June 24, 2006

Misunderstanding the Criticism from the Blogosphere

The Kos-TNR face off provides some real insight into the problem that the blogosphere has with The New Republic. It is clear the TNR has become unhinged with its ever expanding criticism of the blogging world which culminated into a charge that the blogosphere is fascistic. And why would the blogosphere be so fascistic? Evidently, it's because Markos' background was chilling and it made him an incipient fascist. Wow.

Let's agree that the blogosphere can be loud, rude, partisan, mean, and even unfair (depending on the day and/or the individual writing). And let's agree that Markos has not been very nice to the TNR with his assertions that it has become increasingly irrelevant. But we can also agree that the TNR, which after all is supposed to be an important magazine for conveying thoughtful commentary, has gone off the deep end and has proven that it just doesn't understand the criticism it is facing from the blogosphere.

Fascistic? The blogosphere is a huge and very diverse set of people. How can anyone think that it is possible to label the blogosphere by one blog, or a set of blogs or even the set of liberal blogs with this word? Does Seigel really think that the liberal blogosphere is marching in lock step, putting on their jackboots, and organizing to burn books, break windows and throw TNR writers into concentration camps? That's an insane generalization that is simply designed to demonize the "enemy" who evidently are perceived as being angry and dangerous.

What does this say about the TNR, which, after all, is an organization that can be more precisely labeled with some specificity based on the actual writings of the people they publish? It seems clear to me that the TNR is not only doing a spectacularly poor job of reporting on the blogosphere, but the magazine's contributions to providing context and understanding for their readers have devolved into a clueless and frankly unreasonable participation in a flame war.

Let's look at the recent pieces that have been published in TNR that cover their perception of the blogosphere. First there was that piece by Lizza Ryan dripping with disdain in his coverage of the YearlyKos Conference, where he purposely took words out of context to make it seem that General Wesley Clark's aid also found the rabble a belittling experience for the General. Add to this his personal attacks on the big name bloggers for their justified criticisms of the media as well as on other bloggers who were according to Ryan rude to the politicians. (See teacherken's remarks which show this was another one of Ryan's lies.) What we are left with is a mean-spirited and frankly dishonest article from someone who is a senior editor of the TNR.

Then there was the gotcha attack on Jerome in order to attack the real TNR enemy, Markos. Obviously, Jason Zengerle, was thrilled to find another reason to show that the leaders of the blogosphere had feet of clay. Yet, it seems that Jason's desire to be right overtook his journalistic responsibility to check the facts. If Dan Rather and his producer could be destroyed by forgeries passed on to them, what will this affair do to Zengerle's and the TNR's reputation?

Finally, TNR owner, Marty Peretz decided it was necessary to see what all the kerfluffel was about and he finally read the DailyKos and decided that the problem with Markos is he's illiterate. In his dismissive post on the rantings of Kos, he finds it demeaning to have to defend the magazine (where the cool-kids go to read unorthodox thoughts) from Markos. Okay. Does that mean he is just peachy keen with what's going on in his own camp?

So what about the criticism that the blogosphere has expressed about The New Republic? Here's a quick summary of that criticism:

  • TNR has never come to grips that their support for Bush's war of choice was wrong and that many in the blogosphere were right. They have never forgiven us for that.
  • TNR has a senior editor who wrote an dishonest piece about YearlyKos which seemed only to be designed to put the netroots and bloggers in their place.
  • TNR has a writer that used a forgery to make a claim. When are they planning to acknowledge that fact and correct it?
  • TNR allowed one of their writers to label the entire blogosphere fascistic based on some ill-defined theory about the "sanity" of Markos. Isn't that just embarrassingly wrong?
  • TNR's owner thinks the problem is that Markos is illiterate and all the people that connect up at the Daily Kos are part of his nuthouse. Obviously, Peretz has never been interested enough to see what was happening in the blogosphere, or understand that there might be people outside the beltway that have legitimate problems with his magazine and the increasingly strange rants coming from his magazine.

This past week, TNR racked up a bunch more legitimate criticism and the owners and the editors should respond to it honestly and without their self-righteous chip on their shoulders that they should not be questioned because they are more legitimate than those of us in the blogosphere.

Posted by Mary at June 24, 2006 01:40 PM | Blogging | Technorati links |

Thanks for the summary and analysis, Mary. It was very helpful.

Posted by: Darryl at June 25, 2006 09:55 AM

TNR, specifically it's owners and Mr. Peretz, also best known as "Mr. Henry Luce wannabe", could care less if their comments and articles against the political blogosphere are accurate or not.

They see that they are losing their bit of the mindshare out in that part of the USA that matters to them, that their opinions have declining weight, and that they cannot ignore the politcal blogosphere any longer.

The truth is that the political blogosphere tends to lean both in a populist and merit-oriented manner. The highest quality stuff eventually rises to the top, and because anybody can play, there is a lot of "noise" as ideas and opinions become memes. Both of these points are most obvious on Daily Kos, and to most of us here, it comes with the territory.

But TNR and Mr. Peretz can't accept that. They prefer to mandate from on high, not discuss, argue (in the best sense of the word) and refine their points with the "hoi polloi". And when the cashflow from its present owners ceases because their influence has declined to unacceptable levels, that will lead to their eventual demise.

The magazines that survive, like, hopefully, the American Prospect, will do so in part because they recognize what the political blogosphere is all about, will realize that it can increase their value and better dissemenate their opinions, and will learn how to work with it.

Posted by: palamedes at June 25, 2006 12:27 PM

I think there is more to it than we see on the surface. I think there is a split in the "neocon" movement and some if not many of them are unhappy with the Bush/Cheney Republicans so what we are seeing is a genuine power struggle for control of the Democratic Party. Don't forget the original neocons were Democrats who jumped to the Republican Party after McGovern won the nomination in 1972. I'll have more on this later over at my place.

Posted by: Ron Beasley at June 25, 2006 03:36 PM

Before people could publish on the web, TNR had a privileged position in the marketplace of ideas. It's not a magazine that makes money -- it's subsidized so that its owners can get their ideas out there. And Lord knows that Martin Peretz needs something of the sort to get people to pay attention to what he says.

The fact that anyone can start a blog threatens the place of TNR and those who write for it. Glenn Greenwald didn't need to be hired by Peretz -- he leaves his job and starts posting on the web, and people find his stuff. The Jason Zengerles and Ryan Lizzas of the world doubtless feel threatened by this. So they trash the blogosphere.

Posted by: Tyrone Slothrop at June 28, 2006 09:31 AM