When Blogospheres Collide

Remember this pic?

This is a picture of the linking patterns among highly trafficked progressive and conservative blogs during the final months of the 2004 election. It was the first, and to date best, academic study on linking patterns within the political blogosphere. It also led a commenter at Political Animal to make a famous insight about the bifurcated nature of the left-wing blogosphere at the time:If you remove Atrios, the left blogosphere is neatly divided into two mutually-linking spheres: the moderate/intellectual(academicky) types - Drum, DeLong, Yglesias, TPM, Tapped, Crocoked Timber - and the left activist types - Kos, MyDD, Digby, Left Coaster, Pandagon (only this one surprised me a bit). Even at the modest 5-link level, none of these blogs link to anyone on other side. They'd be completely unlinked communities if not for Atrios who has links to TPM and Tapped, but also Kos and Digby. I suppose no surprise since Atrios is an academic leftist activist type. Now, the blogosphere has changed a lot since then, and I would love to see a new paper on more up to date linking patterns within the left-wing blogosphere. I am sure that we would find at least two new "hubs" on the scene, Crooks and Liars and The Huffington Post. In fact, Crooks and Liars, the Huffington Post, and Fire Dog Lake might form the core of a new, third left-wing blogosphere that is distinct because it is based largely in Los Angeles, heavily focused on multi-media, and features several prominent women leaders / founders. In terms of intellectual vs. activist divide, I guess it comes down much more on the activist side. I would also expect ample evidence of several other, though perhaps smaller, hubs around Raw Story, Glenn Greenwald / Digby, Americablog and Think Progress. Of course, this is just conjecture, and I imagine that rather than forming discrete constructs, these many different hubs would interact with one another in fascinating ways.

Anyway, the reason I bring up this old study is because of the extensive discussion Matt's TPM Café guest post on the netroots as a new left wing movement has caused over at the heart of the "academic" blogosphere, TPM Café. Looking over the responses to Matt's piece from Josh Marshall, Max Sawicky, Nathan Newman, Ed Kilgore, Jo Ann-Mort, Todd Gitlin, Mark Schmidt, and M. J. Rosenberg, I could hardly imagine a more perfect demonstration of the original activist vs. intellectual blogospheres thesis. This vast discussion spawned by Matt's original thesis has decidedly been a case of two different blogospheres colliding.

Look, for example, at Josh Marshall's response from earlier today:A movement is a vague and often ephemeral thing. What do we even mean when we use the word? I think the acid test, the real question is this: what are the institutions that this new political movement has spawned? Dailykos.com seems to clearly fit as one answer. So do the various sites and mechanisms that pool small contributions for various candidates. What else? What is particularly striking about Marshall's query is that he does not include the TPM universe of blogs in his list of netroots institutions. Personally, as someone who would probably be considered one of the "leaders" of the "activist" progressive blogosphere, I think the entire progressive, political blog universe, including the TPM centric, "intellectual" blogosphere, can accurately be considered a single, sprawling, new media institution that is the ultimate, successful spawn by the new movement Matt describes (although MoveOn.org would also vie for that title). Taken together, the varied subsets of the progressive, political blogosphere, which I briefly described above, have a combined audience of at least four million people a day, and eight million people a week. Further, it is quite a desirable audience: extremely political engaged, relatively wealthy, intensely devoted to news consumption and, yes, highly educated (no matter what Max Sawicky may imply otherwise--I've taught college courses on several of the thinkers he argues we don't but should read, and I know my education is pretty average among my readership). This institution has accomplished all of this while covering a wide variety of political topics with a highly varying degree of activism, depth, tone, and ideological focus. While I find that to be a remarkable institutional achievement surpassing any other institution founded by the left in decades, Marshall himself does not consider his blogosphere to be part of that institution. That statement is perhaps more indicative of the cultural gap between the varied progressive blogosphere than any academic study on the blogosphere could ever identify.

To be fair, Matt's post has also been received by some of the writers at TPM Café with agreement. Still, it is quite telling that when that one of the leading figures within the "activist,""movementarian" blogosphere, Matt Stoller, enters the leading realm for discussion within the "intellectual,""academic" blogosphere, TPM Café, and argues that there is a new progressive movement taking place online, a large debate erupts within the "intellectual,""academic" blogosphere over whether or not that movement exists, and whether or not they themselves are a part of that movement. Perhaps it means that the old differences described two years ago have become even greater, damaging the idea that the progressive, political blogosphere can be considered a single institution. Perhaps that there is even a debate over whether there is a progressive netroots movement within one of the major subsets of the progressive, political blogosphere demonstrates there is not, in fact, any such self-aware movement. Then again, maybe it is just a long-needed step where two needlessly separate blogospheres that could learn a lot from each other are finally exchanging ideas. We, "the activists," probably could use more regular intellectual depth and historical context in our writing, while I think the "intellectuals" could use a lot more focus on the sort of action and meta self-awareness that you regularly see at places like MyDD and Dailykos. It can only be a good thing that we are starting to talk with each other more. Considering his history in the ultimate netroots "connector," it was also probably inevitable that Stoller would be the person to start that discussion. I say, well done to Matt, and let's keep this going.

Update: Marshall has posted an interesting response. I'll have further commentary on this tomorrow.

Tags: Blogosphere, meta, progressive movement (all tags)



Re: When Blogospheres Collide

I think it's a bit simplistic to exlcude TPM from the "activist" wing of the blogosphere.  In terms of pure, raw activism, they led the fight on social security (remember, the "faint-hearted faction")?  And they are reproducing that model of activism today by trying to pin down Repub Congressmen on where they stand on the "surge/escalation."  SO, perhaps they are not within the network that styles itself as activist, but they certainly have quite a few "Activist" accomplishments under their belt.  It's certainly not a blog that locks itself in an ivory tower!

by pontificator 2007-01-16 03:55PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide
True dat. There is certainly a lot of bleeding betwen these sphere, both in terms of links and general characteristics. Different blogospheres are mostly loose characterizations, rather than strict categories.
by Chris Bowers 2007-01-16 04:25PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

This is great stuff. I see no reason why the Internet should be one large institution. In fact, the diversity of the 'place' is it's great strength. Myself I am of the MyDD and dKos persuasion. TPM and company smell a little to corporate to me.

