Sunday, September 26, 2004

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The New York Times Magazine discovers that bloggers are geeks

The teaser for Matthew Klam's cover story on political bloggers:

The bloggers covering the presidential race are maverick, funny, mostly partisan and always hypercaffeinated. Are they ruining political journalism or recharging it?

That's a great question, but Klam doesn't answer it in the article -- in fact, I'm not even sure he addresses it.

Instead, Klam has written a piece on how, regardless of ideology, topic of interest, or writing style, all bloggers share a common trait -- they're geeks. [Surely not Wonkette?--ed. Click here for her dirty little secret (link via Mark Blumenthal).] By geek, I mean that they have an unusually strong appetite for information that the rest of humanity might find.... a tad dry. Geeks are also acutely conscious of the pre-existing social hierarchy, and have a strong sense of unease about their place in that hierarchy.

Klm's essay is essentially a profile of Josh Marshall, Ana Marie Cox, and Markos Moulitsas -- all of whom are successful bloggers, and all of whom aspire to be more than successful bloggers.

So, while I learned little that would be useful for my research on blogs and politics, I did pick up the following tidbits of information:

1) The Pandagon bloggers get chicks -- a fact that they're Jesse Taylor is chivalrously mute about it in their his own blogging of the article (Ezra Klein, on the other hand, surrendered to his inner Fonzie). This is from Klam's opening:

The Tank was just one small room, with theater lights on the ceiling and picture windows that looked out on the parking garage across 42nd Street. Free raw carrots and radishes sat in a cardboard box on a table by the door, alongside a pile of glazed doughnuts and all the coffee you could drink. The place was crowded. Everyone was sitting, staring at their laptops, at bridge tables or completely sacked out on couches. Markos Moulitsas, who runs the blog Daily Kos, at, was slouched in the corner of one squashed-down couch in shorts and a T-shirt, his computer on his lap, one of the keys snapped off his keyboard. He's a small guy with short brown hair who could pass for 15. Duncan Black of the blog Eschaton, who goes by the name Atrios, sat at the other end of the couch, staring out the window. On the table set up behind them, Jerome Armstrong of MyDD worked sweatily. Jesse and Ezra, whose blog is called Pandagon, were lying with two cute women in tank tops -- Ezra's girlfriend Kate and Zoe of Gadflyer -- on futon beds that had been placed on the tiny stage of the performance space. Their computers and wireless mice and some carrots and radishes and paper plates with Chinese dumplings were scattered between them. A month ago, at the Democratic convention, Zoe had accidentally spilled a big cup of 7-Up on Jesse's computer, killing it. She and Jesse now looked as if they might be dating.

Congratulations to Jesse and Ezra for emerging from this story with a semblence of their dignity intact.

2) Ana Marie Cox looks good drinking a martini, is overly infatuated with MTV, and doesn't get paid a whole hell of a lot to be Wonkette.

3) Somewhere in the back parts of his closet, Joshua Micah Marshall has a set of Vulcan ears and a Klingon dictionary:

In Boston, the day before the convention started and after a long, glittering night following the Wonkette to fancy parties, I came back late and found Josh Marshall in my hotel room, lying sideways on a cot, blogging. He was drinking a Diet Coke, his face illuminated by the glow of his laptop, legs crossed, socked feet hanging off the edge. Earlier in the day, when he mentioned that his hotel reservation didn't start until Monday, I had offered to share my room with him for the night....

In my room in Boston, he had a little hotel ice bucket by his side with two more Diet Cokes in it, and he finished them off before bedtime. It was late, and I was tired and he was disoriented, trying to blog under such circumstances, but before we turned off the lights he wanted to show me his Talking Points Memo ID, which resembled a press badge. He wondered if I thought it looked real. The credentials we would all be receiving the next day didn't require any press badge, but staff reporters of actual news organizations always seem to have separate institutional ID's, thick plastic magnetized deals that can open locked doors. Working off the model of a friend's ID, Marshall had, using his girlfriend's computer and photo printer, made a sober little knockoff, including his picture (in coat and tie), an expiration date and an explanation of company policy: should the company's only employee be terminated, the badge would become the property of Talking Points Memo. He laminated it at Kinko's. He had also brought his own lanyard (each media empire has its own necklace strings) and his own little plastic badge holder. I told him it looked completely legit.

