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Through the looking-glass

A while ago, I noted that the blogosphere seems to have a rather odd effect on politics. The stereotypical attributes of the Left and the Right seem to flip in the online community. In the real world, the Right is considered the world of the corporate mentality, the big-business, the crass commercialism, while the Left promotes socialism, communalism, and doing things simply for the sake of doing good deeds. In the blogosphere, though, the biggest voices on the Right were folks who have other jobs and interests (Charles Johnson, a jazz musician and software guy, and Glenn Reynolds, law professor), while the most prominent voices of the Left (Kos, Atrios, Oliver Willis) all make big bucks off their political activities, and really don't seem to have any outside interests -- or careers.

And now I have another example to cite, thanks to tas of all people.

I've linked to tas before, but then it was to mock or correct him. I've never really found anything he said agreeable. But he brings up a rather good observation here.

According to the political stereotypes, the Right is supposed to be all about the individual, the "me," the cult of personality, the supremacy of the one over the group. Meanwhile, the Left is all about the community, the group, the promotion of the good of all over individual glories.

But look at those bloggers I mentioned. Charles Johnson routinely offers "hat tips" to other bloggers. Glenn Reynolds is almost all about linking to other bloggers, to the point where the word "Instalanche" had to be invented to describe the effect of his singling out one of your posts for his attention.

But on the Left, it's all about them. Kos and Atrios started the "open threads" bit, where they simply provide a space for the readers to chat among themselves. They essentially walk into the room, say "OK, talk," then walk out -- they don't contribute at all. (Johnson has started doing this, too, but he limits himself to one a day and at least writes something semi-creative to introduce it.)

I'll admit that I'm not as generous with linking as I probably should be. Wizbang is a top-20 blog, and I really feel like I should "share the wealth" and point out other worthies (in some case, more worthy than me -- yes, Will Franklin, I'm talking about you). The problem is, I don't think like a big blogger.

The evolution of Wizbang into a group blog is an odd case. (And yes, I call it "evolution," because there certainly wasn't any Intelligent Design behind it.) Kevin had done a fantastic job building up the site, literally starting from nothing. Then, when he needed a little paternity leave, he asked eight of his to hop on board for a little while. That worked pretty well, but two of us (paul and me) just never got the note saying thanks, but our services were no longer needed. Instead, we just hung around and did our thing, until Kevin finally made it official and listed us as "contributing editors." (I didn't notice it for a while; Kevin had to point it out to me.)

The point behind that digression is this: I didn't start from scratch. I was "born on third base," to steal a phrase, and spend most of my time reminding myself I didn't hit a triple. But I simply never learned what it was like to start from the ground up, and never learned all the hard lessons that entails. Sometimes I kinda wish I had; I'd probably be a better blogger for the effort.

Kevin didn't, though. That's why every Saturday morning he hosts the Carnival of the Trackbacks, where anyone in the universe can freely have their page linked to Wizbang (it's where I've found several very worthy blogs). James Joyner, of Outside the Beltway, does something similar every day.

So, the Right is into community and the group, while the left is all about the individual and the cult of personality and the Big Leader...

Power to the People!

Update: The Commissar weighs in, with what I think is a hell of a good explanation for what I found so puzzling above. I'm not quite ready to say it is THE answer, but I'm damn close...


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Through the looking-glass:

» The Politburo Diktat linked with Statist versus Libertarian Blogging

» what if? linked with What's Missing?

» Murdoc Online linked with Left and Right sides of the blogosphere

Comments (33)

Let's keep it that way!... (Below threshold)

Let's keep it that way!

Right on dude!... (Below threshold)

Right on dude!

"Power to the little people... (Below threshold)

"Power to the little people!" or something like that. I suppose I noticed the dichotomy some time back living here in the 'Heart of Dixie' where when stranger waves at you it's not his middle finger as I've seen far to often 'elsewhere'...

I think it's more like the ... (Below threshold)

I think it's more like the right is about accomplishing something and then the individual gets recognized, but in actually doing something others get some benfit. All boats in a tide if you will.

From the really left wing it's about appearing superior and not actually doing anything and doing their best to make sure all are miserable in order to appear to be compasionate...meanwhile pointing out how superior and modest they are.

Sort of someone drilling holes in the bottoms of the boats that were rising.

I mean, really, Socialism is nothing more than punishing the successful and making sure everyone is equally miserable. Multiculturalism is another word for segregation etc...