I look forward to helping in my small way to 'grow' Left Blogistan so Americans can have a 'place' to go where they can:

Find out the facts...

Discuss same with others...

Take such political action as they deem good...

To help themselves and others.

by Pericles 2007-01-16 03:57PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

I think that Josh is just being modest. I seem to recall that building the movement was a key goal as the TPM empire was expanding.

by nsuchar 2007-01-16 03:58PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

I think there needs to be a bit more clarity here.  A lot of the disagreement or arguing about Matt's post, is arguing about the "past" left - the left of 60's, 70's, 80's.  

As such, the question you raise, the differences between the activist left and the academic left, in the NOW so to speak - this hasn't really been raised.

For myself, I think there is quite a lot of agreement between the two poles, more so than on the history of the old left, as opposed to what the new left means.

by jc 2007-01-16 04:04PM | 0 recs
Like the man wrote...

The farmer and the cowman should be friends.

I'm struck, for instance, at how little exchange there seems to be between blogs (especially, perhaps, this one) and the polisci fraternity.

There's a mass of papers available online, but, unfortunately, they mostly come with heavy math attached.

And (a linked factor) they tend to be concerned with proving overarching theories, rather than producing case study-type material useful for our purposes.

I'd hope the sheer fascinating of watching a historic Congress like the 110th develop day by day would have polisci students and academic eager to slum it with us amateurs!

We'll see.

by skeptic06 2007-01-16 04:10PM | 0 recs
Science and Pseudo Science

It is the hallmark of pseudo science to lay out an hypothesis and then proceed to substantiate it with facts, based on assumptions that support the original idea.

I believe that linking a blog has more to do with advertising than it does with a movement. Therefore, I question the validity of a set of random links that I never bothered to follow, as a blogger and reader of mydd - and certainly don't feel create any basis for substantiation of any sort of movement or, for that matter, justification of increase in advertising fees charged per site.

Rather, I feel it much more appropriate to discuss browser history and cache. An approriate study of this nature would center not on the blog, but the blogger, just as any revolution is found not within the institutions that fostered it, but the people working outside of those institutions who seek to alter it.

For example, using this sort of analysis - what would we say of the American revolution?

The 1776 equivalent of the blog, was the tea house (ok, coffee house!) or tavern.  Taverns would often traffic amongst each other by reference. There were tories, and then, there were my husband's ancestors whose idea of fun centered around breaking away from england.

Well, the tories were connected, as you would expect to see, and a diagram of them, and their referring customers (and although it took ten days by horseback) linking to other taverns.

So, the red diagram here would apply. But the blue tavern, if you will, of my husband's (who was banned from mydd by "progressive" matt stoller and others here for posting that gay marriage is stupid) - family descendants, Jorg and Kath, who risked their lives to free our country  - would not show up. Those taverns did not publicly acknowledge their link, and in so doing, blindsided the enemy to their doings. In fact, several taverns were populated by tory spies, and many in there took pains not to seem as if they were in fact talking about a revolution.

Although it may seem extreme to speak of revolution, I promise you that if Pres. Bush and his grimer wormtongue advisor - Karl Rove, have decided to pump in exactly 25% of the recommended troop strength to justify a war and an invasion of a perfectly innocent country - long enough for them to be outside of election in 2008,  politics over policy -  I promise you that we are no longer a democracy.

We have an extremely oppressive society - you delude yourself into believing that, what amounts to traffic trading for advertising  - should be substituted for the quiet activity of the revolutionary. Surely we are.

And an analysis such as this, would therefore be greatly strengthened, in my opinion as a scientist - by browser history. The majority of those whom I refer to as real americans, and others of the bull moose party here are trying to refer to as progressives -  know how to type in a URL and don't go to the net to surf but instead to communicate, strengthen their wits and also frankly find out about the real world workings of a government whose corruption has so exceeded the norm that a november election that threw the bastards out, has now succeeded only in throwing them back in (viz the Iraq war).

If another 650,000 innocent people die next year, and say you were one who was related to them - and you heard that the government responsible, is now tapping telephone lines and trying to read mail - would you open up their junk mail? Would you let their logfiles record your linking patterns?

Or would you just type in the new address and off you go?

Chris, use the browser history- or better still, take a page from "systemic" and let the end users report anonymous.

by heyAnita 2007-01-16 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Science and Pseudo Science

I think you missed the point of the study; it wasn't what the readers were reading, it's what the writers were citing.  That's it...

A study of how blog readers move through the blogosphere would indeed be interesting, but it's not germane to this discussion...

by lutton 2007-01-16 05:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Science and Pseudo Science

You're very polite. There's a lot more that's not germane in this reply.


by phatass 2007-01-16 10:56PM | 0 recs

You need to balance this for weight. Our side allows comments, so links aren't that important.

Of course, now that we are in power we need to encourage hacks to become wonks. But the people viewed as wonks in the Democratic Party (outside the blogosphere) are the Brookings assholes who are complete dipshits. The wonks have sucked since the DLC took over and nobody listens to the people who were right. I think 'wonk' is a bad word right now and that is a problem. But I have yet to see anything but crap coming out of the DLC orgs so I'll just go on thinking wonks suck until they prove otherwise.

by Bob Brigham 2007-01-16 04:31PM | 0 recs

I think that what is going on here is that Josh sees himself as a journalist, and not as a partisan blogger.  There's been a great deal of tension associated with that view (similar tensions arise in Froomkin's posts) because the right thing for a thoughtful journalist to do is expose the evil of this administration.  And the evil is so broad and so deep that it is easy to be mistaken for a partisan when you point it out.

