Same as the Old Bosses

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Just finishing the thought from the freshly minted Mother Jones article, "Meet the New Bosses." Subtitle: "After crashing the gate of the political establishment, bloggers are looking more like the next gatekeepers." Bingo!

Last June, Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, former soldier, one-time Reagan Republican, and proprietor of the wildly successful liberal blog Daily Kos, sent an email to an invitation-only listserv known as Townhouse. Consisting of some 300 liberal bloggers, journalists, activists, and consultants, the list was an outgrowth of weekly strategy sessions held at a D.C. bar—a forum for brainstorming on issues and tactics, and a means of creating a "unified message," as Moulitsas later put it. Its members were bound by one main rule: Nothing from the list was to be quoted or distributed, which, this being politics, meant that a leak was bound to happen.

In the message that would end up putting Townhouse, briefly, on the outside world's radar, Moulitsas asked list members to "ignore" a blog item by the New York Times' Chris Suellentrop that revealed that Jerome Armstrong—founder of the popular liberal blog MyDD and a close friend and business associate of Moulitsas—had once been implicated in a stock-touting scheme. Suellentrop noted parallels between stock-hyping and bloggers' touting of candidates such as Howard Dean, who had hired both Armstrong and Moulitsas as consultants during his 2004 presidential campaign. Moulitsas, who had recently coauthored the book Crashing the Gate with Armstrong, told Townhouse members that these revelations were "a nonstory." "So far," he wrote, "this story isn't making the jump to the traditional media, and we shouldn't do anything to help make that happen." He urged participants to "starve it of oxygen."

When The New Republic's Jason Zengerle blogged about the Townhouse email, "The Kos" urged readers to cancel their subscriptions, writing, "It is now beyond clear that the dying New Republic is mortally wounded and cornered, desperate for relevance. It has lost half its circulation since the blogs arrived on the scene and they no longer (thank heavens!) have a monopoly on progressive punditry. We have hit their bottom line, we are hitting their patron saint hard (Joe Lieberman) and this is how they respond. By going after the entire movement." Many of Moulitsas' followers—Kossacks, they call themselves—then filled Zengerle's inbox with all manner of invective.

The irony is this: Moulitsas' reaction echoes the very control-the-message philosophy the blogosphere once rose up to fight... [emphasis mine]

Lots more good stuff in the Mother Jones piece, including some sparkling insight from my girl Maryscott O'Connor of My Left Wing. (Full disclosure: I am a front-page writer and editor for that site. I wouldn't want to be accused of undisclosed bias. That would surely be ironic, no?)

O'Connor speaks like she writes, in stream-of-consciousness bursts, and she told me she had begun to feel there was a "schism" in the blogosphere. "I think that certain bloggers, the big ones, think politics is sexy," she said. "They want in, and they're getting in. They'll do anything to get in, almost. They want a seat at the table. They want to be in the inner circle of the Democratic Party." A member of Townhouse, she was at first reluctant to talk about the list but changed her mind midway through our conversation, predicting that her comments would get her banished. "It's fucking Skull and Bones, man," she said. "The very secretive, behind-closed-doors nature of it is anathema to everything that blogging is supposed to be about: accountability. We are supposed to be showing the way, not skulking around behind closed doors, coming up with strategies. Those are the people who we're trying to fight. I know about 'the real world' and all that shit. But we're the idealists, aren't we?"

The article concludes with a list of quotes about the blogosphere. This one cracked me up:

micah sifry
It's true that Josh Marshall and Markos Moulitsas are very influential, but they are constantly held accountable by their audience. If Markos makes a mistake, right there in the blog comments people are bashing him. He can't stray that far from accountability, the way that editors of the old gatekeeping institutions—whether it was the New York Times or The Nation—were inherently insulated. It's no coincidence that you see a flowering of new voices and people earning their status on merit rather than going to the right college.

It would appear that Mr. Sifry is oblivious to just how many kossacks have been banished to cyberia.

I would probably have much more to say on this insightful bit of journalism, if I hadn't been saying it, and saying it, and saying it, until I'm tired of fucking saying it.


Anonymous said...

So I guess Digby just outed himself as a woman. Who knew?

Let's hope he doesn't get a big head over it.

David Byron

Anonymous said...

Wow. What happened to the usual reply within 10 minutes thing? :)

Obviously waaay to busy over at MLW now.


Curmudgette said...

No David. As I explained in my earlier post, I'm waiting for a new power cord. My husband and I are down to one computer, right now. Besides, I really had nothing to add to your comment. Digby is a woman. See, I think I knew that. I don't remember how I knew, but I could swear I did. I also don't care overly much. I don't get why it's a big deal. Gotta run.