Over the last two or three days, I have noticed a welcome trend here on MyDD: a significant increase in the number of quality diaries on the site. While I welcome diaries form electoral campaigns and from Democratic / progressive leadership organizations, I would like to take some time to highlight the contributions of individuals who, entirely through personal initiative, have posted diaries on MyDD that work to further the progressive movement. These diaries are not mere complaints, are not simply re-hashing age-old arguments, are not simply posting links to breaking news stories, are not polls, and are not trying incite a flame war. Instead, these are individual diarists who have taken it upon themselves to engage in original reporting, activism, research, and strategic thinking about elections, infrastructure, activism and messaging. The effort they put into their high-quality work is a regular reminder to me of why the progressive blogosphere is an important and powerful development for the progressive movement:
This is the sort of thing I want to see more of--a lot more of. All too often, comment threads on the blogosphere in general and MyDD in particular are easily dominated and corrupted by the most anti-social elements of the blogosphere. They are dominated by trolls, by people who use way too much bold face and ALL CAPS, by those most willing to repeat the tedious and lazy complaints about the DLC, by those who are most willing to engage in the age-old arguments about third party candidates, by those most willing to use vulgarity, by ratings abuse wars, and by those who would rather just complain than actually do anything about the current predicament we face as progressive in America. They are, in short, dominated by those who have been corrupted by their feeling of powerless.
Both the exceptional diaries and the types of anti-social behavior I listed above are, like almost everything in the independent blogosphere, born out of a feeling of powerlessness. Whether you are talking to Kos or a blogger with only ten readers a day, one thing I am sure you will hear is that a feeling of powerlessness was one of the main driving forces for them in starting their blogs. We created this new institution, the progressive blogosphere and netroots, to cope and combat that feeling of powerlessness in the face of a rising conservative tide. Now, this sense of powerlessness has resulted in a sprawling, powerful and populist institution that is a major force in American politics. However, for all of the great things the progressive blogosphere has built and accomplished, as Billmon notes, this feeling of powerless can also corrupt
:The problem is that Lord Acton's maxim is equally true in reverse: If power corrupts, so does powerlessness. It can lead to fatalism, apathy and irresponsibility - or to paranoia, rage and a willingness to believe every loopy conspiracy theory that comes down the pike.
When you participate in the progressive political blogosphere, I think you face a choice. On the one hand, you can be corrupted by your feeling of powerlessness, and engage in the sort of anti-social behavior that dominates many comment threads here and elsewhere in the progressive blogosphere. On the other hand, you can be spurred on by this feeling of powerlessness, leave the anti-social and corrupted tendencies of powerlessness behind you, and instead serve as a positive force working to rectify the conditions that originally led to your sense of powerlessness.
As a site, MyDD focuses on elections, political infrastructure, strategy, and activism. My vision for the site is a community of front-pagers, diarists, commenters, and readers who strive to make positive, progressive and in-depth contributions in those areas. I wish I knew what needed to be done in order to change the tone of the community so that we are closer to this ideal than our many anti-social comment threads would indicate. I am going to start by trying to highlight those members who are making contributions that clearly strive toward this ideal. Work to make a positive contribution, and you will be rewarded with recognition and influence. Remain anti-social, and you will remain obscure and powerless.