Yearly Kos and the Myth of the White Male
I just want to comment on the Washington Post article which said that based on observations made about Yearly Kos, the progressive blogosphere is a bunch of white males. I spoke with the author, Jose Vargas, at length prior to its publication but what I had to say doesn’t seem to be the story he wanted to write and there were many other non-bloggers willing to validate his point and that’s what made it into print. From my perspective, while there may have been a socioeconomic bias that may have made it easier for white male non-bloggers to attend Yearly Kos, there is diversity in the blogosphere and more than that a tremendous willingness to embrace more. And I question the authority and the knowledge regarding the progressive blogosphere of people who don’t acknowledge that.
The biggest blogger by far is Arianna Huffington, with 70 million page views per month. Markos is #2, and no amount of willingness to turn him into a white male is going to do that. Markos is Hispanic and that’s just a straight fact. John Amato and Duncan Black are straight white men, but John Aravosis is gay (and so are many of his contributors). FDL rounds out the list of top blogs on the left, headed by two women, although Pach — a Hispanic gay man — is also one of our primary voices. Digby is probably the most quoted and sharpest thinker around, and she’s a woman. I just had to roll my eyes when I heard people who don’t actually, you know, blog (and I’m sorry, but putting up an occasional post on the web site of your think tank/interest group/consulting firm’s website does not de facto make you familiar with the ins and outs of blogging or the blog world) talk about some cabal of straight white males who sit around a table and decide who does and does not get linked to. To the best of my knowledge, Duncan Black and John Amato haven’t yet figured out a way to seamlessly oppress the rest of us and bend us like pretzels to their iron will.
I’ll tell you my experience here at FDL because it didn’t make it into the Washington Post, for what it’s worth. I spent a year trying to figure out the architecture of the blog world, how it works, what were the conventions and the rules. And I knew that with regard to the top bloggers, they wanted to encourage diversity. They wanted to be supportive and were anxious to find people who did what needed to be done in order to regularly link to them and give them traffic and exposure. That means several things, which Pach outlines in this post, but among them you have to post regularly about the topics that news junkies are interested in and you have to find a way to write your issues into those. It is difficult to get people to care about pro-choice, my personal signature issue. I found a way to write it into the Alito story, the Joe Lieberman story, the NARAL story, in a way that the blogosphere got interested in because I took the time to figure out how things worked and how you could catch the wave. I also took a lot of time building relationships with other bloggers, reading what they had to say, linking back to them, going out of my way to meet them in person when I could (no matter how big or little the blog) and being in conversation with other bloggers rather than sitting there carping about how they never linked to me.
Women and people of color have important perspectives to add to any conversation. We need more of both in the progressive blogosphere, it makes it richer and the insights deeper and more comprehensive. But Yearly Kos was prohibitively expensive (my hotel bill was $910) and that just isn’t a cost that bloggers who by and large do what they do as a labor of love can afford. Pach did a sampled study of people on the panels and found that only 28% were actually bloggers, so conflating those at Yearly Kos with the progressive blogosphere is a big mistake. It just isn’t so. I saw a more Democratic consultants, think tank and interest group representatives than I did bloggers. If you want to argue that the majority of those are white males based on who attended Yearly Kos maybe you have an point. I wouldn’t make that kind of generalization because I don’t know that world.
People can insist that the blogosphere is a bunch of white males but it just isn’t. I sat there and listened to someone who actually does blog and who I like a lot say that nobody of color was blogging on “A” list blogs about prison reform or immigration and I looked over at Pach, a person of color who writes about those issues frequently on FDL, and we both just shrugged our shoulders. What were we going to do? It wasn’t what anybody wanted to hear.
We work all the time to bring more diverse points of view to FDL and will continue to do so. Slagging the blogosphere off for being a bunch of white males is deeply insulting and dismissive of all the hard work people who have been successful and aren’t white males put in to get to where we are.
(photo of Christy Hardin Smith, Jonathan Singer, Digby, Taylor Marsh and James Rucker at the YK2007 “hot topic” panel by Ms. Helena Handbag).