Wonks and Blogs
Published on: April 27, 2012
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  • Anthony

    “One characteristic the blogosphere shares with the legacy media is an endless fascination with itself.” That is apropos WRM to say the least. Further, relevance for process is key phrase (it’s not that academics feel frozen out but that they sense literate competition in realm of ideas). Reinventing the academic enterprise in this era of transition (crisis of old order) remains an imperative – certainly new, leaner, and faster-moving.

    Most important dynamic of blogosphere: it has changed who gatekeepers are. “The internet is a revolution in communications; the media are forms of communication. The internet doesn’t just offer an alternative way to deliver information; it attacks the core business model of print media and the network news organizations.” In so many ways it represents cutting edge of transitional epoch – much bigger economic and social revolution roiling American life.

    Finally WRM vis-a-vis populist upsurge against old elites, I would prefer to describe it as morally justified citizens feeling politically and socially irked – the ground under their respective feet shifting.

  • joe

    I think the rise of the blogosphere has less to do with a populist awakening than with a real desire for news and facts, even if molded by political bias. People are tired of parsing straight news articles that shamelessly use GAO budget numbers that presuppose 5% GDP growth for the pertinent time period. Or watching NBC news attempting to cover their tuckuses for selectively editing Zimmerman’s 911 tape.

    People want news they can quickly read, digest and rely upon as not being dissimilar to the truth. The academy has not provided that service for some time. Most people look on the legacy media and the Meet the Press mob with laconic revulsion.

    Quick example: I had to learn from Der Spiegel that the new special prosecutor for the FTC’s investigation of Google is Dick Gregory’s wife. How is that not pertinent in an election year?

  • John Barker

    “. . . academics would rather get caught eating the fish course with a salad fork.”

    WRM, what is a fish fork? Can you eat tuna fish casserole with it?

  • Anthony

    WRM, regarding Left, Right, and Center formulations: don’t all political positions leave much out of account in their neat formulas – is Status Quo (center) any more than the law of inertia implying moderate and reassuring social/economic established arrangements? Are the categories definitive in polity of transitional change as implied in Wonks and Blogs?

  • thibaud

    Shorter version (shorter, that is, than the windy article and oddly windy WRM post):

    Lefty blogs have more original content because the chattering classes tilt left.

    For every right-wing journalist, academic, writer, underemployed artist/actor or other windbag, there are probably 10 left-wing counterparts.

    The right/left distinction is a lot less interesting than the distinction between what you could call “fast media” and “slow media.”

    Slow media = traditional, esp long-form, journalism that relies on painstaking research, fact-checking, and above all, editing and multiple revisions prior to publications. Signal to noise ratios tend to be high.

    Fast media = blogs, celebrity websites, sports and entertainment and shopping sites, new media in general. Signal to noise ratios range from moderately high to infinitesimal, with most clustering around the low end.

    For blogs of any variety, the main benefit is the sense of tribal camaraderie that comes from cataloguing and heaping scorn on OtherSide’s outrages. The tone is one of grievance mixed with smirks ‘n’ sneers; the first straw is always the last straw, and those who point out that both sides have their merits are scorned as “trolls.”

    It may well be a losing battle, but we really need a Slow Media movement modeled on the lines of the Slow Food movement.

  • Kansas Scott

    I found your essay enjoyable. However, this comment is not on your points in the essay but rather to make a relevant request for something for which I have been searching, a blog review. If what I am seeking already exists, point the way.

    Readers have always searched for writers that interest them. What interests them varies from person to person and there’s nothing new about that. We tend to read things that validate our existing opinion but there are times when we want to be challenged. We all want to be entertained. “Entertained” means as many things as there are readers.

    What is different about blogging is the lack of filters that I can go to to find writers that offer what I seek. I stumbled into Via Media because of your Civil War in real time series (I still miss that) but then found I enjoyed the writing in general and stayed. You, as with many blogs, have a blog roll but they are simple lists that I can start working my way through but that has not been a very satisfactory means of finding blogs to follow. I have found a few others through links in your posts but those are sort of random occurrences.

    A book review service gives you an idea if you might like a book by comparing it to similar writers with whom you might be familiar or at least gives you a taste of the writing. A thoughtful blog review would be wonderful. It would be particularly valuable for someone like me to have reviews of thoughtful and insightful writers with opinions differing from those offered here. The internet is filled with screaming screeds that seem designed primarily to fill fellow travelers with rocket fuel while at the same time provide those with a differing view with as much annoyance as possible. I have always enjoyed thoughtful and insightful writers who see the world differently but it is hard to find them in the great pit of chaff known as the World Wide Web.

    Put those interns to work writing one paragraph reviews of other bloggers and have them constantly updating as new writers appear and older writers finally succumb to the lack of financial gain. Either that or put them back to work on the Civil War.

  • thibaud

    @joe #2: you may want to revise your Favorites list. Dick Gregory’s a hunger activist (or maybe a hungry hunger activist?).

    As to David Gregory, his spouse was the DoJ’s lead on the Oklahoma bombing trial and is rated by her peers as one of the best litigators in the country. In this light, who her husband is doesn’t carry much significance.

  • thibaud

    Post #2, above, is an example of our Fast Media’s tribalism in action, esp the breathless search for OtherSide’s villainy that overrides a sane and balanced view of complex events.

