Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Mean, Mean Bloggers

Joe Klein wrote a piece on the meanness of some lefty bloggers. Here is the gist of Klein's complaint:

But the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed—especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable. Some of this is understandable: the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful—and politically successful—tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered. They are also justifiably furious at a Bush White House that has specialized in big lies and smear tactics.

The revolution eats its children! See how big my maw is! No, you have to come closer to really see.

Klein gets at least three things wrong. The first one is the identification of angry bloggers with lefty bloggers. I'm not sure where the left is in this country, but many of the angry bloggers are quite moderate in their political ideology. The idea that anger=lefty here is incorrect. The Republicans have managed to drag the concept of center so much to the right that supporting progressive taxation stains you indelibly Maoist. In some ways "lefty" has no actual definition in the U.S.. Do you know a single well-known blogger, for example, who advocates socializing the means of production? Do you realize that the wingnuts think Hillary Clinton is a communist? It is all quite too much and Klein shouldn't really support the silly identification of everybody not wingnut as a commie.

Neither are liberal and lefty the same thing. In European usage, a liberal is pretty right-wing, actually. The American Democratic party would be viewed as moderately right of center in most European countries.

The second thing Klein gets wrong is the idea that the so-called lefty bloggers are copying Rush Limbaugh. They/we are not. What is happening is something a little different. Limbaugh has the support of capitalists with money and he has access to a microphone. So do people of the Ann Coulter type. Lefty bloggers don't have the support of the Democratic party or the financial backing of rich people. They are mostly single individuals who blog in their own time. Grassroots stuff. They are also much more likely to swear than Rush Limbaugh and much less likely to call people treasonists or to use racist and sexist language. Another difference is that the mainstream media has left Limbaugh pretty much alone, whereas the lefty bloggers have become a favorite complaint for all pundits, whatever their political affiliations might be.

The third mistake Klein makes is in his assumption that it is the "most radical" voices of the lefty blogs which keep everybody marching in lockstep. What actual institutional power do lefty blogs have? How can they force someone to march in lockstep?

Klein is right about the anger, of course. Many bloggers are very angry. There are several good columns waiting to be written about the real reasons for that anger. This post by Digby could give some of the details those need.