David Perlmutter’s Blog Wars manages to be an excellent introduction to the world of blogging without being overly simplistic (i.e. there was precious little “this is the Internet. It is amazing“). At times I think Perlmutter falls into a “bloggers will change the world attitude” (despite his frequent asides and contrary claims)– there is a deep sense of optimism here that I’m not 100% sure I agree with. I do think that blogs probably will change the political debate, I’m just not sure it’ll be for the best.
The promise of blogging, in my mind comes from removing institutional control from the mainstream media. Its nice having multiple voices deciding what “counts” as news, the argument that bloggers are “parasitic” is pretty compelling. Even Matt Drudge, the hero of many blogs-breaking-news narratives, links to other, major media sources. Perlmutter’s book is at its best when it emphasizes the ability for blogs to amplify a story or work as an agenda setter.
All these things are useful to keep in mind when thinking about implementing a blog strategy (or even decided if one is appropriate for your campaign). Anyway, perhaps it is because I’m also reading about the legacy of The New Republic but I’m just a little skeptical about the power of blogs to actually improve the overall course of the political conversation. I agree with the editor of The New Republic when he says:
Part of what makes the blogosphere annoying, is that there’s so little emphasis on argumentative and rhetorical precision. It’s so easy to attack — and I’m all for attacking — but when attacks become so unhinged and so imprecise, they actually become dangerous.
Ultimately I believe that bloggers and blog-champions will need to decide if “chewing” on information is actually enough. Perlmutter’s book would be well served by a more lengthy analysis of what constitutes good and bad chewing– his examples fell short if only because he consistently chose the “best of the best.”
That said, I fully believe that it is possible to provide new information. In fact, many of the blogs I read produce new analysis or information but they are only able to do this because they are attached to major media outlets. For example, I think Wired‘s “Threat Level” blog is one of the best on questions of privacy, national security, military, etc. They often speak to sources themselves and provide expert information. It is hard for me to believe, despite Perlmutter’s examples, that many bloggers can actually get access to previously unpublished information.
Perhaps I’d like to see Perlmutter spend more time talking about blogs with small audiences, small scopes, and an emphasis on good chewing (as opposed as just chewing your cud). DailyKos is great, but it is the exception that I feel proves the rule: most blogs are dull parasites using MSM to fake importance. OR blogs are produced by people who are already interesting and powerful and NOT outside the realm of power.