Monday, January 22

It's all about us.

Doing the blog round up for Mike at Crooks and Liars, I found a big huge thread I otherwise would have completely missed.

It's all about the blogosphere, and are we worthy of the term "activist" as it was used in the 60's.

Yup, it's activist, alright.

In the midst of this "debate," the terms, Marx, Marcuse, hippie, academia, "The hard Left" (whatever the hell that is), and that old sawbone, "mostly brainless vacuum cleaner of donations for the Democratic Party" came up.

It's nice to see, though, that the demographics of the left wing blogosphere are what those of us who do it might expect, rather than how the wide dry paintbrush of David Broder and other MSM juicy farts would paint us.

According to Chris Bowers, most of us have advanced degrees (check), are an average age of around 45 (excuse me, I have exactly 540 more days before that landmark, thank you very much). We also have extensive activist experience (I shook Ted Kennedy's hand at 18 and haven't really washed under the nails since), and we've got an extremely high level of news consumption (Does reading a MyDD article about the left-wing blogosphere count? Just asking.) . Gee, if this description were any closer to home, I'd be Time's Person of the Year.


Clearly Murray Waas' "new" "blog" is the go-to addy for the hilarity that is Scooter Libby jury selection.

It's a rare day indeed when the funniest thing I KNOW I'm gonna hear all week is Nina Totenburg on NPR.


I'm in the digesting stage of launching a real career in freelance writing and I have a question for all of you as I prepare a query letter. (yes, Shunra, a real query letter.) Back to the navel gazing for a minute: What do you think the impact of SMALL blogs (not Kos, MyDD, C&L, or Eschaton. SMALL blogs.) is on the cultural conversation? (I know, Hillary is at the brink of ruining that "conversation" word for us for a decade. Still.) Think about it and leave a write-up in comments. And thanks.


  1. Anonymous1:35 PM

    I consider myself an activist.

    Being that I am a Unitarian, I am an activist by nature.

    But it means something totally different now than it does back in the 60s. There is no war, no common purpose forcing a group of people together. No fear that your brother, friend, brother's girlfriend (or closeted boyfriend) was going to get drafted.

    Add that to the fact that things are so niche-marketed these days. The baby boomers were more or less a homogeneous group of white, middle class kids.

    Look at the film Woodstock. How many black faces do you see in the crowd? Not many.

    I don't know if activism in a true '60s sense is possible anymore.

  2. Ever take a walk in a forest? What did you see? Diversity, towering oaks, fragil ferns, flowers, grass, insects, bear poop.

    If you view the internet as an organic living enity, then you will know there is a place for everyone

  3. I'd buy a gun from The Big Dick, being as how he was nice enough to test fire it and all.

  4. Anonymous5:50 PM

    Can I borrow from Kevin?

    "I consider myself an activist." Me, too. Moreso since I started blogging. My blogging informs my activism and vice-versa.

    "Being that I am a [Quaker], I am an activist by nature." Yup. It's in the job description. I just have to tone it down a little.

    "But it means something totally different now than it does back in the '60s. There is no war, no common purpose forcing a group of people together. No fear that your brother, friend, brother's girlfriend (or closeted boyfriend) was going to get drafted." Except that there IS a war, and not only is it turning a huge part of the rest of the world against us, making it so that forced conscription is a real possibility again, it is also being used as an excuse to gnaw away at our freedom in ways that Nixon could only wet-dream about.

    "Add that to the fact that things are so niche-marketed these days. The baby boomers were more or less a homogeneous group of white, middle class kids." That'd be me. Except now we have our own kids, and we fear for their future.

    "Look at the film Woodstock. How many black faces do you see in the crowd? Not many." Yes, and go to a circa 2007 anti-death penalty rally. Or an anti-war rally. Heck, go to almost any rally (with the exception of a labor cause). We on the Left have niched ourselves into little cliques that not only don't talk to each other, but we hold each other in contempt in many cases.

    It'd be nice to think that communicating via blogs could help that. But I bet it won't.