Where do Joe Gandelman and ... (Below threshold)

Where do Joe Gandelman and Dean Esmay (particularly Joe Gandelman) fit in this paradigm? What about Kos, who has an annual class of featured diarists, and extends to most (if not all) users the courtesy of a diary?


First of all, the comment b... (Below threshold)

First of all, the comment by Atrios that was highlighted in the link is all-too-common. Atrios and friends can't seem to communicate without offensive language. Secondly, I get tired of the Angry Left's frequently nasty tone designed to put down alternative points of view. These individuals need to see that their attitude is a big reason why they are losing elections: they turn voters off.

Jay, you made a point that I never thought of before: Wizbang is a very important blog, but it feels like a much smaller blog. I don't know how your guys did it, but it does feel like a local chat room. I appreciate it. It's been great fun.

Hey, Kevin, next time you're at M's, I'll have to buy you a beer.

LGF sometimes has a second ... (Below threshold)

LGF sometimes has a second open thread, with a picture, near the end of the day.

Some "take it for what it's... (Below threshold)

Some "take it for what it's worth" commentary... Not saying that I agree or not with the content published in this comment, unless I specifically say such before saying it.

For Atrios' part, maybe it is elitism that's the underlying cause, but whenever the question of his linking practices comes up, his attitude has been that of selfishness. He more or less says that it's his blog and he'll do whatever he wants, and that's that. Maybe it's eliteness, maybe it's nihilism, maybe it's laziness; all I can say is that it's open to however one chooses to interpret it.

There are also the arguments that the left isn't like the right wherein the right's blogs tend to have more of a "groupthink" mindset, and the left's bloggers aren't as willing to go along with the talking points being issued that day. Perhapss there's some truth to that, but I think the left's problems go beyond that explaination.

For example, when Shakespeare's Sister formed the Big Brass Alliance, over 200 small blogs joined the first week it was in existence. The first week! By any measure, that's a huge response -- and should have been seen as a historic step forward on our side. However, the big bloggers not only refused to join the Alliance, but they never even linked to it. (The Alliance was formed to push the Downing Street Memo into the media, and it's also worth noting that big left bloggers like Atrios also found it difficult to discuss the memo.)

That shit doesn't happen on the right. Hell, when the Coalition of the Chillin' formed, which was essentially a tongue in cheek group of blogs, Instapundit not only linked to it but accepted the invitation to join. Likewise, whenever there's a big story being pushed by the right, everyone on the right pushes it. When the right has the equivilent of a Downing Street Memo story, Instapundit doesn't ignore it. Nor does Michelle Malkin, or Wizbang, or Powerline, or lgf, or any of the other big bloggers on your side.

Furthermore, I think the problems of the big bloggers on my side are rooted in the problems of the Democrat party in general: they're always on the defensive. Instead of creating stories, they are constantly reacting to stories. It's a losing strategy, but it's played out for almost every news story that gets pushed by your side.

Anytime a small blogger tries pointing this out, though, it's either ignored by bloggers like Atrios -- or they go into full persecution complex mode, launching attacks at the bloggers who dare to question them. For example, click here.

[BTW, I know The Commissar wondered iff his trackback was eaten, so if you were wondering the same, I had to turn trackbacks off today because of a spam attack.]

tas:I know what yo... (Below threshold)


I know what you mean about "reaction mode". When I was a card-carrying Democrat, we were the party of ideas. Now the only idea seems to be: "The Republicans are always wrong." It's a very negative message, it puts them in reactive mode, and most of the time, the reaction is pretty nasty.

I wish I had a solution, because the country would benefit from having a choice on some of these issues. Right now, it's just not happening. The GOP is the only game in town. The other side stopped listening to people a long time ago: now they just preach.

Gmac -You're right... (Below threshold)

Gmac -

You're right about that. You should come to where I live - smack in the middle of Kucinich's district. Lots of 'peace doves' flying around here. Speaking of crass big biz, big oil's involved with Dems by lining Al Gore behind Russ Feingold in the run-up to '08.

This post provides a good e... (Below threshold)

This post provides a good example of the blogosphere, on the left and right - self serving, poorly researched and untruthful.

"while the most prominent voices of the Left (Kos, Atrios, Oliver Willis) all make big bucks off their political activities, and really don't seem to have any outside interests -- or careers."

Kos: an author, musician, new father and former Marine.
Atrios: PhD in Economics and has taught and worked at several prominent universities.

A personal ad hominem attack usually signifies jealousy. Is that the case here?

"But on the Left, it's all about them. "

A bad day to make an untruthful statement like this.