But having done so, a thoughtful journalist would like to reserve the right to expose the evil of future administrations, regardless of affiliation.

Josh got criticized from commenters for, I can't remember what now, impugning a Democrat. As far as I can tell, he sees himself as a non-partisan journalist. His ripping Bush and the republicans may look partisan to people who are not thoughtful observers. But he is prepared to rip the Democrats as well.

OTOH, it's been interesting to watch his evolution from good government centrist to really pissed off lefty.  He doesn't mean to have done that, but, sheesh, look at what's been going on. A commenter who started reading the site a couple of years after it had been up remarked on the change in tenor of Josh's posts.  He starts out measured and careful, but his jaw just gradually drops farther and farther as this administration subverts every American principle and just flat fucks up.

by jayackroyd 2007-01-16 04:35PM | 0 recs
Two sides of the same coin?

I don't think it's come up in the discussion of this post, but I think the evolution of the liberal blogosphere helps explain why the two halves, as it were, have been coming together.  If there was/is a division, like jay rightly points out, it's because different people have different motivations and interests when they blog, be it more partisan politically oriented or more wonky.  People are different, and that's fine.  Over the past few years, though, the medium has given the wonks a chance to interact with the partisans, and vice versa, and I think it helps both sides develop a more mature philosophy toward both government and politics.  Call it a shared goal, if you want, even though different bloggers prefer different techniques.  TPM is probably a good place to use as an example: the mothership is still pretty wonky, but Election Central and Muckraker both have some strong overlap with the political sphere, as will Horse's Mouth.  Politics vs. policy sometimes creates a tension between wanting a bigger party and wanting a better one, but in the end, we really want both.

Chocolate and peanut butter...

by jfaberuiuc 2007-01-16 05:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Josh

I think he has adapted due to the current state of affairs.

by Bob Brigham 2007-01-16 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Josh

I agree that I think this is a key point for Marshall.  My reading is that, as a smart guy, he realized early on in his career that the ossified he-said-she-said "balanced" school of journalism was dying, easily manipulated by the propagandistic right.  He is basically trying to establish a new kind of US journalism, perhaps more along the lines of the British model or E.F. Stone, where at least a reporter is honest about their prejudices.  The difference is that this new reporter's first loyalty is to the truth, not to some absurd notion of "balance at any cost"  (truthiness, in Colbert's immortal phrasing).

I also want to give kudos to Atrios, who is probably one of the most brilliant bloggers on the left these days, yet with a remarkable ability to avoid pseud-ery in his commentary on the daily absurdities of our national nightmare.  I may not always agree with him, but damn, I wish I could write with his precision and integrity.

by Taylor26 2007-01-16 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide


Your statement that TPM should be viewed as a leader in activism due to its action on Social Security is both correct and very odd, and speaks to the oddity of the times we are living in.  At the time Josh started his defense of Social Security he was indeed taking a lead in showing what the Democrats and the new Progressive Movement could do.  On the other hand, Social Security has been around for over 70 years.  In any normal time period, defending an institution of that age would be supremely conservative.  I think, perhaps, that Josh sees himself more as a defender of the status quo, the status quo, however, being the New Deal, the Great Society, and the Civil Rights movement.  He may well, not see himself as a leader of the New Progressive movement.  

For some time now I have been thinking that there exist two main bifurcations in our politics.  One is between the George Bush, so-called conservatism, which is better identified as wingnuttia and the reality based community.  The wingnuttia faction is dedicated to an authoritarian society based on pre-Enlightenment ideas.  The reality based community is based on representative democracy, critical review, science and the like.  Within the reality based community there exists another bifurcation between what were considered the conservative and liberal points of view prior to Reagan.  So even among those of us who have a pluralistic, rationalist view of the world, there are general disagreements about our willingness to alter existing institutions or to use military force overseas or to regulate economic activity at home.  That is on all these points there is room for disagreement even among sensible people.  

Within our general population "conservative" has come to mean the views of wingnuttia.  So within the reality based community the views of Kos, MyDD and others are generally more progressive (formally known as liberal), and those of Josh Marshall are generally less progressive (formally known as conservative).  In the absence of the powerful wingnut faction, these two groups would probably be opposing political parties.  Folks in the reality based community are finally realizing that we don't have nearly as much to disagree about as we have to disagree with the wingnuts and that we definitely need to be combining forces and leave our differences to another day.  I think that the 2006 elections are a sign that we are coming together more and that a repeat of the 2004 study would show a great deal more cross linkages.

I can certainly support that anecdotally.  I am perfectly aware that anecdotes are not data, but nonetheless in my experience the two groups on the left are in somewhat more communication than two years ago.  For one thing my own reading covers both groups.  My daily reads are Atrios, Kos, MyDD, Kevin Drum, TPM, Steve Gilliard, Digby, Greenwald, and America Blog.  I regularly check out several more such as Firedoglake, Talk Left and Left Coster.  In the past year I have seen a fair number posts that link across the divide.  

by 8051FSW 2007-01-16 05:08PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

I'm sorry if I'm violating ettiqutte by responding to my own post, but I wasn't sure how to edit what I wrote and I need to go to bed.  But I just hopped on over to Kos and the front page article at 10:10 PM eastern was a comment on the work at TPM on the firing of US attorneys.  So it would seem that there is at least a little linkage between those two now.

by 8051FSW 2007-01-16 05:11PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

I think there needs to be a better word than "activist" to describe the blogs you're calling activist blogs.  It's a kind of action-free activism, I guess.  I don't know.

by eRobin 2007-01-16 05:32PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide
I don't think that is quite fair. We raise money, call congress about legislation, googlebomb, organize to take over local Democratic parties, give information about rallies, force establishment media to make retractions, operate a PAC, support and particpate in primary campaigns, write about volunteering for campagins, help recruit candidates--in what way is this blog action free?

