Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Caveat Blogger [UPDATED]

As often happens in blogworld, one of the hot topics among bloggers is other bloggers.

In case you haven’t heard at all, the Edwards campaign hired two bloggers – one from Pandagon and one the Pseudonym-sake of Shakespeare’s Sister – to do essentially netroots outreach. Since then, a conservative blogger/activist has called out the bloggers for “profanity” and “anti-Catholic bias.”

I’ll not run down the charges to decide if they are legit – Glenn Greenwald does a good job of that. I do agree with him that the NYT coverage of the controversy is a bit one sided – nothing in the story acknowledges that John McCain's blogger/consultant is guilty of some pretty ugly blogging himself. And I can't help but wonder if the NYT's editorial decisions were at least influenced by the Grey Lady's blogger getting schooled by the netroots.

All that aside, I do think this brings up issues worth considering.

First off, campaign hires are part of the blog ecosystem. While it’s not likely true at this point that people start blogging as a stepping stone to careers as political consultants, fact is, there have been natural cross-pollination between the two worlds that will likely continue. Veteran readers of the Pages recall my hiatus from blogging last yeas while I worked on Tom Sawyer’s campaign for State Board of Education.

Any campaign worth running weighs the baggage of anyone coming on board. In the new media world, this will include vetting the blogs of bloggers. It’s no secret that what people do online can get them sacked at work – just ask Melissa Hopsador. This could be the reason, at least in part, that Chris Geidner tore down all of Law Dork when he went to work for the notoriously prickly Marc Dann.

All of which is going to make some people fret that bloggers will censor themselves to keep themselves salable. It might happen, among those with political ambitions, but that’s life. It’s also not the worst thing that could happen to the blogosphere. After all, the chief public complaint against these bloggers is their liberal use of profanity. I complain about that too. Or more specifically, I tend not to read blogs that rely heavily on the dirty talk to make a point. Not that the words offend me – trust me, I’m no stranger to cussing in real life. But I’m far more impressed when a writer can be funny or express outrage without spraying f-bombs all over the place.

The other complaint – vulgar attacks on Catholics – is more in the eye of the beholder, but I wouldn’t exactly lose sleep if liberal bloggers were a little more respectful of religious beliefs they don’t share.

All in all, this is part of the new market reality of new media. Those people who want their blog to make them salable might be more careful about how they express themselves. Those who want nothing more than an outlet for public displays of outrageousness will continue to have an electronic soapbox, but will be less likely to get hired by campaigns.


The bloggers appear to have been fired, per Redhorse's link to Salon. Reaction from TNR, TPM, Kevin Drum and Chris Cillizza. By way of Cillizza we get this dead on observation from Ezra Klein:

    To back down would either prove that their hiring process was incompetent and they didn't vet someone with an extensive public record, or that they'll collapse beneath even moderate pressure from rightwing professionals. Neither is a good look for the new campaign.
Personally, I think the problem is the former, not the latter, which makes keeping the bloggers harder.

Oh, and Chris Bowers trying to throw his weight around hours after admitting that weight is rapidly evaporating is funny enough to be almost worth the whole episode.


boringmadedull said...

Well, I'm in no danger of being hired as a political consultant. Unless, of course, you want what S.J. Perelman once described as as straw to which the wind is pointing away from...

Since Edwards needs (and the rest of the Democratic contenders) are eager to pull in some of the religious vote, or at least come across as taking people of faith seriously, they really can't afford to have staff bloggers who can't deal civilly with those people.

That said, the Republic is certainly in no danger if people are encouraged to clean up their language. There's so much cussin' going on, it doesn't make much impression anymore.

And it's certainly no substitute for argument, which is what it seems to have become.

Pho said...

Boring, a solid political argument made without profanity is a rare and beautiful thing -- kind of like those occasions when you and I agree.