The front page on Kos has several links to other blogs and bloggers as well as Kos interjecting his opinion into several issues.

"So, the Right is into community and the group"

Really? The two biggest Right-wing blogs don't even allow comments or other writers. The biggest left wing blogs do. They allow input and react to it. Do you even know what community means?

Staggering if you really believe this.

jp2: I hate to defend Jay o... (Below threshold)

jp2: I hate to defend Jay on this one (I think Jay and I both don't like to defend each other), but I do see his point here. For example, while Kos is a musician, it wasn't really his career. Charles at lgf, on the otherhand, was a jazz drummer who toured multiple countries. Comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges... Or like me saying that I had a career as a speed metal drummer just because my band played 12 shows and almost cut an album before breaking up. Hey, it all happened, but it doesn't exactly make me an authority on music.

The front page on Kos has several links to other blogs and bloggers as well as Kos interjecting his opinion into several issues.

That's not the point. Atrios has links to other bloggers, too. If this were about links to bloggers in general, then Jay really wouldn't have a post here.

Really? The two biggest Right-wing blogs don't even allow comments or other writers. The biggest left wing blogs do. They allow input and react to it. Do you even know what community means?

I can see your point here, and I do have problems with Instapundit, Malkin, and Powerline not allowing comments. (I have bigger problems with Powerline also shutting down their trackbacks after, coincidentialy enough, getting too many reamings from leftwing blogs. I thought that was rather cowardly.) But the point here is that some big bloggers on the left just ignore elements of their community. Just because Atrios has comments doesn't mean that those comments influence his blog.

tas, you can not possibly b... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

tas, you can not possibly be as appalled by your support of me as I am by my praising you. I think we'll have to (shudder) agree to call it equal.

I can see why Reynolds and Malkin don't have comments. Reynolds hardly ever generates original content at Instapundit; it's simply not the format he has chosen -- and mastered. And Malkin every now and then posts excerpts of the truly vile, nasty, downright evil and contemptible e-mail she gets, so I can readily understand why she would say it simply wasn't worth it.

The Powerline guys? I'll just say "no comment" and say that I spend more time reading Captain's Quarters or Big Lizards or Willisms than I do Powerline. They have their place, and a laudable history of achievement, but they're not everyone's cup of tea.


I don't want to have to def... (Below threshold)

I don't want to have to defend anyone on the blogsphere. What I will go against is dishonesty and foolishness. But if you are going to defend, at least do a good job of it.

The original post stated that Atrios and Kos did not have any outside interests. Saying that about anyone is probably wrong already, but clearly, for the reasons I stated, they do have outside interests other than blogging. There is really no defense you could have on that. They both have had other careers and have other interests. (I will say that I'd probably dig your speed metal band more than the Kos's music though)

"But the point here is that some big bloggers on the left just ignore elements of their community."

Well, how many hits is Kos getting a day? I would assume it would be theoretically impossible to respond and be active in all of the elements of the blogger community. Especially with "outside interests." Hell, there are so many scandals right now (Abramof, Illegal tappings, Noe, Frist, DeLay, Torture...) it's hard to just keep up. Saying he is "ignoring elements of the community" really means very little. Just on the front page alone there are 5 posts by him. And links to other liberal bloggers in the community as well.

Maybe comments don't influence blogging, but that also really means very little. There is no way to correlate data between the two. Regardless, it's a community where anyone can contribute. Do the comments get read? I don't know. Again, it's a moot point since the biggest right-wing blogs don't have comments or diaries or any other way for anyone to contribute. That's not a community, and saying it is more on a community than the left blogsphere is either wrong or dishonest.

jp2, why do you think right... (Below threshold)

jp2, why do you think right wing blogs don't have comments, but spread linky love, where Kos and Black are the opposite?
You've disagreed with Jay and Tas, so what's your theory?

How does Kos not spread the... (Below threshold)

How does Kos not spread the linky love? He spread it today, on the front page.

Also, his site houses thousands of bloggers - the diary system itself is linky love to the highest degree. The entire right side of the page has links to the best blogs of the day, updated constantly.

I don't think it's so much ... (Below threshold)
Ron Wright:

I don't think it's so much of a role reversal from the real world to the Blogos.

I think there has been a real role reversal at least in what the Democratic Party used to stand for and the Republican Party in recent years.

The Republican Party has become the majority party and has usurped many of the key ideals that used to be the mainstay of the Democratic Party.

