Wednesday, May 4, 2005

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (1)

An exemplar case of blog influence?

One of the problems in studying the political influence of blogs is trying to tease out the precise causal mechanism. How is it possible to show that without the blogosphere, a political event would have ended differently? This problem is compounded by the fact that blogs often will be writing about a newsbreaking event as it happens. Researchers can conflate activity with influence -- i.e., because people are blogging about something, they must have affected the outcom (compare and contrast Ed Morrissey's take on the Eason Jordan scandal versus my own take).

However, I think NRO's Byron York has come up with an exemplar example of the influence of Daily Kos -- with regard to the John Bolton confirmation:

When Melody Townsel, the Texas woman who claims that U.N.-ambassador nominee John Bolton chased her through a Moscow hotel, throwing things at her and "behaving like a madman," first tried to tell her story to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the committee showed no interest. It was only after she turned to the influential far-Left website DailyKos that Democrats on the committee realized Townsel might be a powerful weapon in their campaign to defeat the Bolton nomination.

Read the whole thing (thanks to alert reader R.H. for the link).

posted by Dan on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM


How is it possible to show that without the blogosphere, a political event would have ended differently?

I would think the most obvious case would be currently happening in Canada, given the Gomery investigation, and the work that "Captian Ed" Moressy is doing with it.

posted by: bithead on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

These Republicans. Always whining about something or other.

posted by: praktike on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

The credibility of the source is a bit undermined by the appellation "far-Left" for Kos. I think the Bolton case is more revealing of the insular world that Hill Republicans had created for themselves. Rich Lowry was confidently assuring everyone on the morning of Bolton's would-be confirmation that he'd sail through, not least because of the entirely self-confirming world that the National Review lives in. But Sen. Voinovich, maybe late on actually reading about Bolton's problems, but reading them nonetheless, decided to go all reality-based on his ass.

posted by: P O'Neill on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

I would say 'far-Left' as well as 'far' a number of other things, accurately describes Kos and his loyal army of democratic warriors.

posted by: Epitome on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

The first real impact of blogs on political events that I recall was the Trent Lott affair, which was a non-event until it was pushed by bloggers on the left (Sidney Blumenthal et al.). I think it fair to say that Lott would still be Majority Leader if the blogs hadn't been relentless in attacking him and getting the MSM to join in the attack.

A few blogs (along with Drudge) were influential when Clinton became ensnared in the Monica mess, but I don't think that Clinton's troubles would have been much different in either the way it took off or the way it ended if there had been no blogs.

Three more recent examples: the rise of Howard Dean and his impact on the Dem primary race in pulling it far to the left; the Swift Vets and their impact in deflating the Kerry campaign's signature claims of Kerry's supposedly battle-hardened toughness; and Rathergate and its dramatic exposure of the MSM's tilt in favor of Kerry and against Bush. None of those would have played out the same -- indeed, none would probably even have come to much attention at all -- but for the influence of blogs.

All of this just proves once again that knowledge is power, and control over the flow of information is key in exercising power. The ability to disseminate information directly to general or targeted audiences necessarily confers power on blogs (provided they are read) to influence people. Given the minimal costs in setting up a blog, and the potential to reach a vast audience, the simple fact is that it would be astonishing if blogs didn't have a major and increasing impact.

Will this change as the number of blogs increases expontentially, with the possibility that newer voices cannot be heard (or even found) in all the din? Don't know, but plan to stay tuned over the next few years to find out.

posted by: Richard on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

On a small and hubristic note, I posted about Arnold's recent pro-Minuteman Project remarks immediately after he said it on the radio.

I'd like to think that my post - which got out there in the ether - helped prevent the MSM from lying about his remarks as much as they would have otherwise.

For those who are interested, I have a roundup of MSM coverage of Arnold's radio appearance here, including a link to the transcript. AFAIK not a single one of the MSM sources reprinted Arnold's happy happy "can't we all get along" remarks. But, I think it could have been worse.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Kos has done an outstanding job of marshalling individuals and keeping the Democratic grassroots motivated. Whether his blog is "far-left" or not is a matter of some debate..but his influence is not.

posted by: carla on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

For another example of the power of the Daily Kos - one of their diarists, SusanG, hit upon the notion that James Guckert (aka Jeff Gannon) was involved with the Valerie Plame leak.

A small-time Buffalo newspaper exhorted their Congressional Rep to call for an investigation, and added the Plame connection after being contacted by The Kos Crew.

Congressperson Slaughter (does that rhyme with "laughter"?) fell for the link, as did The NY Times.

The WaPo debunked it (with help).

My point - the Kos people can make news, even when they are making it up.

posted by: Tom Maguire on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

I see your dKos, and raise you a Powerline ("The Schiavo talking points are a Democratic trick"), Tom.

posted by: SomeCallMeTim on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Carla is correct.

Kos is extremely influential. Oh Yes.

That's why President Kerry decided to nominate
John Bolton for the UN post. And he will
definitely be confirmed by the huge Democrat
majority in the U.S. Senate.