I really find that to be an unfair statement Robin.
by Chris Bowers 2007-01-16 08:17PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

I apologize.  Using "action-free" was clumsy.  There's a wide range of activism.  I tend to be mired in the boots-on-ground end of the spectrum and personally set the bar for what's considered activism very high.  Certainly there are bloggers who are activists but in general I think blogs, which is what I thought we were talking about rather than individual bloggers, serve as an inspiration to act rather than as action.  That's a good and valuable thing but I still can't shake the feeling that "activist blog" is a strange phrase.

by eRobin 2007-01-18 06:05AM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

This whole thing is absurd. Nathan Newman is up to his ass in steeet cred. He works with unions, remember them? Go to Maxspeak where half the commenters cringe when mentioning the Council of Foreign Relations dimwits at TPM Starbucks.
Kos? Is an asshole who started a forum. It's the forum that's interesting. That's the netroots not the fucking leadership. The leadership bores me to tears: intellectual lightweight through and through.
The commenters at Starbucks are more interesting than the Pros, that's the fucking point.  Max remembers a day when the leaders were impressive, but now they aren't. Neither individually are the netroots but they don't need to be: active and aware and basically intelligent and curious is enough. Friends of mine? Some of you idiots actually like Clinton, let alone the rest of the democratic bunch.

The netroots are/is a profound phenomenon, made up of not very interesting people. It's a good thing. The interesting people in the 60's took themselves too seriously. The leaders of the netroots take themselves just as seriously, but they have less of an impact, they're just bigger cogs.

by seth edenbaum 2007-01-16 05:33PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide
speaking of assholes...
by Chris Bowers 2007-01-16 08:22PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Yeah, everybody's got one but most don't try and talk or, worse yet, think with 'em.

by Pericles 2007-01-16 10:34PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

And what does this hav to do with anythingI said?

by seth edenbaum 2007-01-17 04:14AM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide
"...the leaders were impressive,"
That's the leaders of the left, not the leaders of the country. I've never been impressed by the leaders of the country. Is that your confusion?
by seth edenbaum 2007-01-17 04:18AM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide
Seth may be getting near something interesting, though- the old McLuhan medium is the message is worth thinking about and adding to the discussion. Blog leaders are maybe more aptly called something like blog "enablers" by virtue of the medium.
  If that logic holds, then it's not too surprising that lefty blogs would fall into 2 categories, because you'd be enabling connections from and between different terrains.  
by sb 2007-01-17 05:42AM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

People, don't make too much of the bifurcation.  While it certainly exists, I don't think that anyone is saying that bloggers and blogger readers occupy two separate camps in the liberal realm.  

Both bloggers and readers are certainly consuming large amounts of data and commentary from throughout the liberal blogosphere.  

To note that dkos linked to tpm today is not breaking news; it happens regularly.  As do many other such 'cross-over' links.

The interesting portion of the study is the magnitude of linking to similarly-oriented blogs.  There were definite patterns, and that in itself is interesting and worthy of continuing study.

As mentioned above, a study of how blog readers move throughout the blogosphere would be of interest.

I also think a study of (nearly) simultaneous but non-referential links to outside information, say a news story, or a press release, would be interesting.  If both dkos and tmp feature posts about a item, but neither references the other blog, what does that say?  Does that mean that item appeals to both the activist and the academic liberal?

Also, dkos, via its annual group of 'front pagers' is going to vary, which is a very good thing.

As for this whole liberal blogosphere being a movement, I'll just let Arlo sum up my feelings:

there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say "Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant.". And walk out.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him.

And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them.  

And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization.

And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out.

And friends they may think it's a movement.

by lutton 2007-01-16 05:44PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

This model seems to be missing progressive journalism sites, like Salon.com (I don't read Josh Marshall so I don't have information to identify him as a journalist).
I get a great deal of political motivation from MYDD and firedoglake, but I don't trust them to tell me the whole truth about what is going on the way a journalist practicing his profession with any ethics or honor would.
To clarify, a journalist will report a fact regardless of its political consequence. A progressive journalist is someone who demonstrates an affinity for progressivism (that differentiates him/her from the much larger group of "journalists" who are actually right-wing hacks), but will still report a fact regardless of its political consequences.
For example, I was very excited last year by what I was reading here and elsewhere about the possibility of Jerry McNerney beating the noxious Richard Pombo out in California. I was thinking about donating money to the McNerney campaign when i read this over at Salon:

Then McNerney takes the floor to applause. But within minutes he is already veering off his script. He gives short shrift to global warming, oil prices, the Iraq war and GOP corruption and turns his comments to the issue on everyone's mind. "Let me say a few words about the questionnaire," he says, his voice suddenly becoming reserved. "Basically I am just an ordinary guy who is trying to make a difference."

The questionnaire he is talking about comes from Project Vote Smart, a nonprofit nonpartisan group that tries to get candidates on the record about their positions. Veteran politicians, like Pombo, see such requests as booby traps. But last winter, McNerney filled out the questionnaire, naively listing his desire to "slightly" raise gas, alcohol and cigarette taxes, while "greatly" increasing corporate, capital gains and inheritance taxes. Pombo's political consultant, Wayne Johnson, got hold of the answers and turned them into a biting direct-mail piece. To wit, "Jerry McNerney may be the only congressional candidate in America who wants to make it tougher for lower income people to get to work." This was bad news for the Democrat, who is still unknown by many of the district's voters.

But then McNerney, who says he does not want people to pay more for gas, took the advice of an inside-the-Beltway advisor and compounded the problem. He decided to change his Vote Smart answers on 55 of the questions, erasing all evidence of his previous support for higher taxes. The Pombo campaign promptly disseminated news of this "flip-flop" to the local media.

