The Daou Critique

In a very insightful essay, Peter Daou writes about the influence of bloggers:
Looking at the political landscape, one proposition seems unambiguous: blog power on both the right and left is a function of the relationship of the netroots to the media and the political establishment. Forming a triangle of blogs, media, and the political establishment is an essential step in creating the kind of sea change we've seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Simply put, without the participation of the media and the political establishment, the netroots alone cannot generate the critical mass necessary to alter or create conventional wisdom. This is partly a factor of audience size, but it's also a matter, frankly, of trust and legitimacy. Despite the astronomical growth of the netroots (see Bowers and Stoller for hard numbers), and the slow and steady encroachment of bloggers on the hallowed turf of Washington's opinion-makers, it is still the Russerts and Broders and Gergens and Finemans, the WSJ, WaPo and NYT editorial pages, the cable nets, Stewart and Letterman and Leno, and senior elected officials, who play a pivotal role in shaping people's political views.(...)

Working within the triangle construct (netroots + media + party establishment = CW), bloggers and netroots activists on the left and right have very different strategic imperatives.

With a well-developed echo chamber and superior top-down discipline, the right has a much easier time forming the triangle. Fox News, talk radio, Drudge, a well-trained and highly visible punditocracy, and a lily-livered press corps takes care of the media side of the triangle. Iron-clad party loyalty - with rare exceptions - and a willingness of Republican officials to jump on the Limbaugh-Hannity bandwagon du jour takes care of the party establishment side of the triangle. The rightwing netroots, therefore, is already working within the triangle on most issues. Their primary strategic aim is to prevent the left from forming its own triangle, as occurred with Katrina. It's a defensive posture, with the goal being the preservation of the status quo. Which explains why the right is profoundly hostile to dissent and why the pretense to libertarianism is common: "independent thinkers" don't like to be seen as defending the powers that be.(...)

It would seem reasonable to conclude, then, that the best strategy for the progressive netroots is to go after the media and Democratic Party leaders and spend less time and energy attacking the Bush administration. If the netroots alone can't change the political landscape without the participation of the media and Democratic establishment, then there's no point wasting precious online space blasting away at Republicans while the other sides of the triangle stand idly by. Indeed, blog powerhouses like Kos and Josh Marshall have taken an aggressive stance toward Democratic politicians they see as selling out core Democratic Party principles. Kos's willingness to attack the DLC is mocked on the right, but it is precisely the right's fear that Kos will "close the triangle" that causes them to protest so loudly. Similarly, when Atrios, Digby, Oliver Willis, and so many other progressive bloggers attack the media, they are leveraging whatever power they have to compel the media to assume a role as the third side of their triangle.

As far as a description of CW and media influence is concerned, I think this analysis is virtually 100% correct. In the parts of the essay I did not quote, Peter also does well to address the basic points of contention that many may raise with this analysis. The only area I would dissent has to do with the inevitable quesiton of audience size. While it may be true that the blogs are not currently large enough in terms of audience size to significantly alter the CW on its own, the people who read the blogs are themselves very influential within their fmaily and social circles, greatly extending the reach of the blog CW. Further, the astronomical rise in audience size of espeically the progressive blogosphere may soon lead to a point where they are indeed reaching an audience of tens of millions of people per day without a media or party filter. We will have to see.

But yes, in order to alter CW, blogs do indeed need to work within a triangle of of the party and media establishment. Further, in order for blogs to affect this triangle, closing the triangle of resistance within the party and within the media, as well as vastly improving internal blog organization, will be necessary (and rest assured, I am working on that full-time). However, what I do want to emphasize is that the goal of the blogopshere is more than to become just a CW-generating message machine. A second, equally important goal, is the politicization and activation of the progressive blog audience. As I have written on numerous occassions, action is at the heart of the importance of the importance of blogs:

For me, the primary difference between the Blogosphere and the media oligopoly is simply not the content and register of our discourse, but instead the function of that discourse. In particular, these days our discussions almost invariably are not ends in and of themselves. Instead, while pundits of the media oligopoly work to inform (at which they do a terrible job), we work to agitate. While they supposedly labor toward objectivity (and fail miserably), we clearly labor toward subjectivity, agency and direct political action. For me, it is not about creating an alternative avenue for edgy discursive expression. Instead, it is about organizing and effectively channeling the activism of the people who take part in and witness those discussions. In this respect, the Blogosphere has never been more alive than it is right now. While altering the ideological content of the national political discourse is an undeniably important task, the netroots must also serve as a new grassroots outlet and organizational tool for the progressive movement. We cannot just equal the Republican Noise Machine and think that will be enough--we also must vastly surpass the grassroots power of the theocon, social conservative movement. It is for this reason that the blogs can never, under any circumstances, spend less energy and time attacking the Bush administration and other seats of conservative power. We cannot mobilize mass political action in legislative battles and general elections simply by attacking mushy Democrats and MSM malfeasance. While this may make the task of closing the triangle a somewhat more long-term project, we just can't sacrifice one of the main areas of potential transformation promised by the blogosphere and the netroots for another one. We have to generate both CW and action, for the progressive movement is in desperate need of both.

Of course, I'm pretty sure Peter knows this, so I don't want to belabor the point. If my only contention with his essay is a question of emphasis, then I really don't have a serious contention with his essay at all. Go read the whole thing.

Tags: Blogosphere (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

a different angle
He's exactly right that money begin given to old gaurd campaigns is part of the problem. I think we need to examine that, and either completely takeover the DNC at the netroots/grassroots level over the next two cycles, or build organizations outside the party. I mean, Bob Shrum, Tad Devine and Mike Donilon have a firm that took away about $9 Million dollars from that 2004 campaign. John Kerry took away $5 Million dollars from the General campaign to pay himself back a loan from the primary campaign. To me, that's borderline theft. By '06 and '08, the netroots has to become more responsible and stop throwing good money at bad political operatives and candidates.

Daou would like to see the netroots go after the media and Democrats more, instead of Bush. Now, you could just say it's not an either/or, and I'm sure Peter would agree with that, but I'm more questionable about the media/democrats part of the triangle or equation. I think the netroots already goes after the Democrats pretty hard, way harder than the right goes after Republicans, thats for sure, but targeting the establishment Democrats is as useless as targeting the DLC. Especially as long as we are still giving them money. We'd be much better off tuning the resources into changing the Democratic Party at the candidate and organizational level. With all the progressive money thats been spent, it's shocking to me that we've not seen a 527 effort in this regard.

But the Party and media are both laggards when it comes to change. The way you really affect them both is to go after their base. What's their base? The bottom line.

With the corporate media, you change channels, login and tune out their noise. They need the audience to live, and will come after the people who are not paying attention to them. With the Democrats, we change the way of funding, and they will come calling. Right now, we are in a transition period, like the 1950's of television. But there's little doubt that internet/television are merging, and there's little doubt that internet/cellphones are merging. That's the direction for the resources, but right now, we're just talking about it, and in the beginning steps of making it happen.

Now, the Republicans have spent decades going after the MSM, but really, is the MSM driving the debate?  There's no doubt that conservatives dominate on TV, so should progressives go after their share there? I have followed the philosophy of "don't hate the media, be the media" from the beginning here on MyDD. It's the reason why I started blogging.

I have no doubt that there are many millions of people who still tune into TV each night for their news, but I'm not one of them, and haven't been from years. From what I read, the side I'm standing on is growing, and the side of mass television watching is shrinking. In fact, the only time mass television spikes is during live events. In that sense, Katrina was an outlier, because there was no electricity, the spike in online coverage was matched by that of the networks.  So, sure, we have to have groups like Media Matters and such, but as for the blogosphere tuning into the MSM and engaging them in a debate to push them, I just don't think thats where the longterm effort should be-- replicating what the conservatives have done. Blasts of criticism are good, but the longterm strategy should be to supplant the MSM with the netroots own media.

So yea, Peter can say "without the participation of the media and the political establishment, the netroots alone cannot generate the critical mass necessary to alter or create conventional wisdom", but that's today, not tomorrow.

by Jerome Armstrong 2005-09-19 12:15PM | 0 recs
Supplanting The Media
I agree 100% that the goal should be to supplant the MSM.

I think it's a good idea that there's an effort afoot to launch a progressive TV network, just as I think it's great that Venezuela has partnered with other South American countries to launch their own progressive TV station.  But in the long run, the best things these media will do will not be a duplication of the MSM now.  It will be an enhanced form of deliberate synergy with the blogosphere.

These media themselves will have to develop a much more agreesive web presence themsleves, and it will be foolish for them to do this alone, rather than via well-considered strategies of alliance building.  The capacity of the blogosphere to process current event and link them to medium and deep sources of background information is something papers like the NY Times once excelled at.  But even if it wanted to, the NYT would no longer have that advantage.  The sources outside the Times--the folks in their rolodex--are already online with their own blogs, or at least releasing reports in PDF form on their websites.

The one thing they've still got going for them is their inside, anonymous sources, who, as Judy Miller shows us, are not worth shit as a reliabel source of news and analysis.

In short, I think we're a hell of a lot closer to the tipping point than anyone realizes.  In fact, Katrina may well be the last time that the MSM dominates over the internet in terms of a major event.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-09-19 12:43PM | 0 recs
It seems like
the inside sources will go where the action is. It seems to me that between blogging and podcasting, the very idea of a "mainstream media" is going to be obsolete before too long. In a world where every person gets to create their own infotainment channel, see and hear what they want and block out the rest, corporate media is going to adapt to direct marketing. Gawker Media could be the model for the future.
by catastrophile 2005-09-19 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: a different angle
I do not watch television. My wife and children do not watch TV. I know other families that do the same.

I have broadband and computers in all of my childrens' rooms - networked together.

I have already supplanted the MSM. Ride the wave of paradigm shift or be crushed by it.

by leftofcenter 2005-09-19 12:47PM | 0 recs

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