Tuesday, September 7, 2004

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Another comparative advantage of the blogosphere?

I've been remiss in not congratulating Kevin Drum for his first book review for the New York Times. He deftly critiques Arthus Schlesinger Jr.'s War and the American Presidency -- even though Kevin is undoubtedly sympathetic to Schlesinger's argument. Go give it a read.

As I was reading it, it occurred to me that Drum's review was probably enhanced by his blogger origins. Why? Because Kevin, unlike many other possible reviewers, was probably not concerned with ingratiating himself with Schlesinger. Which is why bloggers might be the best critics of them all. Bloggers, as the gatecrashers of the commetariat, are less constrained by personal or professional ties from providing honest appraisals. This is not to accuse non-bloggers of acting in an opportunistic fashion -- rather, it's simply more difficult, even at a subconscious level, to speak truth to power when you know what you'll say will hurt someone's feelings.

[So why does the post title have a question mark?--ed. Because some bloggers are not exactly gatecrashers. Read this Josh Marshall post, for example, and imagine him writing the same review Kevin Drum wrote about Schlesinger's book. But you liked that anecdote!--ed. True, but my current point is that the more bloggers are emeshed within the mediasphere -- myself included -- the more we face the same set of implicit personal and professional constraints that others "inside the tent" currently face.]

posted by Dan on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM


Exactly who is Drezner's editor for this blog? I can imagine Kaus' editor is an actual editor for Slate. But isn't this a personal Blog? Is this editor Drezner's Tyler Durden?

posted by: Clark Goble on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM [permalink]

He edits himself - or at least makes imaginary interpolations as if he did. He caught this from Instapundit. His blood cuteness level needs to be reduced by 23% to bring the symptoms into remission.

posted by: David Weisman on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM [permalink]

Still smarting from your little kerfuffle with Jagdish Bhagwati, I see.

BTW, I read the book and thought it was ... thin. I was expecting better arguments, because I know they're out there.

posted by: praktike on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM [permalink]

Which is why bloggers might be the best critics of them all. Bloggers, as the gatecrashers of the commetariat, are less constrained by personal or professional ties from providing honest appraisals.

That's not entirely accurate. Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds and Kevin "Records" Drum have their FU traffic and they mainly need to please their viewers to keep it. However, bloggers lower on the feed chain need to suck up to those and similar bloggers to get traffic. And, some of those bloggers suck up to outside organizations like the mainstream media, the DNC, or the RNC. I've known some gatecrashers, and most bloggers just don't have it. In other words, they're little midget cogs in the machine.

At either convention, was a question asked of any of the politicians or delegates that could be considered even slightly embarassing or newsworthy? Some of that is due to their inexperience and their partisanship, but some of it is probably also due to the fact that they felt it wouldn't look good if they actually acted as an adversarial press or public.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM [permalink]

Honest appraisals or unaccountable criticism? It's ironic to see an elite embrace intellectual populism - power to the people!

posted by: Michael Weiksner on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM [permalink]

TLWB makes an interesting point. You can be adversarial and make your peers uncomfortable but the partisans happy; you can be adversarial to everyone and make everyone mad at you; or you can be just like everyone else.

Or, you can be Dan Drezner.

There is another thing about interviews and press conferences. Most politicians, following the lead of our War President, hate them. They are terrified of going off-message or seeming like they are not in control. The flip side of that is that they can be a very useful way to get a message out. I would have thought that a sympathetic blogger like Josh Marshall would be just the guy John Kerry would want to have interview him; he could say what he wanted to say in a forum read by lots of people who would talk about (and link to) it, without having that "walking bullseye" feeling Kerry seems to get in public interviews.

It may be that at this point the blogosphere has not quite arrived at the point where politicians think it can be used for something other than raising money or organizing volunteers. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before it does.

posted by: Zathras on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM [permalink]


"Midget cogs in the machine"...don't know why, but this caused me to laugh, almost spilling my drink.

Had this image of the seven dwarfs, and all their cousins using bullhorns to yell at the "big people" in the newsroom booths.

Sue me, my sense of humor can be strange...

posted by: JC on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM [permalink]

Remarkably balanced review. I expected worse from reading Kevin's blog.

posted by: chuck on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM [permalink]

Actually, Dan, Marshall has a Ph.D. in history--so his position with regard to Schlesinger might be something more like yours in relation to, say, Gilpin or Rogowski. It's the academic sphere, not the journalism sphere, that's relevant here.

posted by: woburndave on 09.07.04 at 10:31 PM [permalink]

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