The activist and the journalist are each providing information, but to different ends. We need both kinds of information providers in the progressive net.
Nothing I've said should necessarily be taken to mean that I think journalism should always trump activism. After all, McNerney won.

by johnalive 2007-01-16 05:54PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Salon -- as always -- was waaaaay late to the game when it came to McNerney. I like Michael Scherer but that article was a full two and a half months after the huge primary stomping and six months after it should have been written.

by Bob Brigham 2007-01-16 06:01PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Salon=Self-Important Bloviators

by Pericles 2007-01-16 10:35PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Josh Marshall, in my view, is primarily an investigative journalist and gadfly of the first order who has developed an ingenious methodology for steamrollering Congressional representatives into fessing up and revealing where they really stand on burning issues like Social Security. He's attached this methodology very effectively to blog technology and back-channel emails to create a huge informal network of informants. I would give Josh a big chunk of the credit for using his methodology to focus the widespread public attention on the bankruptcy of the Bush administration's ploys to up-end the system that ultimately brought about their demise.

The TPM cafe is a spin off of his focus and a fairly buttoned up analytical watering hole for big heads. As an academic in a former life, I check into Josh Marshall's blog and the cafe regularly and find both illuminating.

However, I spend a lot more time poring over the provocative musings of Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller on MyDD and their fellow travelers. Chris and Matt, unlike Marshall, appear to me to be more interested in fomenting dialog and interaction within the motley crew that frequent the site. They have started a string of incredibly intense and insightful exchanges that I have found far more stimulating than anything else on the net.

The space they have created, IMNSHO, is one of the  most effective spawning grounds of the progressive movement for those of us activists who are searching for levers to kick the Republican party and all it stands for into the dust heap of history.

by Nancy Bordier 2007-01-16 06:09PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

As long as we debate with each other, we are united in that.

by Endymion 2007-01-16 06:25PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Josh Marshall is a fabulous researcher, and that's something that should never be discounted, IMO.

I'm worried, however- and maybe I'm mixed up on this- that the ethnic and gender diversity seems to exist only on 1 side of this division. If that's in fact the case, it might not be accidental and would be worthy of the "intellectuals'" consideration.

Max Sewicky: maybe you could work some (more)Zizek onto your own reading list?

by sb 2007-01-16 06:58PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

I'nm not so sure the "intellectuals" rate as such (Yglesias periodically gets far out of his depth). Atrios, OTOH, is a PhD who has taught at name brand institutions. TPM is a curious hybrid. Marshall has a journalism practice background, a PhD he finished but doesn't seem to use and political perspective that strikes me as center-left. Indeed, most of these folks are basically center-left. Alterman, Gitlin, TalkLeft, and Nathan Newman have ties of sorts to the left-left, although Alterman & Gitlin are relatively moderate, within this group. What Marshall did with social security was show what the web can do, which mass media can't---follow a single story and hold people responsible wfor where they stand. Little overt activism, but a clear new journalistic form which can draw attention to issues with out being a one issue advocacy operation that cransk out the same propoganda all the time.

Sawicky is stuck with being an economist; econ was the first social science and one that has hit a wall with its technical and theoretical formulations. Max is much better when he gets beyond his discipline.

The problem with using a right/left type taxonomy is that the wingnuts have pushed the right far beyond what one would have considered to be "respectable conservativism" (small government, fiscal prudence, tightfistedness leavened with some charity and noblesse oblige, being Christian but not talking about it). As a result, what I used to think of as moderate has now been pushed leftward, which is easy when you consider that a true left with its collection of social democrats, Catholic Workers, War Resisters, not-so-democratic socialists, etc. is largely gone. A few folks are around and there are signs of life in the labor movement, but basically the left-left is pretty dead and many of the people who attract the more visible defacto members of that constituency are authoritarians like Nader or Kucinich (trust me on this, I'm a native Clevelander, I've known members of his family), orthe 90s version of Jerry Brown. Brown has probably found his calling as a mayor. Nader & Kucinich would be disasters as anything other than what they are now.

Right now there is unity in the left blogosphere because, there is a common, out-to-lunch enemy and there is rough consensus on the big issues. It's not like 2000, with people trying to justify voting for Nader (Tom Tomorrow will never be forgiven for that) and trying to make Gore into
the same thing as Bush. Probably the same idiots who supported John Anderson in '80. Gore had no charisma and was personally uninspiring, as well as running a weak campaign, but he was a reliable liberal and decent, rational guy. And it was obvious then....

by rich 2007-01-16 07:32PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

It's pretty simple for me: I read and follow people whose opinions and writing style I can relate to. Don't downplay that second part either; there are people I agree with most of the time but their writing style bugs me so much I don't read them (like Americablog).

I do agree that there is an "intellectual" side, which I relate less to because it a) is too wonky for me b) tends to be too close to Washington and as a result c) it makes me trust them just a little bit less. I get concerned that today's "intellectual progressive center" could become tomorrow's DLC.

The "activist" left you mention I love, because they wear their hearts on their sleeves and are great writers: Atrios, Digby, Gilliard, and billmon to name the main ones. Interestingly, all of the above are far outside of Washington (other than Atrios, who acts like it :).

I just prefer the non-Washington crowd, and I think their distance from DC gives their writing a more populist edge which I prefer.

by Paul in Kirkland 2007-01-16 07:34PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Oops - forgot one thing.

The most interesting thing to me is that you say that Matt's a connector. For me it's this blog that is pretty much the connecting link between the two spheres (other than Atrios, who's his own planet apparently).

Over the last year or so I'd gradually stopped following all of "wonkblogs", but after reading this post I re-subscribed to validate my own hypothesis :)

by Paul in Kirkland 2007-01-16 07:37PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

So much for that. My first foray into the "intellectual" side was Drum's post on whether the anti-war crowd should be given any credit for being right.