  • Andrew Allison

    Having recently abandoned Demagoguery, er Democracy in America (an Economist blog catering to the left), I’d like to suggest that the quality of moderation is a very important attribute. The blogosphere, rightly, allows anybody to post an opinion but if the commentary on posts is off-topic or as WRM so elegantly puts it, disrespectful of the other people at the table, it’s not worth following.

  • Most academics aren’t read, some bloggers are. The marketplace of ideas has suddenly become more fragmented and more competitive. Whether this is a new tower of Babel is anybody’s guess but I think it is interesting that in the realm of pop music, at least, the idea of a Bill Board top 50 is not what it used to be. I can’t name a single tune on it and I doubt I would recognize one.

    I’d like to think that talent will out. By that measure Mead is a smashing success — is there another blog in the last couple of years that has gone from zero to where he is now so quickly. I feel sure he is more influential now than he used to be. His stuff is picked up everywhere. What are the stats on this blog btw?

    FWIW I consider myself neither left nor right, yet when I visit a blog like Atrious my feeling is like being in the moshpit at the Fillmore Ball Room: pandemonium!

    I think a blog can be measured by the quality (though not the quantity) of its commenters. It’s important that they don’t all agree with each other or the blogger and that their comments are thoughtful, unexpected, and (dare I say) civil.

  • re: the need for a blog review — that’s what surfing is for. Still it might be helpful if readers listed a few of their more out-of-the-way favorites. The places I go every day, besides Mead, are Steve Sailer, Lubos Motl, Hbd* Chk, and lately Epoch Times (for China) and Talk Left (for Trayvon/Zimmerman case). I go to Ann Althouse when I want to be rubbed the wrong way. My homepage is Arts and Letters Daily.

  • I forgot to mention Economist’s View for economic reporting and memeorandum for gossip.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    As one of the group leftists would call a wingnut, I think the reason the Right wing blogs more links, is because they are both more modest and scientific in expressing themselves. Where a leftist will make pronouncements like “Scientists all agree that Global Warming is occurring, and the debate is over” without any supporting documentation that such a statement is true (and in fact it was never true), the Right seeks to prove the truth of their positions with links to facts, a scholarly bibliography if you will. The Rightist Blogs are more modest in that they respect their reader’s intelligence and so offer up links to support their positions which readers can confirm for themselves and perform the due diligence necessary to form their own positions. Leftists on the other hand expect their readers to submit to their authority with unquestioning obedience, and when they are questioned fall back on their credentials the support of other Leftists, and then they attack the questioner’s character and motivations for questioning the Leftist’s authority, as if every question is an attack on the Leftist’s character. The Right wing blogs are more scientific as they seek to answer questions and criticism of their positions in order to both confirm for themselves the truth of their positions(they don’t just assume that they are always right, and continually test their own positions), and to spread that truth to their readers. A question or criticism on a Leftist blog, or even such to a leftist comment on a Right wing blog, will generally result in verbal abuse and specious arguments like the one I saw above by the Leftist thibaud “is rated by her peers as one of the best litigators in the country” (her competence wasn’t in question, her bias and obligation to excuse herself is).

    In fact a perfect example of Leftist blogging: #8 thibaud “Post #2, above, is an example of our Fast Media’s tribalism in action, esp the breathless search for OtherSide’s villainy that overrides a sane and balanced view of complex events.” Spews out as much impenetrable gobbledygook as the two Leftist Authors of the article WRM is discussing Shaw and Benkler, attacking character by accusing #2 joe of being tribal, insane, unbalanced, and more without a shred of evidence or link beyond thibaud’s unsupported word and assumed authority. Joe on the other hand gave instances and references (like the Zimmerman tape, and Der Spiegel) in an effort to explain his position and the factual basis for it.

    If you are a Seeker of Truth as I like to think I am, looking for it on the left side of the Blogosphere is a waste of time, as while there is likely some truth to be found there, it is so covered in BS that it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The right side of the Blogosphere on the other hand will feed you facts and figures and encourage you to find the truth on your own, with perhaps some hints to the truth on the blog itself. LOL

  • thibaud

    #11 is a good example of the mindset that results from digital life inside the tribal echo chamber:
    “OurSide is wise, virtuous, driven by the Search for Truth. OtherSide is dumb, wicked, driven by the need to spew abuse.”

  • Kris

    “By the time an academic publishes something about the blogosphere and others respond, the blogosphere has moved on.”

    You don’t say. As a prime example: “right-wing blogs have been observed to link more often than left-wing blogs (Adamic & Glance, 2005)”

    2005? 2005?!?!?!?!

  • Jim.

    During the 2008 campaign, Dick Armey wrote a piece for RCP that was a retread of the tired old Keynesian “Pile on the debt, we need to hand our kids a strong economy!” nonsense.

    One commenter pointed out how very convenient it was that Armey would be dead before those loans would have to be paid off. The rest of Armey’s post, what WRM might call “a battle plan for the War on the Young”, was clearly not enjoyed by that commenter either (expressed in terms that may not have been acceptable at the Venerable Lady Mead’s dinner table.)

    That post of Armey’s is not available in the RCP archives anymore. Instead, his posts include “‘Compassionate’ Conservatism Was a Mistake”. His Keynesian cheerleading is nowhere to be found.

    If GOP life is a lesson in the enforcement of conformity (or viewed another way, the “building of consensus”), please reflect that the web has arranged for that to flow both ways, not just from the top down.

  • Tom

    @Thibaud: No, more like life inside any echo chamber.

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