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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The war against liberal bloggers

Out of the fever swamp and coming for

Digby posted this up

Dispatches From The Fever Swamp

by digby

Jason Zengerle over at the Plank gives Mickey Kaus props for being wrong and then discusses every Joementum Democrat's favorite new theme: the "fever swamp" of the liberal blogosphere. He quotes Kaus:

Much of Democratic politics seems to now consist of embracing and fanning similarly comforting, but ultimately deceptive, liberal memes. Enron has fatally damaged Bush, Abu Ghraib has fatally damaged Bush, Katrina has fatally damaged Bush, Abramoff has fatally damaged Bush, the Plame investigation will fatally damage Bush--you can catch the latest allegedly devastating issue every day on Huffington Post or Daily Kos (and frequently in the NYT).

And then adds:

I'd add a few other suspects to that last. But I think Kaus is on to something here. The drip-drip-drip of scandals and screw-ups should, collectively, take a toll on the Bush administration. But liberal bloggers have too often viewed and hyped each individual scandal as a silver bullet; and when that bullet misses--picking off, say, Scooter Libby instead of Karl Rove--they inevitably experience a letdown, and simply move onto the next supposed silver bullet, failing to capitalize on what, were it not for their unrealistically inflated expectations, would have been considered a significant scandal.

That is a very interesting observation and it makes me quite proud to be part of the liberal blogosphere. It means we are doing our jobs. The president's approval rating is stuck at around 40% and I think it's pretty clear that it isn't the reporting in the mainstream media or by the "reasonable" Democrats at the New Republican that brought that about. If left up to them the Republicans would be coasting to another easy re-election.

I don't say this because I think that liberal blogs are taking over the world and have changed the face of politics as we know it. I say it because I know that without us there would have been virtually no critical voices during the long period between 2001 and the presidential primary campaign during 2003. We were it. The media were overt, enthusiastic Bush boosters for well over two years and created an environment in which Democratic dissent (never welcome) was non-existent to the average American viewer. In fact, it took Bush's approval rating falling to below 40% before they would admit that he was in trouble.

I believe that if it had not been for the constant underground drumbeat from the fever swamps over the past five years, when the incompetence, malfeasance and corruption finally hit critical mass last summer with the bad news from Iraq, oil prices and Katrina, Bush would not have sunk as precipitously as he did and stayed there. It literally took two catasprophes of epic proportions to break the media from its narrative of Bush's powerful leadership. And this after two extremely close elections ---- and the lack of any WMD in Iraq.

Kevin Drum and Atrios both have featured posts today highlighting new data about about the dearth of liberal voices in the mainstream media. From Paul Waldman's article in the Washington Monthly:

This ideological imbalance isn't only evident in the "official" sources that are interviewed: the elected officials, candidates, and administration officials who make up most of the shows' guests. It is even clearer in the roundtable discussions with featured journalists, [where] it has been a frequent practice for a roundtable to consist of a right-wing columnist or two supposedly "balanced" by journalists from major newspapers.

....The consequence of all this is that in every year since 1997, conservative journalists have dramatically outnumbered liberal journalists, in some years by two-to-one or more. Why would the producers of the shows believe that a William Safire (56 appearances since 1997) or Bob Novak (37 appearances) is somehow "balanced" by a Gwen Ifill (27) or Dan Balz (22)? It suggests that some may have internalized the conservative critique of the media, which assumes that daily journalists are "liberal" almost by definition, and thus can provide a counterpoint to highly partisan conservative pundits.

Yes, it does suggest that. We in the fever swamps have observed this phenomenon for many years so it comes as no surprise to us. The liberal point of view has pretty much disappeared from the mainstream discourse. And yet, if one were to poll the grassroots, one would find that their views are not out of the mainstream at all. Indeed, on many more issues than not, we are in line with the vast majority of Americans.

And as much as we are unsurprised to see that the statistics bear out our observations that liberals aren't represented on news programs, neither are we surprised that right wing talk radio, right wing publishing and right wing cable news dominate the media and that we have nothing like it on our side. This is why we shake our heads in wonder when David Brooks says there are more "nuts" on our side or that we insist upon "Stalinist" discipline. (Ask Bruce Bartlett about Stalinist discipline.)

Rush Limbaugh gets paid 25 million dollars a year to say things like this:

OK, folks, I think I got enough information here to tell you about the contents of this fax that I got. Brace yourselves. This fax contains information that I have just been told will appear in a newsletter to Morgan Stanley sales personnel this afternoon.... What it is is a bit of news which says...there's a Washington consulting firm that has scheduled the release of a report that will appear, it will be published, that claims that Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton, and the body was then taken to Fort Marcy Park.

This is, of course, the same Rush Limbaugh who interviews the Vice President on his show.

And while it is true that the producers of news programs may have internalized the "liberal" media meme and therefore book journalists who are required to be as objective as possible to spar with overt Republlican partisans, the greater problem is that the journalists themselves internalize the criticism and go out of their way to avoid being called liberal. This also explains journalists' somewhat overheated hostility to liberal bloggers: they have a target to prove to conservatives that they aren't liberals after all.

I actually think this is a good thing. We bloggers can take it. We're openly partisan and extremely aggressive. We aren't right wingers so we don't have their natural gift for organized top-down character assassination, but we have our own methods and we are learning. The mainstream media are, for the first time in memory, being pulled by both sides of the ideological spectrum. And maybe, just maybe, we might just save them in spite of themselves.

I have written before about this and made it clear that I do not wish to destroy the mainstream media. I do not believe that this country can do without a credible press. But after waiting in vain for more than a decade for the press to shake off its torpor and exert its perogatives as the fourth estate, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that our (and their) only hope was to join the fray and pull as hard as we can on the opposite end of the rope.

I see that the press does not know what to make of this. And I see that many Joementum Democrats don't get it either. They remain convinced that the country will wake up one day and see that our arguments are superior. They are wrong. This political era will be remembered for its brutal partisanship and sophisticated media manipulation in a 50/50 political environment. Democrats have been at a huge disadvantage because of the Republican message infrastructure and the strange servility of the mainstream press. So, we are pushing back with the one tough, aggressive partisan communication tool we have: the blogosphere.

The mainstream press is going to have to get used to us because we aren't going anywhere. I suspect they are actually somewhat relieved that somebody on our side has stepped up to take the slings and arrows of the vast right wing conspiracy and provide them with some cover. (No need to thank us. Just report the truth.)

Joementum Dems, on the other hand, need to recognize that we are in a partisan time and that requires a partisan strategy. We are going to hit them hard every time they repeat Republican talking points and otherwise enable the opposition to dominate the media discourse. There is no more room for bipartisan gestures that only benefit the GOP side of the equation. David Gergen said yesterday on This Weak that Republicans are much better at message than Democrats but they aren't so good at governing. Nobody knows this better than those of in the grassroots who have been forced to watch this trainwreck from the sidelines for more than a decade. It's why Bush is at 39% today and yet there is no guarantee that Democrats will win in the fall or any sense in the media that the Republican Party has failed. We cannot afford any more Democratic complicity with Republican memes and we are going to work against those who do it.

It's a new day. We angry denizens of the fever swamps have emerged from the slime to fight back. We couldn't wait any longer for the professionals to get the job done. At the rate they're going we'd be extinct within the decade.

They're scared of us. Let's make them shit their pants.

posted by Steve @ 2:01:00 AM

2:01:00 AM

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