For instance what party has made a major strategic shift in our ME foreign policy that has been pursued by both parties over the last half century - The Republicans.

The shift being from one of tolerance of repressive regimes for governmental stability to ensure the continued flow of oil to one as Secretary Rice recently articulated we will no longer tolerate repressive ones.

Mind you this isn't about "cheap" oil because we have generally paid prevailing market price. It's just the regimes in power have not chosen to spread the wealth with the people.

See this interesting perspective from a noted traveler circa the 1860s.


IRAQ Election - Prescience Thoughts circa the 1860's

From the Asbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University

Mark Twain on the Middle East [From Innocents Abroad]

Readers of the Ashbrook Update know that today the Iraqis become the first Arab people to choose their government in a genuinely free election. As I follow the news of this historic event, I happen also to be reading Mark Twain's interesting account of his travels (1867) in what we call the Middle East. At one point he says that if ever there was an "oppressed race", it is the Arabs, who were then suffering under the "inhuman tyranny of the Ottoman empire." He develops this theme a bit, and then concludes:

These people are naturally goodhearted and intelligent, and with education and liberty would be a happy and contented race. They often appeal to the stranger to know if the great world will not someday come to their relief and save them. The Sultan has been lavishing money like water in England and Paris, but his subjects are suffering for it now.

Subjects suffering while the Sultan lavishes money in Paris? Haven?t we heard that before? But today the "great world," or at least part of it, has come to the relief of the Iraqis; and it?s no accident that the helper is a part of the world still capable of using words like "tyranny" and "liberty". We hope the voting goes peacefully, and congratulations to the Iraqi people.

Posted by David Foster


Jp2,You may have a p... (Below threshold)

You may have a point that Kos spreads the love differently, but that is debateable. Never having the kind of post that I would expect or hope to get a link from Kos, I defer to the bloggers on the left that feel a cold wind from that quarter. ;)
However, that does not answer the question with regard to Mr Black and other high profile bloggers, and why you think (and dislike) the no comments policy on blogs like Malkin, PuppyBlender et al. I really am curious.

Ron Wright,
I don't know if the Republican's usurped Democrat posistions. As a former Democrat (even worked for the party as salaried employee), I see it as the Rep's moving in to territory the Dem's abandoned or ceded.
The whole nation's politics have shifted westward in the last 40 years. Many of todays moderate or liberal Republicans would have fit right in with the moderate, conservative or hawk wings of the Democrat party back in the days of JFK or Harry Truman.

Left likes to comment. Righ... (Below threshold)

Left likes to comment. Right seems to just start their own blogs
So basically they are communal, we are individuals who give credit where due

PS Dennis Kucinich was the ... (Below threshold)

PS Dennis Kucinich was the worst mayor in Cleveland's history: A demagogue who couldn't manage a 7-11

Big bucks? Somebody tell my... (Below threshold)

Big bucks? Somebody tell my bank account. Every once in a while you write one of these posts, and it bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality because you've pulled the data out of your rear end.

Shouldn't that be Power ... (Below threshold)

Shouldn't that be Power to the Pay-Pal!! I tried an "open comment" thread once, nobody came...

Oliver,You may not b... (Below threshold)

You may not be rich from blogging, but last I heard, you're primary means of support is your blog.
Earning a living off of blogging in something 99.99% of the 'sphere is not in a posistion to do, so I would say it's a realative measure.

and a relative one ;)... (Below threshold)

and a relative one ;)
and "your" not "you're".
damn, blog surfing on pdas requires more attention to detail than one might think

you're primary means of ... (Below threshold)

you're primary means of support is your blog
This is just not true, and why you can't believe this kind of b.s.

Oliver, lemme draw you a p... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Oliver, lemme draw you a picture why I think of you as a blogging whore:

1) Your "day job" is for a political entity.

2) Your postings dealing with politics line up almost perfectly with your employer's positions.

3) A significant number of your posts are published during what are normal working hours -- 9-5 weekdays.

To this observer, it appears that your employer either greatly tolerates your blogging, or actively encourages it. Either way, since you appear to be doing "blog-work" while you're theoretically "on the clock," it's a fair cop to say your employer is actively subsidizing your blogging.

I guess you could argue it's a bit of jealousy on my part, Oliver. I occasionally get to blog on my lunch break, but my employer doesn't let me do any postings while on the clock. They have also hinted that they would not appreciate my discussing or involving them in my blogging activity -- a position with which I wholeheartedly concur.

