Last Night at the Tank

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.

Tags: Amanda Marcotte, New York City, Progressive Infrastructure (all tags)



Re: Last Night at the Tank

I don't see a lot of value in bringing bloggers into a political campaign.  For me, the principal value in blogging is that bloggers provide us with a perspective that is a little bit outside, and not encumbered with the political considerations that a campaign must concern itself with.  The Amanda Marcotte situation is a good example.

by global yokel 2007-03-04 08:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

I've often thought about the role of "campaign blogger" to a campaign.  In my case, for my Dad's Senate campaign, I absolutely thought of myself as a representative of my Dad (in my case, I didn't have much of a choice).  I believe it allowed me to be a much more effective interface between the campaign and the netroots.

It's a little bit hard for me to understand the value of an "official campaign blogger" who doesn't represent the candidate.

(Carter for Nevada)

by Sarah R Carter 2007-03-04 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

And you were in a unique position to know what would be the right tone to take in speaking on the campaign's behalf.

Nancy, how much was said about a campaign blogger's ability to speak "unofficially" during a campaign, on personal or other sites, when messages have not been pre-cleared by campaigns?

by Adam B 2007-03-04 12:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

I don't see how she was in a unique position.  I've blogged "officially" for campaigns - I took my cues from the campaign's communications team and that was that.

by SteveWFP 2007-03-05 10:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

I'd say being the candidate's daughter gives one better insight into his views and preferences.

by Adam B 2007-03-05 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

Heh, there's plenty of easy jokes there about parents and kids not getting each other.

Anyway, I think it's certainly possible for a blogger to be part of the communications team without being a familial relation.

by SteveWFP 2007-03-09 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank
Adam -- not much. The discussion quickly expanded to the broader interaction between official campaign structures and the netroots/bloggers. We didn't spend much time at all on nuts and bolts.
by Nancy Scola 2007-03-05 12:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

I was there and enjoyed it, though as a practical matter I think a larger area is needed for the post-panel schmoozing.  I hate trying to squeeze past people in a narrow hall to get to the bar or the loo.

That said, I had tried to comment on Ari's observation about the right's "perpetual outrage" and constant demands for disavowal of this or that liberal blogger.  In the context of Ann Coulter, I wanted to point out that the intrepid Mike Stark of Calling All Wingnuts has caused half the wingnutosphere to totally lose it by, of all things, getting a photo of himself with Michelle Malkin!!!! gasp!  He's a stalker!  (Seriously, check out the comments on the thread.)

But I felt a larger value of what Mike has done (and hopefully we'll get more of his audio soon) will be to point out not just the Ann Coulters we know about, but the commonplace people who say even more outrageous stuff.  I want to see a continuous thread of "Hey, winger blogger X said this at CPAC!  Do you disavow this, Mr. McCain?"  We have to get ahead of the moral outrage ball, at least until both sides stop playing the stupid game.  We are going to need more people like Mike to ferret out what these people say in their secret conclaves out of the public eye to strip off their public masks.

But that said, I feel I must be thankful for Coulter.  Like Bull Connor in the civil rights era, she has shown the public what the real face of movement conservatism is.  As a prominent civil rights activist said in a documentary I saw a while ago "If Bull Connor hadn't existed, we'd have had to invent him."  It's the same for Coulter, because she strips away the facade that their movement is all about well-considered ideas and policies, and exposes that at their core they are just power hungry bigots.

by Rheinhard 2007-03-04 09:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

yes. in the absence of the netroots & social media, the right-wing "echo chamber" functioned especially well in the realm of character assassination/"scalping".  

now that we have blogs, YouTube, & other tools at our disposal, our success will eclipse theirs.  

our humor, honesty, and common sense will serve us better than their fear and loathing has served them.  

(one more reason to insist on net neutrality, but that's another thread.)

by chiefscribe 2007-03-04 10:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

I was very happy to have attended last night.

I didn't expect it, but was very glad that there was no "eating our own" going on at all, although there were certainly shades of disagreement in the panel discussion.  

It was encouraging to see people pick up other's people's points, and re-state and refine them as the conversation went on (it obviously could've gone on for hours).  That mirrors well what blogs CAN do, at their best.

I do think the language, the manner of communicating, is changing, and that what individuals write on blogs now has the potential for explosiveness within a political campaign that it might not have in five/ten/two years, as people come to understand the nature of blogs better (which I believe people will).  Lindsey's "warthog" comment (which got the biggest laugh of the night) is right now right on.  

