September 07, 2004

Happy Blogiversary To Me

Well, it's been a little more than two years since my first blog post on September 7, 2002. I started blogging because my friend Lisa had a blog, and I frequently found myself emailing her about what she'd written. Eventually, I just had to have one of my own, little knowing what I was getting myself into.

It's been an interesting exercise in writing, and an even more interesting exercise in politics. It was because of blogging that I first got involved in the Dean campaign, and got to blog for a day from a presidential campaign plane, the first time I'd ever done more in connection with a campaign than pay varying degrees of attention to the news and then vote. It was because of blogging that I took a journalism class at school, and came up with a project for the quarter of interviewing local candidates for office. And it's still a little hard to believe that I got invited to blog at the Democratic convention, even though I have the interviews to prove it. I'm very grateful to have had these experiences, even when they proved taxing and frustrating, because they've been enriching in ways I could never have predicted.

Aside from those external events, my attitudes towards politics have changed a lot as well. I used to think that politics was something that mostly happened to other people, but that it was fun to talk about a few issues that I followed a bit in the news. I didn't care much for the idea of belonging to a major party, and I couldn't see the point. I considered myself somewhat of a libertarian, thought feminism was kind of irrelevant to modern life in the US, and had no earthly idea what a caucus was. Or an ombudsman. I thought the media left out things I was interested in sometimes, but was mostly truthful, except maybe when it came to foreign policy.

To say this has been an education, and that I've changed because of it, would be a bit of an understatement.

For the last two years, I've been watching the news in a way that I had never in my life done. One one hand, much more closely. On the other, in much more of a narrative format. Just regularly reading other blogs and making the attempt to write something (short, long, in-between, and hopefully coherent besides) about what I observed brought home a deep lack of institutional memory in our media culture. Reading accounts that tied events together finally built up a picture of who-did-what-to-whom that gave me new ideas on the relevance of major political parties, and a reason for me to identify with one.

I'd been sold on the value of voting before I started blogging. But I didn't have a real sense of political power until I realized for the first time that I wasn't restricted to the standard news filters, and that I wasn't alone in feeling that many of my political sentiments weren't reflected in the media. I've gone through periods when blogging seemed to be expanding to fill all my available free time, and others when I didn't even want to look at a computer. Every time I wonder if it's worth bothering with, though, I think of two things. One, how fun it is to know more of the backstory than the press usually lets on. Two, how many times I've discovered through following blogs that innocuous seeming news items are either misleading or outright wrong.

The mood of the liberal political blogosphere has changed a lot in the last couple years, and it's been another interesting thing to watch and note to what extent that affected my own feelings about politics. (Of course, you might have seen something different, but you aren't writing this :)

There was a lot of frustration after the 2002 midterms, most of which got channeled into opposing the war in Iraq and complaining about the Democratic leadership. (I'm going to guess here that the degree of frustration towards the Democratic leadership was one of the most significant eventual factors driving the divergence of blog vs. general Democratic opinion on which primary candidate was best. Which is to say that it was probably as much a matter of grudges as preferences.) Once the bombs started falling on Baghdad, there was sort of a sense of gloom and even a little paranoia. It was a relief to start focusing on the presidential primaries, though in the beginning it was almost a discussion on which sacrificial lamb would lose by the lowest margin. With almost daily segueways somewhere or other about whether or not the participants despised Joe Lieberman, and if so (it was often so), how much.

Then Dean came along, and a lot of people jumped at the chance to support a Democrat who finally stood up to the Republicans. A lot of other people found the Dean supporters insufferable, and lines were drawn and redrawn to varying extents based on who one supported in the primaries. But the mood changed pretty abruptly from 'who gets to lose to Bush' to 'who would best send Bush back to Texas.' Clark was successfully drafted, the lines were redrawn again, and more infighting ensued. Boatloads of money were raised on the internet and through blogs, and the online social-circle-that-could finally received some wider recognition as a force to be reckoned with. Gloom was out. Or rather, it was given a righteously indignant stomping and sent packing.

