Book SalonCommunity

Of Books and Blogs

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I started reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City yesterday, and I know what will be consuming my weekend. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, get thee to a bookstore or an online retailer and be prepared to get hoppin' mad. And ready yourself for discussions of the book here at the FDL Book Salon on November 12th, and on the 19th, when Rajiv will join us. Here's a little teaser from Publishers Weekly:

As the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran has probably spent more time in U.S.-occupied Iraq than any other American journalist, and his intimate perspective permeates this history of the Coalition Provisional Authority headquartered in the Green Zone around Saddam Hussein's former palace. He presents the tenure of presidential viceroy L. Paul Bremer between May 2003 and June 2004 as an all-too-avoidable disaster, in which an occupational administration selected primarily for its loyalty to the Bush administration routinely ignored the reality of local conditions until, as one ex-staffer puts it, "everything blew up in our faces." Chandrasekaran unstintingly depicts the stubborn cluelessness of many Americans in the Green Zone—like the army general who says children terrified by nighttime helicopters should appreciate "the sound of freedom." But he sympathetically portrays others trying their best to cut through the red tape and institute genuine reforms. He also has a sharp eye for details, from casual sex in abandoned offices to stray cats adopted by staffers, which enable both advocates and critics of the occupation to understand the emotional toll of its circuslike atmosphere. Thanks to these personal touches, the account of the CPA's failures never feels heavy-handed.

The book salon here at the Lake is an organic blogosphere development, which is definitely chipping away at the myth that blogs are just the crazy, uncouth and unwashed masses who aren't fit to hold forth on the issues facing our nation and the news of each day. I dare anyone to compare the level of discourse in our comment sections during recent salons with John Dean and Sidney Blumenthal, with the reviews that appeared in mainstream papers like the New York Times, as Jane did in this post. Warms my heart to see citizens engaging and weighing in on matters so vital to our democracy.

Even though the establishment media and Dems are still, for the most part, trying to bash and belittle blogs for all sorts of contradictory reasons, there are a couple of items that I'd like to share today. So, take note, Nicholas Lehmann, Alex Jones, Rem Reider and other media poobahs: the blog communities are growing every day because there is a tremendous need for citizens to hold media and government accountable.

The Buffalo News, for example, is giving the progressive blogosphere some props this week, regarding bloggers' work to keep the scandal over disgraced Republican Congressman Mark Foley's sexual emails and IMs with young pages front and center in the national attention–and accurately reported:

Bloggers are raising questions, poring over documents and generating tips that newspapers and television news programs are following up with their own reporting.

It makes it harder for Reynolds and other Republicans to conduct damage control.

"This [story] had legs already, but it has much longer legs because of the blogosphere," said Kevin J. Hardwick, a Canisius College political scientist.

In recent years, Web reporting has primed the coverage of some scandals, notably in raising questions about the authenticity of memos unearthed by Dan Rather and "60 Minutes II" that criticized President Bush's Vietnam War-era service stateside in the National Guard.

"The reality is there hasn't been a major news story in the last two years that hasn't been advanced to some degree by what's written in the blogosphere," said Glenn Greenwald, a New York City attorney and regular blogger.

In this latest scandal, involving salacious computer messages sent by then-Rep. Mark A. Foley, R-Fla., to underage House pages, blogs are playing a leading role in sparking the story and keeping it alive.

and this, from the same article:

Independent blogs picked up the thread that Reynolds' chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, who previously held that job in Foley's office, advised Foley in the days before he resigned.

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz initially reported this without naming the staffer or mentioning the link to Reynolds. Greenwald wrote about this Tuesday, prompting a reader to suggest the Reynolds tie.

Greenwald then e-mailed a number of his contacts about this tip, and one of them – John Aravosis of AMERICAblog – got Kurtz to confirm Fordham's identity.

The national media then picked up the story, prompting Fordham to defend his actions and, on Wednesday, to resign.

This story is illustrative of the level of collaboration that goes on between bloggers, who are not, in my opinion (and I've been watching this closely for over a year now), overly concerned with bylines, scoops and access, as are too many of their mainstream media counterparts. And I spent time at mainstream media outlets too, so I've got some experience to compare the two. I am so encouraged by this type of collaboration, because it shows me that citizen journalists, many of whom work for free, are more committed to their fellow citizens and to getting the truth out, than they are to their own careers and cocktail party invitations. How very, very refreshing.

And on the political front regarding blogs, check out the new site for the New Politics Institute (at which I'm a fellow). Director Pete Leyden has brought together an impressive number of videos, memos and other reports that begin to lay out how new media and politics are merging and how progressives can use blogs and other new media to great advantage. Jerome Armstrong's "Engage the Blogs" is a must read, and you'll be able to watch video footage of Markos, Simon Rosenberg and others, including yours truly.

Maybe the next time we hear from Mssrs. Lehmann, Jones and Reider about the blogs, their writing will reflect what is truly happening on the citizen journalism front. We'd be pleased as punch to talk to you fellows–any time.

And let us hope that establishment Dems are beginning to realize that the progressive blogs are helping to lead Dems to electability in myriad ways.

Say it with me now: Blogs are just citizens holding media and government accountable.

CommunityFDL Main Blog

Of Books and Blogs

1400044871101_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v65593524_.jpg

I started reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City yesterday, and I know what will be consuming my weekend. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, get thee to a bookstore or an online retailer and be prepared to get hoppin' mad. And ready yourself for discussions of the book here at the FDL Book Salon on November 12th, and on the 19th, when Rajiv will join us. Here's a little teaser from Publishers Weekly:

As the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran has probably spent more time in U.S.-occupied Iraq than any other American journalist, and his intimate perspective permeates this history of the Coalition Provisional Authority headquartered in the Green Zone around Saddam Hussein's former palace. He presents the tenure of presidential viceroy L. Paul Bremer between May 2003 and June 2004 as an all-too-avoidable disaster, in which an occupational administration selected primarily for its loyalty to the Bush administration routinely ignored the reality of local conditions until, as one ex-staffer puts it, "everything blew up in our faces." Chandrasekaran unstintingly depicts the stubborn cluelessness of many Americans in the Green Zone—like the army general who says children terrified by nighttime helicopters should appreciate "the sound of freedom." But he sympathetically portrays others trying their best to cut through the red tape and institute genuine reforms. He also has a sharp eye for details, from casual sex in abandoned offices to stray cats adopted by staffers, which enable both advocates and critics of the occupation to understand the emotional toll of its circuslike atmosphere. Thanks to these personal touches, the account of the CPA's failures never feels heavy-handed.

The book salon here at the Lake is an organic blogosphere development, which is definitely chipping away at the myth that blogs are just the crazy, uncouth and unwashed masses who aren't fit to hold forth on the issues facing our nation and the news of each day. I dare anyone to compare the level of discourse in our comment sections during recent salons with John Dean and Sidney Blumenthal, with the reviews that appeared in mainstream papers like the New York Times, as Jane did in this post. Warms my heart to see citizens engaging and weighing in on matters so vital to our democracy.

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Jennifer Nix

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