I cherish and prize my independence from everyone and everything but Kevin -- and the instant he tries to impose unreasonable restrictions on me, I'll go elsewhere and continue.

Fortunately, the single time he's put any kind of constraint on me, it was over something where I realized I was wrong. And since that time, I have complied with his eminently reasonable request that I keep profanities out of posting titles. It was a dumb move on my part, and I was embarassed that I had to be told that it was dumb.

Show me where I'm wrong, Oliver, and I'll apologize publicly, here on Wizbang, in a stand-alone piece. Demonstrate that my observations and conclusions are unreasonable and incorrect, and I'll tell everyone how wrong I was and how I maligned you and impugned your character.

Or, alternately, you can keep laughing all the way to the bank.


Whore was a little stronger... (Below threshold)

Whore was a little stronger than I was thinking, but if the ball gag fits...

and now my mind's eye needs... (Below threshold)

and now my mind's eye needs to be plucked out

Based on your wild accusati... (Below threshold)

Based on your wild accusations, when I've previously worked at a dotcom in L.A. and a mortgage company in Boston and stole a moment or two or ten to blog, they too were financing my blogging (the situation I worked under from '01-'04). Does everyone in America get the kind of leeway I've gotten in that respect? I guess not, but it's a long ways from the caricature of David Brock sitting over my shoulder telling me what to blog that you guys fantasize over.

Yes, my blog is written with a progressive p.o.v. and Media Matters is a progressive nonprofit. Somehow I never got that job offer from AEI or the Heritage Foundation.

Nobody tells me what to blog (a disclaimer I placed on my site the day I was hired by Media Matters, even before I officially started working there). Nobody tells me what I can't blog about. The only person responsible for OliverWillis.com is Oliver Willis. Would I take a six figure salary to do political thinking that so many on the right have? You bet, but trust me, that's not happening.

If I were a conservative, especially since I'm a minority, the streets would be paved with gold for me, but that is not the case. I of course expect yet another uninformed post of this nature from you or some other conservative in the near future.

Oliver, I came up with 3 po... (Below threshold)

Oliver, I came up with 3 points. I even numbered them to make it easier for you. You refuted... let's see... going through your response... let's see... diversion... evasion... exaggeration... hey, race card! Nice move! Didn't see THAT one coming!

I never said anyone tells you what to write, Oliver. That was my point -- they don't have to. You happily and willingly already say what they like; why should they tamper? If it ain't broke...

I'll give you points for a few things, though, Oliver. For one, you've been up-front about your working for Media Matters. For another, you use your real name for blogging (something I've considered a few times, but I've invested a lot into this "persona" and developed a bit of a reputation -- kinda like Nissan must have felt when they thought about dumping "Datsun." And while you've occasionally posted some outrageously ignorant things (beyond the routine silliness you're known for), you've never had a "screw them" moment like Kos where you passed beyond the pale and revealed yourself as the huge, gaping asshole that would make the Goatse guy eat his own.... well, do something extreme in jealousy.

But I stand by my three points, Oliver. You've got a sweet setup, one most any other blogger could envy. Even me, on occasion.

But most of the time I couldn't stand the appearance of impropriety, the casual presumption that I am bought and paid for, the affront to my independence that goes hand-in-hand with that.

I keep going back to you and your site, Oliver, because, to me, you're my Morden's Head. You remind me that some prices are too high to pay.


(Babylon 5 reference, for the non-geeks.
Mr. Morden: "So what is it you want, Vir?"
Vir Cotto: ""I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike, as a warning to the next ten generations that some favours come with too high a price. I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave, like this. Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?")

I answered your three point... (Below threshold)

I answered your three points, but because I didn't emasculate myself in front of your intelligence somehow I didn't answer?


Oliver, I owe you an apolog... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Oliver, I owe you an apology. You did answer my points.

You just didn't refute them.

Given your example, I think I'll stay unequivocally independent and free of "appearances of impropriety." It's not as financially rewarding, but much easier on the conscience.


To this observer, it app... (Below threshold)

To this observer, it appears that your employer either greatly tolerates your blogging, or actively encourages it. Either way, since you appear to be doing "blog-work" while you're theoretically "on the clock," it's a fair cop to say your employer is actively subsidizing your blogging.

I disagree witht his assessment. Being somebody who used to blog from work, I'd label it as a benefit of working a job that gives you a computer and a full connection to the Internet. Many workers have the same type of access but choose to use their time differently by playing online games, shunning the computer to read a book, doing their homework, etc. That's basically the way it goes at many office jobs.






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