  5. Anonymous8:45 PM

    Blue Gal -

    First off, thanks for the lovely link on C&L!

    Secondly, activism takes many forms. I grew up here in the SF Bay Area, and the stuff that happened here then was locked in that time; it doesn't make the stuff that is happening now any less relevant, just different. Our tactics change as the situation changes. Would the dialog be different if the SLA or Weatherman's Underground became active again -- sure, but middle class folks would not want to get involved.

    Lastly - I think small blogs, thoughtful blogs, that have something of value to say, and that say it well indeed move the society forward. Small blogs are often feeders for large blogs, anywary; these things do not happen in a vacuum. A million people raising their virtual voices is as effective as any of the big boys, maybe more so. Giving the average person the soapbox to stand on and the ability to air one's opinion is the most powerful and democratizing thing about the web, and it is what scares big media and the political establishment the most. They can deal with Kos, but they cannot deal with everyone. Even China is losing that ability.



  6. Anonymous12:28 AM

    Hi Blue Gal,

    First, thanks for linking to Ave Cassandra last weekend. Highlight of this snowy January, I can tell you.

    Second, bless all unitarians.

    Your question is a good one about whether smaller blogs are affecting the conversation, are a force for change.

    I began blogging this Christmas in order to do just that, so I sure hope that someone's listening.

    As a longtime blog reader, I can say that less well-known blogs have affected my thinking — but only because the big guys linked to them. I'd usually bookmark those wonderful new discoveries. Within a couple months I'd have an unmanageable list of blogs. And I'd be in danger of losing my job. Too much research doesn't get many articles written. In fact, too much research didn't even make my articles measurably better. There's only so much truth you can get into a Catholic weekly. Truthiness is more what they're after.

    So I'd clear out my bookmarks, feng shui and helter-skelter, and find myself back with Josh Marshall, Crooks & Liars and a handful other others, usually the same others. The big guys. Why?

    I think it's for the same reason that I'd rather read the Nation than be restricted to just reading Katha Pollit, even if it was a personal correspondence with Pollit. Those big blogs seem to have actual staffs and multiple voices. And/or they're run by full-time bloggers, who have built up a stable of resources they can call for actual reportage.

    I think I've digressed into rationalizing why I'm not Kevin Drum.

    The big guys linking is key. We're like freelancers, freelancers who had better be doing it for love and to affect the conversation, because it sure isn't for money.

    But the reality is the same as if we were doing it for cash: We have to scramble to network, to keep on hitting new steep learning curves, AND keep practicing writing persuasively, AND make a living at the same time. Oh. And try to be good wives, parents, daughters and sisters — or husbands, parents, sons and brothers.

    That with the understanding that we're never going to win in what is an endless struggle against wealth and power in favor of the common good. All we can hope for are successful battles.

    It's pretty heroic, when you think about it — to keep fighting the good fight, knowing that it's endless and perhaps hopeless.

    How very Irish. As Pat Moynihan said, there's no point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.

  7. I've been a full-time activist since 1990, when I moved to DC to work for NOW. I currently work for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and I look forward to going to work every single day -- because I know the work we do is making a difference. That said, anyone who thinks we are going to solve all the worlds problems in our lifetime is fooling themselves. I learned a long time ago that the best we can hope for is to leave the world a little better than we found it.

    I think small and medium sized blogs do make a difference. And as was mentioned earlier, they worry the corporate world enough that AT&T and others are trying to shut them -- us -- up.

    My little blog, yikes!, has maybe five or six loyal readers. I don't know how much influence it has, but it's a way for me to continue my daytime activism on into the night.

    Blue Gal you are one of the best writers around, and it would be a crime for someone not to sign you on as at least a freelance writer. I don't know who you are talking to, but I'd be more than happy to recommend you to the women at Ms magazine. And there are other women's groups that could benefit from your writing style. I'm all about networking, so please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.


    ps: Tengrain, I'll be in SF next month for a couple of days. We should have coffee.


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