Why the Townhouse list is bad for those of us in the slums
by Nonpartisan, Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 04:35:49 PM EDT
First of all, I've been holding on to this diary idea for months -- every since I discovered the Townhouse list from a MyDD diary. I've been waiting for what seemed like the right moment, the right atmosphere, to post this. Now it's arrived, thanks to this excellent diary by the inimitable Maryscott O'Connor, with whom I am completely in agreement. Something IS rotten in Blogmark; in fact, it has been rotten for some time, at least since the Pie fight and maybe before. But I digress.
What I want to talk about here is something that I think has been chipping away at the integrity of the blogosphere for months, and that has become a serious, potentially catastrophic issue for the blogosphere at large. My goal here is not to attack or demean anybody, simply to enlighten and to give my opinion, inconsequential as it may be.
This diary is about the Townhouse list.
I have been a blogger for three and a half years. I've been involved with a Presidential campaign, two Congressional campaigns, and a follower of countless others. So you might say I'm jealous at not being included on a list that is supposedly populated by "popular liberal bloggers". And in fact, that's exactly why I didn't publish this months ago.
But upon reflection -- as I said, months of it -- and discussion of this with other bloggers, I've realized that the problems I have with the Townhouse list are shared by others and, that they have value beyond my own jealousy. The Townhouse list is, purely and simply, bad for the blogosphere.
This Townhouse list is bad news. NOT because important bloggers shouldn't be able to communicate privately, bounce ideas off each other. But because their doing so on a large scale, in secret, with a mocking screed at its gateway, undermines the kind of free debate that the blogosphere is all about.
I joined the lefty blogosphere because it was a free marketplace of ideas. Half Horatio Alger, half Karl Marx, the net allowed everyone to apply for greatness through the strength of their writing, the validity of their information, and the force of their personalities. The same sentiment that allows us to flame people like Joe Biden and Barack Obama when they post online -- the absolute equality of people online, subject only to their intellectual and grassroots abilities. People like MSOC and Georgia10 and Armando and SusanG rose through the ranks because of their writing, their research, and their courage. Not everyone became a "top blogger," but everyone had the chance to.
But the Townhouse list, no matter what its founders and members might say, is an agent of blogosphere stratification. It is a way for the blog "in-crowd," who got there through the articulation of their variegated and multitudinous voices, to STAY there through the synchronization of message in secret. I'm not alleging, of course, that one person (like Kos) is doing the synchronizing for them. It's simply that when a group of people talk amongst themselves in private for a long enough time, their views and ideas begin to synchronize into one. Look at the infrequency of hung juries; look at the near-unanimity of individual local caucus meetings in Iowa every four years. The end result of this intellectual inbreeding through the Townhouse list is twofold -- the dumbing-down of discourse of our greatest minds and the simultaneous exclusion from the inner circle of those up-and-comers who came up too late to join Townhouse.
Setting the recent TNR and Trevino allegations of misconduct aside -- and most of them are far too tinfoil-hattish to be believed -- this list is bad, bad for the future of the blogosphere as well as for the decentralizing impulse that made our greatest bloggers great.
Chris Bowers, who disagrees with me, makes his point very well in Stop Telling Me What To Write:
...We have found ways to talk to one another, such as the Townhouse list. ... We have done this to maintain our energy and increase our effectiveness. We have done so with our best attempts to be open and fair. We have done all of this in an attempt to stop replicating the same mistakes the progressive movement has been making for decades: exploiting its hardest workers, and not talking to one another. ...
Chris's point is well taken; but as a lefty blogosphere, our efforts to "talk to one another," to "maintain our energy and increase our effectiveness," should be done out in the open, in the kind of open-source blog cross-commentary made popular by the likes of Ezra Klein. THIS is how we hone the message for everyone, not just blogosphere leaders; THIS is how we bring everyone in. To do otherwise, to keep our strategizing a secret even from our allies is to take the Rovian line, and ultimately to lose the hearts and minds of our readers and fellow bloggers.
So please. Get rid of this thing, this Townhouse list, that excludes those of us unfortunate enough to reside in the no-man's land of the blogosphere slums. Return the blogosphere to what it once was -- a place where the best ideas won, every time, because nobody was better than anyone else other than by merit.