Luckily, the bloggers who are the most potent thinkers to me are all young enough to remain candidates for being brought inside political campaigns once the time becomes right...if they want to.  The value of an "outside" voice cannot be underestimated, and right now, people like the bloggers who were at The Tank last night serve a valuable purpose much like Bill Hicks once said by "standing outside the circle as the 'groupthink' congeals, and saying 'wait a minute."  (Paraphrase)

A good night.

by glennrwordman 2007-03-04 09:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

what about the groupthink of a overagitated minority?  unless you actually believe that Hillary is the queen bitch, GOP sleeper agent that so many on this site purport her to be...

by timlhowe 2007-03-04 04:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank


I'm not exactly sure what "groupthink of a overagitated minority" means.  Can you elaborate?  If it means what I think it means, I didn't see either groupthink or overagitation at the gathering Saturday at all.

And while I'm personally not inclined to support Senator Clinton in the primaries, I don't believe that she is a "GOP sleeper agent."



by glennrwordman 2007-03-05 02:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

i was referring to bill hick's line and how it was used to say that bloggers fight groupthink...its obvious to me reading the posts at this site and daily kos, that the owner operators encourage that kind of mindset when it comes to who they dont like...its the "lion in the living room" of how the netroots are led by the big voices on these sites..

by timlhowe 2007-03-05 03:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank


Thanks for the clarification, and perhaps I should do the same.  There is, unavoidably, a lot of "ditto-ing" on any site, as people try to curry favor--for whatever reason--with the esteemed host.  I find it a lot less so on liberal blogs, in fact, I am often surprised as the level (and fury) of disagreement.

I think the best bloggers stand outside the received wisdom of the Washington-based media, and can force re-evaluations of the generally accepted story lines that emerge from what I believe to be lazy reporting, in many cases.

And regarding the event at the Tank, there was plenty of disagreement, although it was entirely civil...



by glennrwordman 2007-03-05 07:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

the media IS stupid but trading one set of bogus myths for another doesnt get ya to freedom land.  the disagreements i see here about politics seem to be when one disagrees with the master's voice - and then charges of heresy and thought crimes go forth- do you know of other diary sites that arent as strident as this or kos?  somethin with a sense of real discusion, community.  a place where its considered not polite to call the former first lady (and our probable nominee)a whore or hitlery? is there one?

thanks - tim

by timlhowe 2007-03-05 10:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

bout the media - go read the first blogger and the best and smartest and most honest...bob somerby aka the dailyhowler.

important stuff not just opinions

by timlhowe 2007-03-05 10:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

btw as to hicks.  i produce political comedy shows. didja know that somerby is a comic.  he does all our gigs.  brilliant.

by timlhowe 2007-03-05 10:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank
I was there as well and have just posted about it
in my own space.
by jazzy 2007-03-04 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

I heard Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" on the radio yesterday. This lyric brought to mind candidate bloggers:

Did you trade a walk-on role in a war for a lead role in a cage?

Free-lancing vs. PR

I remember a friend once describing the difference between being a free-lance writer or getting a corporate PR job. They could make a lot more doing corporate PR. Heck, they might even have a lot bigger audience. The problem is they' always be writing someone else's views. As a free-lancer they could follow their interests and passions, insert their viewpoint.

For a national campaign where I have no existing personal connection with a candidate, I'd much rather have a walk-on role in "this war" than a leading role (full of restrictions) on a campaign.

by SLJ 2007-03-04 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

I think this is a good description of the tradeoff in working for a campaign vs covering the race from the outside. If you're not comfortable saying someone else's words (and believe me, it can be uncomfortable to be attacked for saying someone else's words) then you won't make a good campaign blogger.

by SteveWFP 2007-03-05 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

Isnt the real "wedge" between the Candidates and the netroots being created by the incredibly harsh and purposfully damaging attacks and slanders on some (all) of our leading candidates by many of those commenting on these sites?

by timlhowe 2007-03-04 04:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Last Night at the Tank

damn, wish i was on the right coast last night.

here on the left coast whenever bloggers get together we just have fun and party.

by skippy 2007-03-04 08:55PM | 0 recs
what's up with publicity?

I live in NY, read blogs like an addict, have been to other events at the Tank, and would have gone to this in a heartbeat had I heard a peep about it.  How on earth did I miss this?

by cerebrocrat 2007-03-04 09:46PM | 0 recs
that's a shame
This was a quickly put-together event, leaving not all that much time for publicity. It'd be great to know, though, where we could have posted it so that you would have seen it. We sometimes post on NYC events here on MyDD, but it doesn't always seem appropriate.
by Nancy Scola 2007-03-05 12:55PM | 0 recs
Liza Sabater has pictures
Give a good sense of the feel of the night.
by Nancy Scola 2007-03-06 12:14PM | 0 recs
by karine mine 2007-07-03 03:58AM | 0 recs


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