Eventually the infighting died down when the Kerry clinched the nomination. At the start of the primary season, it seemed that most bloggers agreed with the media assessment that he'd be certain to win. Few people seemed especially enthused about anyone then, except the Kucinich people, god bless 'em. There was a lot of irritation, as mentioned, with the party leadership that ranged far beyond the Iraq war. That carried onto all the candidates associated with it to some degree, being in that sense rather impersonal, though Dick Gephardt bore the brunt of that animosity.

Specifically about Kerry, there was also concern about pretty much what's happening today: people who've hated him for 30 years coming out of the woodwork to throw bull. However, as has been pointed out by many bloggers, they'd have done this to anyone. Considering that they're just making things up about Kerry anyway, no candidate is immune.

For the sake of collegiality, it's almost a good thing Kerry wasn't a blog candidate. The liberal blogosphere was once again in the same boat, very few people having got the candidate that was their first choice. It seems that a fair majority have come around to thinking that Kerry was a good choice nonetheless, and I include myself in that number. It'll be a while though, it seems, before blogging is more representative of public opinion. I don't count that as a bad thing, but it serves as a reminder to me that not everyone is plugged into the same sources I am. It can be easy to forget.

Over the course of all this, I've learned perhaps an unhealthy amount of political inside baseball. The kind of stuff that people who don't regularly follow politics have a hard time believing is even true. And I don't blame them for not believing it. If you'd told me two years ago that Sun Myung Moon would be crowned by elected Congresscritters in a Senate office building, I'd have thought you were trying out a hamhanded plot twist for a bad conspiracy theory story. I might have said, 'Whoa man, lay off the Robert Anton Wilson novels and check into rehab.'

Which is funny, because this whole experience rather reinforces something I think I first read in an R. A. Wilson novel: If you don't pay attention, you miss all the good jokes. And blogging is, finally, a great way to make yourself pay more attention to at least a few things.

Posted by natasha at September 7, 2004 07:19 PM | Random Mumblings | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

And a very happy Blogiversary to you, natasha! This is a wonderful retrospective of the past couple of years. Your journey from being a commentor to being someone deeply connected to the process has been a joy to see. Just think what a force you will be in another few years, if these past two years are any example of what you do when you put your mind to it. Keep on bloggin', lady.

Posted by: Mary at September 7, 2004 10:44 PM

Happy anniversary!

I liked Natasha from the comments at Eschaton. I followed her haloscan link and have been coming ever since.

I like this place. Natasha has an excellent brain and good text skills. It's always worked for me.

Posted by: paradox at September 8, 2004 05:25 AM

Happy Blogivesary to you! I have to say I read your blogs religiously, and while I have always been aware of what was going on politically and have had a level of involvement, Pacific Views has helped me become more focused on the issues and more of a "digger" for information. I started reading Natasha and her cohorts on Pacific Views after meeting Natasha on a flight from Seattle to Chicago while she was heading to meet up with the Dean campaign. We chatted and I found her so interesting that I just had to read ... and read ... and read ... and read. Here I am 13 months later, and I now read several blogs on a regular basis, and feel I am much better informed as a result.

Thanx Natasha. Your blogging is required reading for this NJ Lib.

Posted by: Scott at September 8, 2004 05:34 AM

A party? Will there be spankings?

You have added immensely to the knowledge and community, Natasha. Thank you, and keep lighting fires against the darkness.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at September 8, 2004 06:29 AM

Blush ;) Thank you so much. Who knew how much more fun it was to read the news when you've got compatriots?

Posted by: natasha at September 8, 2004 10:43 AM

Congratulations Natasha, keep writing. oh and come back to Atrios every now and then.

Gambatte yo.

Posted by: Hubris Sonic at September 8, 2004 08:01 PM

Congratulations natasha. I don't remember how I ran across your first blog mars-or-bust AKA The Watch but you have been on my favorites from the first time.

Gary Denton

currently trying to go on hiatus

#2 on google for liberal news
I don't try harder

Posted by: Gary Denton at September 9, 2004 08:00 AM