The conference calls are a way to share information and add time to my work day.;) But they don't force a direction. If you disagree. you disagree. No one is excommunicated for contrary opinions, but they have to defend them.
At 1:27 a.m. yesterday, the Guerilla Women of Tennessee weighed in on President Bush's Supreme Court nominee.
"John Roberts: Married to Anti-Choice Org VP," the group's Web site blared. Another site, A Liberal Dose, asked: "Why does John G. Roberts Hate Our Soldiers?"
And Feministing.com made no attempt at subtlety: "Why John Roberts Sucks."
The lightning-quick attacks came after 50 top liberal bloggers held a 45-minute conference call Tuesday night. "On the left, we've always talked about the need to have an echo chamber," says John Aravosis, a Washington lawyer and gay rights activist who writes at Americablog.com. "We believe the right has a whole media network, from talk radio to Fox News to Matt Drudge. The left doesn't have that because the left doesn't play well with others."
This is the first Supreme Court nomination of the Internet age, meaning that liberal and conservative opinion-mongers are already blanketing cyberspace with arguments, facts, taunts, polemics, gossip and electronic links to raw data, hoping to rally the faithful and influence the mainstream media coverage.
The conference call was arranged by BlogPAC, a political action committee that got some of its members on the phone with Sen. Ted Kennedy on the day that Sandra Day O'Connor announced she was leaving the court. The group has also held calls with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and the liberal organizations involved in the nomination battle, including MoveOn, Alliance for Justice, NARAL and People for the American Way.
Kennedy "reached out to them directly to convey the impact that this decision will have on hundreds of millions of Americans, whose last line of defense for their freedoms and liberties is the Supreme Court," says Laura Capps, the senator's spokeswoman.
Such coordination seems to defy the image of bloggers as iconoclastic lone rangers, pounding the keyboards in their bedrooms and basements without regard to interest-group politics. Bloggers, after all, come from all walks of life, building a following on the strength of their words and ability to draw attention from other Web diarists. They have also proven to be a formidable fundraising force, raising $80,000 on Tuesday for a Democratic candidate in a special House election in Ohio.
One strength of the blogosphere -- its real-time ability to vacuum up thousands of facts -- has been on display with the Roberts nomination. SwingStateProject.com posted excerpts of a 1997 court ruling in which Roberts, representing a pork producer in a clean water case, was accused of making a misleading argument, according to the Web site. The Liberal Dose site (which featured a doctored photo of Roberts making an obscene gesture) pointed to a 2004 ruling joined by Judge Roberts that threw out an award of nearly $1 billion to 17 Americans who said they were abused while imprisoned in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.
Aravosis, who helped expose the X-rated past of conservative White House reporter Jeff Gannon, wasted little time. He wrote Tuesday night that Roberts "sounds like a partisan hack" and posted statements from Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the Human Rights Campaign and People for the American Way.
But Aravosis sees no prospect of his blogging colleagues sticking to a set of talking points. "It's like herding cats," he says. "You can get 40 cats in a room, but you can't herd them."