Your humble blogger is very glad that he's sufficiently below the radar that Klam found it unnecessary to profile him. I susect this is how Klam's first psragraph would have gone:

Daniel Drezner typed furiously on his Dell laptop -- a particularly impressive feat given that Drezner uses only two fingers to type. With his right foot, he slowly rocked a car seat containing his youngest child, Lauren, only a few weeks old and currently dozing off. With all the successes Drezner has reaped from his blogging, I sense he had hoped he'd be exempted from some child care duties during this election season. This unspoken argument has had no effect on his wife Erika, who was taking a much-needed nap. Success in blogging seems to have had little effect on Drezner's domestic responsibilities.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds collects blogosphere responses. I'm particularly amused that both the left and the right halves of the blogosphere are pissed off about Klam's essay.

I have to think that Klam must be ticked off at the Times headline writers -- they badly mischaracterized the tenor of Klam's essay, which is far more anthropological than political in nature.

posted by Dan on 09.26.04 at 12:29 PM


Now I am frightened. You are spinning out all the word product by using only two fingers? Don't those fingers ache just a little bit? You haven't busted a key on that Dell? (Maybe the W key, from pounding it in frustration each time you post on Iraq?)

Professor! Do yourself a favor! Take a typing class!

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 09.26.04 at 12:29 PM [permalink]

bloggers covering the presidential race

Not only did he not answer the question he posed, he also didn't write about the "bloggers covering the presidential race." Instead, he focused on a group of left-wing bloggers, including the loonosphere of DailyKos and Duncan B. Black.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 09.26.04 at 12:29 PM [permalink]

It turns out it's really all about Matthew Klam himself -- a lefty gossip columnist who fancies himself a "journalist" -- starstruck at having managed to tag along with the blogosphere's golden girl -- "Ana Marie Cox has peachy cream skin and eyes of a very bright blue, strawberry blond hair and a filthy mind; she likes to analyze our nation's leaders in their most private, ah, parts" -- to the most glamorous parties surrounding the political conventions this summer:

Let them eat raw carrots and radishes

posted by: Sissy Willis on 09.26.04 at 12:29 PM [permalink]

The right side of the Blogosphere that broke the story are a little miffed that art only included comments from the left.

mments by blogger Charles Johnson of

He was interviewed for over 45 mins and nothing he had to say was included. LGF was one of the sites that shredded the docs as forgeries with conclusive proof that these docs were forgeries. The MSM is still saying "questioned docs et al." Go figure.

Ron wright

posted by: Ron Wright on 09.26.04 at 12:29 PM [permalink]

Josh Marshall didn't sound like a Vulcan or Klingon in the Times article. He sounded like McGyver.

I was disappointed that the piece petered out with the declaration that these bloggers want to be heard. Is that all, really? It sounded to me as if what they wanted was to make a living, have a good time, not be edited, and be heard, in roughly that order. I'm not saying that's wrong. I'm just saying.

posted by: Zathras on 09.26.04 at 12:29 PM [permalink]

Hey, isn't it about time again for a guest post/essay by Erika?

posted by: C. Smith on 09.26.04 at 12:29 PM [permalink]

Re Sissy's remark, it's worth pointing out that Matthew Klam is not primarily a journalist -- he's a fiction writer, whose collection _Sam the Cat_ is the decade's best book of stories so far.

posted by: J. Ellenberg on 09.26.04 at 12:29 PM [permalink]

I'm not sure your comment about both halves of the blogosphere being pissed off is accurate. Ezra Klein clearly was quite pleased at being portrayed as a chick magnet. And while the one diarist at Daily Kos that you mentioned was pissed, the post on the main page of Daily Kos wasn't at all negative --

posted by: Frederick on 09.26.04 at 12:29 PM [permalink]

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