I forgot one thing about him: he's an idiot. My bad.

by Paul in Kirkland 2007-01-16 08:09PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Interesting as it may be to ponder the dynamics of left blogistan, it's even more fun to ponder the shitty, dreary state of affairs over in right blogistan at the moment.

by global yokel 2007-01-16 07:51PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide
I disagree. I used to think about the right-wing blogosphere. Now, however, I find them too boring, ineffective, and uninteresting for words. They attack the authority of the "MSM" and trash liberals? Gee, I've never seen conservatives do that before.
by Chris Bowers 2007-01-16 08:35PM | 0 recs
Josh's challenge on institutions at TPM

This is a comment I posted there.  

On January 17, 2007 - 1:06am debcoop said:

Institutions by definition are organizations of people with a social purpose and permanence. In some of the comments above such incipient institutions like DailyKos, The TPM blogs, ActBlue, and Drinking Liberally are mentioned. They are incipient only because they lack the anchor of permanence (permanance of course always has to fight rigidity) Can the first 2 blog universes mentioned survive say the death or disinterest of their founders? I don't know but I hope so.

The movements of the New Left, unlike Matt's view, did generate institutions. They were the very one issue institutions that the Internet left decries (sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly....historical gaps in knowledge of different periods and strains of the left leads to understandable lacunae in terms of knowledge about left history) The women's movement, which is one of the victories of the New Left ---cultural and poltical victories --- became groups like NOW, National Women's Poltical Caucus, Ms. Magazine, NARAL. The women's movement started with a large range of issues and narrowed itself down to the politiclly achievable in an increasingly right wing environment.

I was a member of that New Left and there is a lot about what Matt said about the New Left is correct, some he says is not quite right. The ones who who were movement lefties -- the nonpolitical lefties retreated to much smaller political arenas or to ordinary life.

The vast majority of the New Left were not focussed on winning elections. They were interested in creating pressure on elected institions and other institutions to effectuate progressive changes in legislation or policy. Remember we Democrats and their ideology were so much in charge that Nixon signed Medicaid and set up the EPA! We didn't have to focus on the nitty gritty of elections (like Kos does now) because Dems were still in control. A small number went onto to stay in politics --like the Clintons.

But compared to the Right we failed; not because we didn't win victories, we did win some big ones like greatly advancing women's equality. We failed because we didn't create the instituions that could defend and even enlarge the gains won against the Right's grinding relentless organizations that kept generating endless salvos of ideas ---(if one false and dishonest idea didn't work to undermine progressive achievement they would come up with another deceptive idea)

The Right organized institutions that have permanence. Our very large movement developed swirls and eddies and only some of them kept going, but with smaller, narrower purposes.

As the right organized in the 80's and 90's, I was frustrated and angry. In the early 90's, a rightish friend of mine was hired by a right wing think tank, who actually paid her a significant sum of money. No one in left organizations got paid like that, or had buildings like that. The Right created career paths in the Right. I thought then that what the left needed were leftwing think tanks. We still do. But left wing billionaires are rarer and more cautuous than right wing billionaires, so I no longer think that is the only answer...billionaires get to tell you what to do.

So I say to Josh and Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers, the internet Left, (even though I am a boomer, I think the internet has been enormously important and has enormous potential to be very effective in making progressive poltical change) that the challenge of institutions are to

1. to continue

  1. to be focussed but not too narrow
  2. to know when battles are won; when we need new battles, but also when you have to go back to defend old ground.
  3. to be user friendly so that those with pressing lives can do sometihing and stay involved

PS I think that some of the spirit of the internet left has spirited itself into an already existing institution--the Democratic National Committee in the person of Howard Dean.

by debcoop 2007-01-16 08:10PM | 0 recs
I had first comment on JoshTPM's

...post there where I pointed that I for one look at him and his sites (and by extension sites like TAPPED) as the foundation of something like a blogosphere think tank.

He has two major tabs devoted to A) Foreign Policy and B) The Middle Class. The writers there have both academic knowledge and experience among them on those topics and are very insightful.

If those writers got together and produced things like position papers I think they would be extremely persuasive and interesting, or at least useful. After all, an Ezra Klein paper about universal health care might be boring but he definitely knows the topic. Of course I also said doing that would be like herding cats and Josh said that I "have no idea." So I can only imagine the difficulties of forging a cohesive whole out of TPM's stable.

I've pointed out in the past, both here and at TPM, that TPMCafe is like a stage. Whoever writes the post gets up on it and speaks speaks into the microphone for a while then leaves and the rest of us talk amongst our selves in the seats. MyDD is to some extent like this, though I think that is really starting to change.

At places like DKos the audience lobs questions at the person on stage who engages with them in give and take. Sometimes other people get up on stage too and take the discussion into a new direction on the topic. The point is everyone CAN because of the DKOS attitude that is not there at TPM because of its different philosophy.

by MNPundit 2007-01-16 08:55PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

As I recall, TPM was one of a trio of blogs that first caught the MSM's attention on the Trent Lott debacle.

I'd say Josh has played a pretty prominent role in mainstreaming blogs from the outset of their rise as a political force. Before then, most news outlets thought Insty was the only blog.

As to who else should be on that chart, Jeralyn Merritt, Bill Scher, OneGoodMove, Brad DeLong, Jesus' General, TBogg, The Left Coaster, Smirking Chimp, The Poor Man, Taegan Goddard, Tom Tomorrow, Buzzflash and Orcinus were, by traffic, all in the top 25 lefty blogs just 2 years ago, as were most of those already mentioned, including MyDD.

Now, I'd guess John Amato, Jane Hamsher & Co, Glenn Greenwald and Juan Cole would be in the mix.

