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Peter Daou, who was some sort of blogging consultant to the Kerry-Edwards campaign, has written an interesting piece questioning the influence of bloggers on the political scene. His idea is that there's a triangle of "netroots," media, and the political establishment ---and that bloggers may or may not be driving the issues.
One of his most curious observations, I thought, was the following:
The power of the triangle has been demonstrated again and again: Josh Marshall and social security, Steve Clemons and the Bolton nomination (the recess appointment was emblematic of Bolton’s defeat, not his victory), rightwing bloggers and Eason Jordan, rightwing bloggers and Dick Durbin, progressive bloggers and Jeff Gannon, and so on.I know who Marshall is, but I don't recall ever hearing of Steve Clemons ---nor do I know what either of them did to influence Social Security or John Bolton's nomination. Any hints? If this Clemons guy succeeded in derailing Bolton, I'm not aware of it.
But I do know about the other examples Daou throws up ---and they are telling.
Eason Jordan? While in the sacred confines of a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last February, this now former head of CNN accused the American military of murdering journalists in Iraq. The charge was so outrageous that it even offended Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank. Not that Frank is less offendable than others, but he is a Democrat.
Dick Durbin? The second highest ranking Democrat in the United States Senate said that our soldiers at Guantanamo Bay were no different from Nazi concentration camp guards or gulag-minders in the old Soviet Union. With both Jordan and Durbin, conservative bloggers ---or rightwing bloggers, if that's your term--- kept up the pressure and demanded that Big Media stop ignoring these treasonous statements and hold people accountable for giving aid and comfort to the enemy in a time of war. Good on them.
But then Daou pathetically points to a "success" of the Leftist blogosphere: the getting of James Guckert (a.k.a., Jeff Gannon), a gay Republican who apparently did not have the credentialed credibility that puckered old sphincter muscles like Helen Thomas or blow-dried turds like John Roberts bring to the White House Press Room. Gannon was exposed as a male prostitute and, as such, was some sort of security risk or embarrassment to the journalistic profession. Actually, I don't know where the outrage finally ended up, but it was a seismic shift in the History of American Journalism and the Very Notion of Truth. Don't you remember it?
Anyway, what I find most interesting in Daou's examples are the ones that are missing.
How about Trent Lott? He lost his Senate Majority Leader position because of the efforts of conservative bloggers in bringing his unfortunate remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday celebration to the wider attention of the conservative-hating Big Media. Is there any comparable example of the Leftist blogosphere sacrificing one of their own to principle?
And how about the utter destruction of Dan Rather's career? That has to be the greatest example of the blogosphere's influence ---and yet Daou doesn't even mention it. How's that possible? Would it somehow not fit into his narrative?
In each of these cases, and to varying degrees, bloggers, the media, and senior elected officials played a role in pushing a story and influencing public perceptions. To understand what happens when the online community is on its own, look no further than electronic voting. The progressive netroots has been hammering away at this for years, but the media and the political establishment is largely mute. Traction = Zero. The conventional wisdom puts it squarely in the realm of conspiracy theories.Daou's position on electronic voting is the same as mine, but he ignores the example of Rathergate. That scandal was wholly the work of a handful of bloggers. (In fact, it began with an anonymous post at the old online bulletin board FreeRepublic.com.) I very distinctly remember how useless the evening news was in those days in covering such a major media meltdown ---and how they were absolutely chasing the bloggers' tails in sealing Rather's fate.
I think what's driven Daou to this point is his understanding ---notwithstanding all the blustery rhetoric of his coreligionists--- that no one on the Left has yet achieved the level of influence already demonstrated on the Right side of the blogosphere. There's nothing comparable on their side to Rathergate or Jordangate or even the evidence that came out against John Kerry's dishonest claims from his time in Viet Nam.
Maybe the Plame thing will work out for them in the end, but it's going to take a lot more than fluffing Keith Olbermann or Wolf Blitzer to get them there.
UPDATE: Say, Tom! Thanks for the Minutelanche!