"What part of WRONG don't you understand?"

posted by: Ted on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

As a Democrat I admire the vigor of the Kossacks, they are true warriors and they have immense organizing and campaigning potential; I just shudder whenever any of them wax on actual policy.

I don't think Powerline is as idealogically extreme as Kos but I don't hold it in very high regard.

posted by: Epitome on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

OK, good point about Powerline and the Schiavo memo, and I recall a number of the commentariat did pick up on that.

posted by: Tom Maguire on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Byron York has a book to sell. The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. A book whose blurb reveals a lack of understanding or just plain sloppiness: "The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President--and Why They'll Try Even Harder Next Time"

That next time in which Bush won't be a candidate, due to that obscure 2 term limit.

So of course he'd love to pin the Bolton mess on Kos. But as that noted member of the VLC, the Wall Street Journal, pointed out on Wednesday: "Almost all of the current and former government officials making serious allegations against [Bolton] are fellow Republican appointees, many of whom describe themselves as staunch conservatives and strong supporters of President Bush."

posted by: P O'Neill on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Time to stop thinking of blogs as a single species of animal. Different types of blogs are doing different things. There are different ways to influence a system. Some blogs hone arguments. Some blogs provide research and evidence. Some blogs raise money. Some blogs organize. Some blogs incite. Some blogs do more than one of the above. We're only seeing the beginning of what blogs will mean to political discourse. The question is whether blogs are doing anything really new, or just old things in a different, more powerful way.

Blogs are salons for discussion and refining of political and policy ideas. Blogs are like churches and community groups, where the faithful are inspired and rallied. Blogs can be like political consultants where trial balloons are floated and strategies tested. Blogs can be like coffee shops where candidates will drop by to glad hand and flash a partisan smile. Which campaigns will be smart enough to seed certain popular blogs with coordinated trolls? And what happens when the internet jumps from desktop to appliance? It's all going to be quite fascinating.

posted by: hyh on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Blogs will be influential for as long as people that can steer the mainstream media continue to read them.

Many congressional staffers read sites like Daily Kos. They read John Avarosis's America's Blog. They read Raw Story.

Bloggers have allowed themselves to be led by a leash.

Daily Kos isn't just some blog either. Members of the US Legislature have diaries on Daily Kos. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that other diaries are just authored by congressional staffers.

You can leak one snippet of information and the bounty hunters depart on their mission.

posted by: Brennan Stout on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

The Daily Kos is unrelentingly partisan but it's no more far-left than the NRO blog is far-right. That kind of hyperbole undermines the credibility of the writer.

Having said that I don't read it that often. It's very effective at partisan warfare but there isn't that much good commentary on it. I prefer Drum and Yglesias to get thoughtful posts from a liberal perspective and Tyler Cowen and this blog for a libertarian perspective. However I have yet to find good conservative blogs of comparable quality. Most of them seem to focus on Kos-style partisan sniping instead of policy analysis. If anyone has counter-examples I would like to check them out.

posted by: Strategist on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

The problem with Kos is the time it takes to separate the chaff from the wheat. I'd say Steve Clemon's

is more influential and trustworthy at this point regarding the Bolton nomination.

posted by: werner on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Dan, I'm really surprised that you would take York seriously. Or just about anything from NR these days.

As someone noted above, York is a hack flogging a book. NR long ago perfected the right-wing paranoid rhetorical style of discrediting arguments by linking them to "far left" sources. In the early ’60s, Birchers thought they'd thoroughly discredited the civil rights movement by noting that Dr. King had friends who had once held CP USA cards. At the time, racist terrorists were blowing up churches to keep African-Americans from registering to vote.

Werner's on the case. The go-to blog on Bolton is, where Clemons does real reporting from a rolodex that includes real SFRC staffers. No surprise York wouldn't want to mention him.

Here is Clemons' bio. That stint at the Nixon Center is the mark of a real left-winger.

He is currently Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, where he was previously Executive Vice President. Clemons currently co-directs the New America Foundation's American Strategy Program with well-known foreign policy thinkers Sherle Schwenninger and Michael Lind.

Clemons specializes in U.S. foreign policy matters, with significant experience both in Asia-Pacific and transatlantic policy matters, as well as broad international economic and security affairs. Prior to his current position, Steve Clemons served as Executive Vice President of the Economic Strategy Institute. He has also served as Senior Policy Advisor on Economic and International Affairs to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and was the first Executive Director of the Nixon Center and established it in Washington, D.C. Prior to moving to Washington, Clemons served for seven years as Executive Director of the Japan America Society of Southern California and co-founded with Chalmers Johnson the Japan Policy Research Institute, of which he is still Director.