And where would think tanks like American Progress and Media Matters fit? As academics?

by Kevin Hayden 2007-01-16 09:15PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

You can't bullshit a bullshitter, Kevin. You ain't gonna give this shit up! I hang out here too much, but my heart wanders to Bradblog and Indymedia! American Street is getting readable again, since some fools have begun shortening their 800,000,000 word essays there. The fucking bandwidth alone must be back-breaking!

by blues 2007-01-18 02:35PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Atrios, OTOH, is a PhD who has taught at name brand institutions.

I suspect that Atrios himself would regard these as the least interesting qualification that any blogger could sport.  You could say the same for example of a certain law professor in Tennessee, who is also a complete idiot.  Atrios has described himself as a "recovering economist."  

One might also mention Eric Alterman who teaches at City College in NY, or Brad Delong.  Delong has the best academic credentials and yet also a pretty uninteresting blog, partly because it reads like an above-the-fray wonk waiting to return to government.

Counterpoint Delong with Krugman, who probably would dominate the blogosphere had the NYT not snatched him up and then locked him behind that stupid NYT Select.

by Taylor26 2007-01-17 12:34AM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

First Post for me, and I a TPM Cafe user (same Pseudo, if it matters)
The intent for visiting was to make a personal opinion about the handwringing Matt Stoller incited there, and also just browsed for the 1st time at Max Sawicky's blog. One more data point I believe necessary here is that I am vehemently claim non-alignment within the flatworld conceptualization of a BiPolar Scale of American Politics; a two-party nihilist. Once upon a time I was a LP Party member, but in their reach for political relevance, they cheat by using the tactics of ideological relativism that both D's and R's do.  The LP has been right-sided, becoming a parody of libertarianism.  Any person who posits the existence of a right to be free of eminent domain that is equal or superior to the right to habeas corpus is both thoroughly unlibertarian, and and a LooneyBot(randroidModded?) being savagely abused by the the GOP Activist Rank. I became a member at TPM Cafe, because they were tolerant of my fuzzy-logic, and supportive of my personal fight for the Dreamtime America.  It is threatened with suffocation from the tyrant Bush's theft of rights preexistent and preeminent to the Creation of a State; The rights all humans are endowed with at birth by their perception of The Creative.  I wasn't planning on joining up here; only came to lurk a bit, and may decide this is not a place to set a spell.

My first thought about the diagrams above is that it a common right-sided deception I call, 'circle-jerk referencing'. This is an attempt to give credence to disinformation through simple copy-n-paste content with added URL pointers.
It also illuminates the incestuous nepotism controlling Contemporary Conservatism's wonks.  
Better data should quantify what derivative value, if any, was added to the original thought, in the content accompanying the linkbacks. Google's algorithms attempt to filter loopback noise out of the signal, but instead of getting clued,
these websites' principles believe their site's anemic aura of Google JuJu is evidence of it's liberal bias.

They should instead be meditating upon the intelligence failure staring at them in the mirror, as they reflect upon the Koan; "Why do you think they call you 'ditto-head'".

This is an exploitable blind-side weakness.  The next two links to small animated gifs
used long-term as ads on the Newsmax website may offer illumination, it not, may they'll make you wish you could be as funny as newsmax:

by PseudoCyAnts 2007-01-17 02:59AM | 0 recs
Activist Journalism

There's a long history of activist journalism that seems to be missing from this discussion.

John Reed's Ten Days that Shook the World, Sinclair's The Jungle, Murrow (to an extent), underground press publications like "The Great Speckled Bird" and the "Berkeley Barb", Pacifica Radio, etc. all spring to mind.

by Rox Populi 2007-01-17 04:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Activist Journalism

Pacifica Radio huh? I used-ta fix audio modules at WBAI in NYC (they have 10,000 pop-out mods with circuit boards in this giant star-wars back-shack! Some of their hot-shit 'personalities' morphed into neocons (but  then, I knew what they were about at first sight. Another story on the incredible shrinking planet. (WBAI is next-door to the best parking garage in NYC. And their transmitter is atop the Empire State Building -- not that other (formerly) high place!)

by blues 2007-01-18 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

From Atrios. Move On defending itself against McCain:

"Move On never opposed military action after 9/11"

Here's the new new left. politically practical intellectually shallow.

by seth edenbaum 2007-01-17 06:23AM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

It's intellectually shallow to point out that Move On did not, in fact, oppose military action after 9/11?
So it would be intellectually deep to maintain a fiction in which they did?


by Atrios 2007-01-17 07:44AM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

No, it was and is intellectually shallow to defend the invasion of Afghanistan.  Popularity aside, the invasion was a mistake.

Chris Bowers thought the last comment I made had something to do with McCain and now you can't imagine someone being opposed to the invasion of Afghanistan. This is the new new left.

I understand your reasons, even if I don't agree with them. It doesn't bother me that Kos held his yearly bash in Vegas; it says a lot about the popular strength of the new democratic politics. The reach of the 60's left exceeded its grasp, by about a mile. After all the light the political changes were minor; but the social changes were not.  This time around smaller expectations and less grand ideas and will make the political change more stable and long lasting.  This is my soft determinism. Comparisons are easy and everything is built on the past. That's why this debate is silly.

D.B. you're a mensch. You don't try to be genius and a great political philosopher and an intellectual hero.  That's your strength.  But as a matter of definition that's not the point here.

The avant-garde is dead, and it's a good thing, though I miss it.
The tech nerds and housewives who have taken over make for a more broad based coalition.  And for the 95th time: Nixon won a landslide in 1972 and even if Bush actually won it was by next to nothing.  But a pimply faced boy with a copy of something by Robert A Heinlein in his hand, who dreams of arguing with a girlfriend over whether Ursula K. Le Guin is a better writer than Philip K. Dick and who considers himself a leftist; and Josh Marshall being compared to I.F. Stone...
that's a bit much.  I'm sorry if I can't lose my intellectual snobbery.
 No-one's perfect.

by seth edenbaum 2007-01-17 08:28AM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Well, I haven't said that I can't imagine someone being opposed to the invasion of Afghanistan.

