August 21, 2007

First Rule of Dealing With Bloggers

... isn't that there's no such thing as bloggers. But I loved that movie. No. It's don't expect us to agree with you based on your title. Just don't.

While, as I've written recently, the structural racism, class bias and sexism of society at large is replicated to some extent in the blogosphere, blogging is also a much more meritocratic subculture than the world at large. You can't just make stuff up or refuse to back up your assertions and expect people to extend you an assumption of credibility based on your title or place of employment. You have to, you know, know something. And if you don't, then you should just admit it. It will be so very much less painful than having your ignorance excruciatingly picked apart in detail and without pity by others.

But apparently, Matt Bai hasn't figured out that this is the way things work on the blogs. A Salon review of Bai's latest book, The Argument, indicates that our tendency to want people to make some goddam sense when they're talking to us is a little, well, gauche. Unseemly and inhospitable. He bases this on Gov. Mark Warner's appearance at the first YearlyKos convention, where he was taken aback to discover that we didn't roll over and ask Warner to scratch our tummies after he finished laying on the stump speech.

... Warner, recall, was the Democratic Leadership Council guy paradoxically endorsed by Armstrong, to the consternation of some lefty bloggers. ... (It's worth noting that Bai seemed to heart Warner as well. He wrote a flattering profile of Warner in the New York Times Magazine earlier that year anointing him as the man who could beat Hillary Clinton.)

Bai's problems with the blogosphere start to show more clearly as he writes about YearlyKos, though we are supposed to be seeing the trouble through Warner's eyes. At his Vegas party, Warner is jazzed. "This is the new public square! This is the new face of the Democratic Party!" he tells the bloggers. But he begins to sour on his new friends as they pepper him with tough questions about how he'll undo the damage of the Bush years. He -- or is it Bai? Or both? -- starts to view the lefty blogosphere as Bush-hating, Hugo Chavez-loving naifs, comparable to Jane Fonda in the 1960s, all hopped up about American wrongdoing in the world while oblivious to the al-Qaida threat. In a small session with about 20 elite bloggers, Warner is clearly flustered by their belligerence toward the administration's foreign policy, their worries about Bush's intentions toward Iran and their concern for rolling back domestic spy programs. "I fundamentally believe the terrorist threat is real," an exasperated Warner tells them, and Bai leaves the impression that most YearlyKos bloggers, by contrast, don't.

Just two months later, in October, the bold candidacy of Mark Warner, "the freshest, most electable alternative to Hillary Clinton," in Bai's words, evaporates. The former governor told the world he wanted to spend more time with his family, but Bai wasn't convinced. "I suspected that his various run-ins with the donors and bloggers of the new progressive movement had also convinced Warner that, in order to succeed, he was going to have to be more angry and divisive than the governor who had won over so many Republicans -- and more partisan than the president he hoped to become," Bai tells us. And the bloggers Warner had initially lionized as "the new face of the Democratic Party" turned out to be something more disturbing.

"They were, in fact, the voices of the new public square, but it was more like the Parisian public square in the days of the Bastille -- not a place where townspeople came to carefully consider what their leaders had to say, but where the mob gathered to make demands and mete out its own kind of justice." ...

And let me just take this opportunity, as one of that elite mob of naifs, to say this: Matt Bai, you can kiss my ass.

Bai clearly buys into the Bush line on everything outside the borders of the US, just like Warner did. Whatever. But I have no respect for that, primarily because it's gotten a lot of people dead and wasted a phenomenal amount of money and goodwill. I'm not going to apologize for opposing policies that have made this country worse off in every conceivable way, nor for opposing members of my own party who would provide bipartisan cover for a ruinous ideology.

I diaried the Warner experience at DailyKos the same day; it made the rec list and got 409 comments. My specific complaints about Warner's foreign policy suggestions and inflammatory, ill-informed saber-rattling are a matter of public record. A year on, with the Bush administration being more aggressive towards Iran all the time, I don't regret for a minute calling Warner on exacerbating a fight with yet another nation that wasn't responsible for the original terror attacks on our country.

We can't afford another war in the Middle East right now. We can't afford the two that we're in. We can't afford $200 a barrel oil, or to have shipping closed off in the Straits of Hormuz, or for a modernizing, youthful nation of some 70 million souls to come to hate America for invading their country, just like Saddam Hussein did. You don't have to like the Iranian government, nor even naively think that they're harmless, to understand that entering into an armed conflict with Iran would be as stupid a thing as it was possible to do right now.

Further, because that warmongerer Bush and his Dr. Strangelove crew are in office, no talk of escalating aggression can be taken lightly. It can't be a throwaway line in a speech so you sound tough. More importantly, I believe that diversionary aggression, just like the Iraq war itself, hampers our ability to actually track down terrorists, stop their plots and bring them to justice. We can't fight all the bad people in the world, we can't even bend them all to our will, nor should we be arrogant enough to insist that it's our job. But we can legitimately go after the people who attacked us and work with others to build support for catching them, instead of wasting our time creating ever larger reserves of mortal enemies.

Bai thinks bloggers, presumably including myself, are a menace because we hate Bush too much. Bai is a menace because, to him, there's a moral equivalence between a rhetorical argument and a war. He's just another useful idiot who sees Bush's manslaughter, murder and mayhem writ large as a mere policy 'disagreement' instead of as a real life situation with deadly consequences.

To appropriate the language of the rightwing 101st Keyboard Brigade, you're either opposed to Bush's policies by this stage of the game or you're objectively pro-manslaughter, murder and mayhem. Anyone with functional literacy and access to the news can see the death tolls, can find out about the obliteration of healthcare and a functioning economy in Iraq, can know that Iraqis aren't getting the electricity or water needed to see them through the hot summers, and that our soldiers are being shot at, mangled and killed every single day. Coming back home, anyone who was awake through 2005 knows that Bush lost a whole, American city to a disaster that had been as thoroughly predicted as the aftermath of his unplanned war. Is anyone dumb enough to try to tell me that these actual, real life events, have generated no ill will towards our Beloved Leader?

You may not think that these issues are worth caring about, or even blaming Bush for (I guess a person could make a case,) but they are substantive complaints about policy outcomes and not some eccentric vendetta against bad grammar or compulsive smirking. And because these are my complaints, my concerns, I expect them to be addressed by anyone seeking my support. That includes people who say they're in my party, who are asking to represent me to other members of my government and world leadership.

The hell I'm not going to ask questions if given the opportunity. Any politician who isn't proud to explain themselves is going to have to deal with that. We're their voters, dammit. They should be glad when people want to hear what they have to say, and eager for the chance to talk with us.

Update: Grammar police edition.

Posted by natasha at August 21, 2007 12:22 PM | Blogging | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

Shorter Natasha: 'Ya gotta' be able to backup your bullshit. Walk the walk. Balance the checkbook.

Posted by: Thomas Ware at August 21, 2007 03:40 PM

hey, you should repost your excerpt from McNamara's book. You first posted in 2004. now it would make an interesting post, considering some of the comments made back then.

Posted by: tima at August 21, 2007 10:24 PM

Thank you, Natasha. Well said.

Posted by: Matt at August 22, 2007 11:19 AM