Last Night at the Tank
by Nancy Scola, Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 07:39:33 AM EST
You might know the Tank in Manhattan as the performing arts space home to Bloggers' Alley at the 2004 Republican National Convention. The Tank's moved to a new location since then, and last night was the site of a panel discussion on "Campaigning, Blogging, and Fighting Back" featuring Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte, MyDD's own (and former Bob Menendez Internet Director) Scott Shields, and Ari Melber of the Nation. It was really quite remarkable for a Saturday night in New York City to look out into the assembled crowd and see the likes of Majikthise's Lindsay Beyerstein, the American Prospect's Ezra Klein, Jessica Valenti of Feministing, TPM Cafe's Andrew Golis, Duncan "Atrios" Black, Phillip Anderson of the Albany Project, Culture Kitchen's Liza Sabater, Barbara O'Brien of Mahablog, Justin Krebs and David Alpert of Drinking/Living Liberally, Elana Levin of the Drum Major Institute/DMI Blog, YearlyKos' Gina Cooper, Jeffrey Feldman of Frameshop, and others I'm missing. The New York blogging scene is ascendant, it seems. Turnout was great, across the board. Maybe 80 people?
Somewhat surprising to me, no one seemed to have much interest in rehashing the Edwards' blogger situation. Instead, it was a facinating and, um, really mature and rich discussion on all things blogging and politics. I tried to furtively scribble some notes, but I was moderating and didn't capture as much as I would have liked. What follows are a few of the topics I was able to write down then or remember this morning.
We talked about how the parameters on the role and purpose of a "campaign blogger" haven't been set yet. We explored the idea of actively cultivating representatives for various strains of the netroots, and models of compensation as the key for unlocking the potential of the medium. We talked a lot about whether it makes sense to co-opt activist, advocate bloggers into an official campaign structure. (Lindsay had a great quote, something about how some animals thrive in nature but it makes no sense to bring "a warthog into your living room.") And we delved into whether we're experiencing a paradigm shift in how staffers -- bloggers or otherwise -- are seen as proxies, really, for a candidate they work for, and if there is a paradigm shift, does the netroots need to be more proactive in helping that shift along? In the meantime, it was argued, there's an opportunity to create a wedge between candidates and the netroots, a wedge exploited in the Edwards blogger situation. We talked about Democrats unlearning the apology reflex, and how the inclination to constantly assuage hurt feelings so is a product of the special -- in Ari's words -- "biorhythms" that make progressives who we are. We discussed whether blogging is changing language, perhaps quickly, and whether right now we're caught awkwardly in the sort of liminal phase where language we might consider appropriate, other folks might not. And we talked about how the negative reaction by some on the right to Ann Coulter's "faggot" comment indicates that they're arguing from a position of weakness.
But that's just the beginning of what was covered last night. If you had the chance to attend, please do add your thoughts in the comments.