Wednesday, August 13, 2003

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The immutable preferences of Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd has discovered the blogosphere, and now believes it to be passé:

The most telling sign that the Internet is no longer the cool American frontier? Blogs, which sprang up to sass the establishment, have been overrun by the establishment.

In a lame attempt to be hip, pols are posting soggy, foggy, bloggy musings on the Internet. Inspired by Howard Dean's success in fund-raising and mobilizing on the Web, candidates are crowding into the blogosphere — spewing out canned meanderings in a genre invented by unstructured exhibitionists.

For reactions, see Glenn Reynolds, Matthew Yglesias, Roger Simon, Chris Andersen, and Maria Farrell.

My take:

1) Dowd is completely right about the overall quality of politician/candidate blogs. And, as Josh Chafetz pointed out in his first Immutable Law on Maureen Dowd, this is precisely the sort of skewering that Dowd does best.

2) Implying that this means the Internet is "over" is like saying because of infomercials, TV is "over", or that because of campaign books, the autobiography genre is "over".

3) What's most significant about this essay is Dowd's revealed preferences about the world. What matters to her is not whether a phenomenon is important, but whether it's trendy. In the world of pop culture, this sort of distinction makes a kind of sense. In the world of politics or international relations, it doesn't.

posted by Dan on 08.13.03 at 11:32 AM


You have somehow managed to discern Dowd's preferences about the world from _that_ column? Somehow I doubt it.

I'd call it some serious overanalysis on your part. Be that as it may -- I am inclined to agree with her assessment of candidate's blogs. There isn't one worth reading. The Dean blog isn't really his blog -- it's a blog for the campaing itself, and on that topic is quite relevant.

What makes me laugh are typical candidate blog comments like this: "Met WONDERFUL person named BILL today. Bill is REAL person, living in a REAL TOWN. It's amazing what you discover when you are OUT AMONGST the people. I am going to FIGHT for Bill. You, my reader are like BILL TOO."

The uncut nature of a blog's thinking is what really personalizes it. The first candidate who reveals real feelings, weaknesses, or in any way gives us a view of the inside of his/her head is going to attract the attention of the blog world. It hasn't happened yet.

By the way I think Dowd's columns are, in general, not worth reading. She's more interested in clever juxtapositions than analysis.

posted by: Ross Judson on 08.13.03 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

Wow. I wrote about Dowd's column this morning and am only now browsing around the blogosphere. I think there's a massive amount of overreaction here.

Her comment that the Internet "is no longer the cool American frontier" is obviously just an offhand intro that gives her a chance to make fun of politicians writing blogs. That's the point of her column, not that blogs in general are bad or that the Internet is stupid.

And, as you say, she is absoutely right in her main point. I really think the blogosphere should cut her some slack on this.

posted by: Kevin Drum on 08.13.03 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

What's interesting here is that Maureen's columns are stylistically very blog-like. Rambling and incoherent with a smug assumption that the reader already agrees with her (even if the reader can never really be sure quite sure exactly what it is she's trying to say...)

Of course, when a real blogger posts 86 entries in a day one would expect a certain amount of incoherence. What's Maureen's excuse? She's only gotta churn out two of those a week.

NOTE: I'm not talking about this blog, Daniel...

posted by: uh_clem on 08.13.03 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

I agree that Dowd is seldom worth reading, for the reasons mentioned above, but I started wondering how her head works and came up with this "Unified Theory" of the Pulitzer Prize winner:
Briefly, she's an "alpha girl", obsessed with fashion, gossip, and control. This explains, by the way, even her occasional good column, like the one she did on Saudi fashion. After I finished a draft of piece, I had the pleasure of finding a column by Dowd in which she complains that the alpha girls are not running the country.

posted by: Jim Miller on 08.13.03 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

Celebrity gossip artist Dowd knows as much about "the internet" as Cher knows about Liberia.

Her inane little slap at the tech world tells a great deal about what the NYT's lightweight columnists and journos fear most: the eventual triumph of reader-centric news gathering and dispersion, as opposed to monopolization of same by arrogant, unreliable, shoddy print journalists. These people's fantasy world is captured in the comment by ex-Times reporter Elizabeth Kolbert in a recent New Yorker piece on the Times in which she asserts that the Times is so influential that, if something is not reported in the Times, it may as well not have happened."

These smug little fools can't grasp that there's more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of at the Grey Lady

posted by: tombo on 08.13.03 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

Dowd is a crack head who always manages to build a hateful theory on something she thinks is obvious to people who agree with her.
I have never read a less original commenter.

posted by: Joe on 08.13.03 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

When it comes to lame attempts to be hip, Maureen Dowd is indeed the authority. I believe it was Doctor Evil who once said, 'there is nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster'.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 08.13.03 at 11:32 AM [permalink]

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