No Gods, No Masters

My friend Cernig surveys the blogosphere, contemplates the prospect of an Obama administration, and asks:

Some Dem/Obama forms of Powerline-style mindless sycophancy are almost certain to emerge – and I hope some of us are going to be mindful enough to ridicule them. … Lefties are more likely to fall into the "defending the administration" pattern we’ve seen from rightwing blogs during the Bush terms. That’s more likely the closer the blogger is to the adminsitration in terms of contacts and possible future largesse. Might we see Kos and MyDD emulate the kind of administration cheerleaders we’ve until now only seen from the Powerlines of the US blogosphere?

My answer: I’m worried about myself, but I’m not worried about the rest of the blogosphere.

I’ve been a journalist since I was 19. I’ll be doing this shit till the day I drop dead. Consider it an exercise in personal growth. I’m a romantic and a believer: this work is critical to the survival of an idea that must survive — and I’ll believe that till the day I drop dead — and it also forces you, if you respect it, to be more thorough, more critical, more diligent, and more intellectually honest than you otherwise would. As a result, being independent (and Independent) is extremely important to me.

I agonized over "The Obama Doctrine." The idea of writing hackwork is both terrifying and repugnant. Real talk: shilling is like Vaderism or authoring a Crap Email — we all have it lurking within us. When you write about stuff you believe in — less as a reporter than a commentator — where’s the boundary between propriety and dishonesty? I try to operate on the principle of hemming myself in as close as I can, so if I cross the line I’ve established, I won’t cross too far and end up a hack. But one thing I often say to my friends over beers is that in 15 years, we’ll be the writers we hate — the lazy ones, the bitter ones, the ones who can’t see outside the Iraq-war framework. It’s purest, basest vanity to believe that we’re the repository of purity, and it’s the enemy of journalism, because it’s a lie. So I’m worried about me.

What I’m not worried about is the liberal blogosphere as a whole. Have you seen how much shit Obama’s gotten from FDL, dKos, Glenn and others about FISA? Or about Wes Clark? Here’s a situation in which the ideological fervor of the left — I think that’s a good thing! — really does act as a powerful check on the Democratic Party. Similarly, the liberal/leftist impulse to sectarianism acts as a powerful check on one another. While it’s not productive in general to get into a food fight over who’s the true liberal, there is the peripheral benefit of balancing each other’s work. I’m not sure that it’s true anymore, if it ever was, that the only thing that defines the liberal blogosphere is partisanship. The FISA fight should put that line to bed.

Cernig, though, is right to pose the question. We’ll do well to keep it in mind. We don’t want to become the right wing, do we? Come on, liberals — angst and self-doubt come as naturally to us as fair-trade coffee, better fuel-economy standards and morning sodomy. Let’s put it to good use!

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman