The Daou Critique
by Chris Bowers, Mon Sep 19, 2005 at 10:52:17 AM EDT
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.