Vegas is a cheap place to hold a convention, with both inexpensive airfares to the city and inexpensive hotels.

by Atrios 2007-01-17 12:19PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

I'd like to  point out my critique of the original work Kevin Drum and others were commenting on, Divided They Blog.  

Apologies in advance for the link to the now disappeared graphic; don't worry it didn't add that much to the discussion, was just a red blob next to a blue blob with a very few connectors between them.  A kind of political flying spaghetti monster.

Anyone interested in actually looking at who is linking to who please see dailykos in hyperspace for a snapshot from 2005 and a description of the currently available and ever interesting network browser based on Touchgraph and Google: Network Browser (Java required).

Here's a network centered on MyDD and another on TPM.  Try adding either redstate.com or realclearpolitics.com for your own up to the minute view of links between various camps.

by jotter 2007-01-17 07:01AM | 0 recs
Realists vs DFHs

When I look at the two lists of bloggers I see a different divide.

On the one side, with perhaps some exceptions, you get the a-list of liberal bloggers who were not initially against the war and so were considered 'serious' 'realistic' and landed gigs with Washington Monthly and Tapped. On the other side you have the Digby's, the self-described Dirty Fucking Hippies who were vehemently and often profanely against what we aptly called back in the day "the Cluster Fuck" of an Iraq war.

Of course everyone has climbed onto the anti-Iraq bandwagon but I am probably not the only former Buck Fushing DFH that is still angry that one of the founders of Pandagon (I think Ezra but maybe Jessie)'explained' why he initially rejected anti-war arguments because from his perch at UC Santa Cruz the only people he saw opposing it were 60's style hippies. Great Billmon and Digby and Gilliard and Kos were laying out cogent and now seen to be well-founded critiques of this war and its transparently concocted justifications. All of which could be dismissed because a couple of us had ponytails or something.

You see this same divide playing out all over. At one level it is the DLC vs Dean. At another "Nobody votes for an angry man" vs "If you are not angry you are not paying attention". I don't know to resolve the tension between the DFH's who were right and yet derided widely, and in large part are still derided by the Rahm Emmanuels who are currently taking credit for everything.

A perfect example was "Screw 'em-gate". Kos made a perfectly defensible observation that obsessing over the deaths and mutilations of four highly paid mercenaries themselves engaged in a still not yet explained mission while essentially ignoring the fact that hundreds or thousands  of Iraqis had been killed by mercs and burned into non-recognition by "precision" munitions dropped into civilian neighborhoods was to miss the whole point. People die in war, little girls die in war. That four adult volunteer private sector military professionals happened to die in a way that caught captured on film didn't make it some huge tragedy. Or for that matter some proof of Iraqi depravity. Death from 30000 feet is still death.

Yet the whole 'realist' camp got their panties in a bunch. We expected this crap from Fox, it was kind of disheartening to get it from the Kerry Campaign.

The DFHs of this blogosphere got it right. Yes we were foul-mouthed. On the other hand we were not chickenshit. "You can't oppose a popular wartime President". Yeah well screw that, we can and did and now Bush is not popular anymore. But somehow that didn't end up landing Digby and Billmon six-figure media gigs.

by Bruce Webb 2007-01-17 07:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Realists vs DFHs

one of the founders of Pandagon (I think Ezra but maybe Jessie)'explained' why he initially rejected anti-war arguments because from his perch at UC Santa Cruz the only people he saw opposing it were 60's style hippies.

That was Ezra. I don't know that he was a Pandagon founder, though he was the prominent co-poster there.

Yeah, his bias on that annoyed me because of its shallowness. He gets points for admitting the error. But I think the (mostly) generational bias is evident elsewhere, online and off. Any comparison of Iraq to Vietnam immediately draws attacks, including attacks on boomers as a whole.

Good points, Bruce. In mentioning Digby, especially, who I believe continues to struggle for sustenance, despite being consistently one of the best writers around.

by KevinHayden 2007-01-17 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

As usual, I'm getting around to posting a comment late, but I'm someone who regularly visits all three of the blogospheres you describe.  Depending on my mood and the events of the day, I will visit different sites in different orders and spend more time on some than others, but I usually check in daily with MyDD, firedoglake, dKos, Atrios, and TPM.  I get different things from each, and each has something to contribute to the online activist network/news source/media distributor/financing organization/book publisher/think tank/political organization/progressive movement that the progressive blogosphere has become.

I think the very fact that the progressive blogosphere can encompass all that and more yet not have a single word sufficiently expansive to describe it as an institution is telling and also the result of things changing too fast for us to get a proper perspective.  This progressive galaxy you all -- no, we all -- are creating is a movement in multiple dimensions.  We're just hurtling through space and time so quickly we're having trouble mapping out more than our own local cluster of stars.

by katerina 2007-01-17 07:46PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

Regarding this Afghanistan invasion, I was pretty well aware that they 'had to do it' and it was somehow 'inevitable', yet I would not have done it. I would have let the Taliban continue to burn the poppies, gotten out of the idiotic Zionism pogrom, removed all troops from the Middle East, and depended on the (former) power of the dollar to buy the oil we need. No matter how big your sword happens to be, a time comes to lick your wounds and not lunge headlong into the nearest crowd of dagger slingers. Strategy rules.

by blues 2007-01-18 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: When Blogospheres Collide

I have expanded the number of sites I visit since 2004 and I am probably not alone. Also, another site you might want to count traffic to is Buzzflash. Buzzflash links to a lot of sites; not as many sites link to them, but they do have a 5 M per month readership (not unique, probably but significant nonetheless).

by Lexie 2007-01-19 03:33AM | 0 recs


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