Steve Clemons is a Member of the Board of the Clarke International Policy Center at Dickinson College, a liberal arts college in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and founded in 1783. He also writes frequently on matters of foreign policy, defense, and international economic policy. His work has appeared in most of the major leading op-ed pages, journal, and magazines around the world.

posted by: ozoid on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Rathergate is the classic example of blogs making a difference. Without blogs exposing the fraud, the allegations with a big push from the Kerry campaing would have been enough to turn the election away from Bush.

posted by: Bill Baar on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Baar is a perfect example of blog hype. Fraud was never proven. The CBS report on the documents only concluded that the 60 M team hadn't sufficiently validated the docs. Those who know where those papers came from aren't talking, at least publicly, and the committee appointed by CBS to investigate the matter weren't empowered to answer that question, only to discover why CBS went on-air with uncertain info.

No difference at all if you're Drudge (Kerry's fictional affair); big difference if you're a news operation with rigorous standards.

The Powerline boys thought they had the same story with the Schiavo talking points memo. In that case, the investigation into the doc's provenance did continue and the source was discovered: Sen. Martinez's office.

The electorate already "knew" Bush's military record was spotty and voted for him nonetheless in 2000. I doubt any new information from that era could have hurt Bush. Kerry never thought through the "Band of Brothers" theme and never addressed his conversion from war hero to anti-war leader. The Bush campaign stepped into the vacuum and labeled him a flip-flopper.

Kerry's campaign was so bad it actually helped Bush's approval rating. Since the election -- without Kerry to run against -- Bush's approvals have plummeted. And the Social Security tour shows his approvals fall faster as he campaigns more intensely.

posted by: ozoid on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

ozoid must be from the reality based community. Although, I suspect idiocy isn't a disqualifying factor for admission to the reality based community.

The memos used by CBS were fake. There's no public acknowledgement because nobody can prove they're authentic. But lets pretend the fourth estate will use any information they can as long as nobody can prove their information is fraudulent.

posted by: Brennan Stout on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

SomeCallMeTim proffers a Powerline quote: "The Schiavo talking points are a Democratic trick," and Tom Maguire says "good point".

Does anybody have a source for that quote? I don't recall anybody at Powerline saying that.

All I remember from those pre-Brian-Darling-fess-up days is John Hinderaker saying { archives/009940.php#009940):

"Why would anyone mix political strategy points--the ones the Democrats want to talk about--with talking points for Senatorial argument? A competent staffer preparing a talking points memo wouldn't do that, but a Democratic dirty trickster would."

That's called conjecture, not conclusion. Its what people do, looking at partial evidence.

Hinderaker presumed that no competent Republican staffer would write such a memo. (As it turns out, *competence* was a key issue, of course. Maybe Powerline crossed a line elsewhere, but this seems to be a reasonably-worded, if jaundiced, inference.)

posted by: old maltese on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Stout--Right you are, I'm from the reality-based community, where some documents are fake (like some versions of Martha Stewart's Imclone trades), some are authentic (Mel Martinez's staff's Schiavo memo) and others, like the 60M documents, are undetermined. I learned this in jr. high school. Maybe you were sick then. If you post to LGF I suspect you missed a lot of school.

The document investigation was led by a former AG who is personally and professionally close to GWB's father. He didn't conclude the documents were fake, only that their provenance wasn't up to CBS's standards, though Drudge would certainly run with them if they served his purpose. Your silly LGF animation proves nothing.

Maybe this example will help: I suspect GWB spent the time in question drunk and high on coke, but I can't prove it and I know the difference.

I'm pleased to see your sarcastic reference to reality. Eventually, reality will bite you and this administration in the ass and the neo-fascist wing of the Republican party will soon fade back into irrelevance. Reality-based grown-ups will once again run the Republican party and the ghost of Barry Goldwater, who thought the Reagan administration was salted with irresponsible crazies, will smile upon the land.

posted by: ozoid on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

I’d say that both NRO & Kos are more concerned with ideology than anything else. Very rarely have blogs changed anyone’s mind. They can help to rally the faithful, and Kos did a lot of that for the Dean campaign, but was blind to the fact that his campaign missed 98% of average Americans. Tony Blair sexed up British Intelligence reports to justify a bogus war. The BBC brought out the story, couldn’t prove it, and were really hammered by the British government. Heads rolled. It’s very clear from public documents now that the BBC was right. George Bush and to a lesser extent Bolton sexed up intelligence to intervene in Iraq. Few non-blogging Americans care. We have a long tradition of that. Edward Lansdale twisted intelligence to tell the Eisenhower administration that it was a good idea to encourage Ngo Dinh Diem to abolish the monarchy, declare himself President of South Vietnam and block the Geneva agreements and the planned election over the fate of South Vietnam in 1955. His moves, plus some dumb stunts later by LBJ, who couldn’t bear to appear weak, gave us the Vietnam war and tremendous slaughter. John Kerry couldn‘t bear to seem weak either. Wonder how long we’ll be in the Middle East?

posted by: anciano on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Old Maltese - Here's a post linking to eight different times Powerline either said or suggested the Schiavo talking points were fake.

posted by: washerdreyer on 05.04.05 at 03:11 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?