give more voice to African American lesbians.’ Create a blog. If there’s an audience, great. If there isn’t, not so great.” Besides, he suggests, if a Salvadoran war refugee—in his words, a “political nobody”—like him can make it on the Internet, there’s nothing stopping anyone else from doing the same.

As for the relative paucity of top female progressive bloggers, Moulitsas is indifferent: “I haven’t given it a lot of thought. I find it totally uninteresting. What I’m interested in is winning elections, and I don’t give a shit what you look like.” It’s an odd and somewhat disingenuous response from an advocate of blogging as the ultimate tool of democratic participation.

…”We need to be encouraging a more diverse group of people to blog,” agrees Global Voices’ MacKinnon. “But we also need to be linking to them and giving them traffic so that they have a chance to make it to the A-list.”

Is the network closed or open, are things getting better or worse, or are there just “natural” obstacles (I’m being generous here) that make it difficult for the A-List blog hierarchy to admit its position and power to affect exposure of voices all along the food chain?

It appears from the above statements that the success of any given smaller blog to establish a voice that is heard is simply a matter of survival of the fittest, and that an A-Lister’s sponsorship of a smaller blog’s voice has little impact — that the ecosystem is completely guided by the quality of the blogging, not who you know. Please.

Even the Blend, with its measly audience in relation to DKos, can drive traffic to other smaller blogs. You all know that. PHB benefits from the same when Raw Story, Crooks and Liars, The Daou Report or Buzzflash picks up a post that the folks there find worthy of a wider audience.

All the blogwhoring in the world won’t get your piece up if someone has a grudge, is pissed off at your politics, or your post/issue really doesn’t interest them. The part that gets squishy is whether there is bias going on because of the clubby echo chamber of the A-list. Not of the conspiratorial nature, mind you, but related to issues that may or may not resonate with the Big Dogs as worthwhile topics to focus upon — sex/gend
er issues are often flash points. From an earlier Blend post:

The fact that the testosterone clubbiness of op-ed pages, blogs, and opinion magazines exists speaks volumes — the club generally steers away from those sex/gender issues because it’s just not comfortable. It’s not because those topics are unimportant, but they involve opening honest conversations that might make liberal men queasy as they struggle to understand the emotional impact of shifts in our culture and the balance of power in the national social mosaic.

Maybe yes, maybe no, but the impact of positive sponsorship and promotion of new voices in the blogosphere by A-Listers (as well as the flip side — actively ignoring/delinking/not attributing) cannot be denied — or else it wouldn’t occur in the first place.

No one is saying the “Big Dog network” is inherently evil (though I’m sure some out there feel that way) — I’ve said before that it’s common sense that one would link to peers, but to say there is no passive resistance to acknowledge, seek out or promote new political voices from a perspective that is not white or male or straight is just silly. It’s hard to have a serious dialogue about this until folks fess up.

I’d rather spend my time fighting the Right (and the Dem wannabe-Right), but seeing this kind of stuff continually come up just reeks. It can’t be ignored.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding