Sunday, September 17, 2006

THIS is the image the public gets of Virginia Blogs?

If it's true that there is no such thing as bad publicity, then Extreme Mortman's congratulations to some Virginia blogs is well-founded.

I have my doubts though.

Worse, the Washington Post, in it's coverage of Virginia Blogs, points out the worst of what blogging has to offer, rather than the best. Many people already have an image of bloggers as crazed people sitting around in their pajamas, hopped up on caffiene, suffering from sleep deprivation, spewing vile commentary and hatred.

The Post provides little reason for people to change their minds. And if a few hearty souls decide to check out Raising Kaine, one blog prominently mentioned in the article, their worst fears of the blogosphere will be confirmed.

The cause of blogging as a tool for real enlightenment was dealt a heavy blow today, for those few of us who are apparently ignorant or idealistic enough to imagine such a thing.

Anyway, here's a little of what the Washington Post had to say today in their front-page article titled Paid Bloggers Stoke Senate Battle in Va.:

RICHMOND -- Virginia's U.S. Senate race has catapulted bloggers into the middle of electioneering and controversy as campaign supporters use their online forums to connect with voters, raise money and spread gossip.
The goal of the paid bloggers, both campaigns say, is to deluge online political journals with positive tidbits about their candidate and draw attention to the most negative news about their opponent. The campaign bloggers sometimes write their own bits. Other times, they spread gossip generated by others.
Bloggers were all over last week's campaign developments as the two sides traded accusations about the candidates' views on women. The bloggers' posts often are over the top. One entry on the A-Team blog offered the following quote: "Who is more modern in their attitude towards women: the Taliban, or . . . Webb? Tough call."
In recent posts, Feld has referred to Republicans as "rightwing crazies" and has changed the name of Allen's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, to a locker room epithet.

Recently, Feld wrote about a picture that shows Allen standing next to a group of white men who allegedly belonged to a white supremacist group.

"Finally! I mean, seriously, how long does it take the supposedly 'mainstream media' to pick up on evidence that a man who wants to be President is a racist?" Feld wrote.

Not a very pretty picture for people who might otherwise be drawn to a medium that would support real discussions about important issues. But it is a pretty fair representation of what is happening throughout the blogosphere, as the political campaigns transform the landscape.

For example, NotLarrySabato used to be a place where people from all parts of the political spectrum gathered to discuss the political implications of events, as well as the underlying issues. But recently, it has become little more than a place for webb supporters to launch vitriolic personal attacks at anybody who dares to suggest a discussion can be had on anything.

It's not just NLS though, personal attacks are springing up in response to posts on both sides of the political aisle, as we seem to be racing to the bottom of the barrel of political discourse.

For example, I personally complained about the "which is worse" question that was mentioned in the article, but drew no supporters to what seemed to be a rational position that, say what you will about Webb, he's no Taliban.

I can't end without commenting on the most outrageous comment cited in the report -- but this wasn't from a blog:

"Blogging is evolving," Feld said. "You are moving into the point where bloggers who before were making no money are starting to become more like professionals, like journalists and other campaign people."

I'm sorry, Lowell. You are NOTHING like a professional, except possibly a "professional hit man". I'm convinced the Post reporters put this at the end precisely because, after reading the article, no sane person can read this assertion without falling off their chair laughing.

I think there are bloggers who are professional (in the true meaning of the word), who approach the craft with seriousness, who actually care about the truth rather than simply getting the people who pay them elected. But this article gives no indication of that.

ADDENDUM (2:20pm): Since RKaine is still pushing their silly m-word stuff, even in the discussion of the debate today, I thought this reference is particularly appropriate:

and has changed the name of Allen's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, to a locker room epithet.

Why doesn't the post tell us what that epithet is? Because it is offensive to their readers, and the Post won't publish offensive words.

Which should tell you something about the m-word, as the Post published that word probably HUNDREDS of times, even including it in headlines.

So when the Post later admitted that nobody knew what the word meant, they weren't just blowing smoke. The ombudsman apparently has NOT been inundated with complaints of outrage over publishing an "offensive racial slur", because nobody who reads the Post is actually offended by seeing the m-word in print -- because it just isn't upsetting, unless it's said by a political opponent and can be used to make false charges of racism.

Throughout this whole contrived controversy, James Martin is about the only person who has been consistant and appears to actually be offended by the word.

A word that, so far as I can tell, only republicans are calling "the m-word". Because we are afraid of the racism police deciding to target us for spelling it out.


I'm Not Emeril said...

I agree Charles.

Personally, I don't tend to concern myself with the public appearance of "Virginia blogs" in general. Instead, I tend to only frequent the better written, more responsible blogs on both sides of the political spectrum.

But, as you say, the use of blogs for political enlightenment is diminished by trash sites such as Lowell's, and the unfortunate aspect of that is that those most affected are those that may need the most enlightenment. By that I mean folks that do not follow politics with the fervor of some of us, but turn to blogs to get that "little bit extra" news and insight not available from their local paper. One could also include in that group the folks who are doggedly partisan and refuse to even read the other side's bloggers.

The danger with both groups is that they get only the fringe ideas, butressed only by inuendo and gossip. That cannot be healthy for political discourse in Virginia or elsewhere.

Dave said...

I wouldn't get too excited about how partisan the Virginia blogosphere atmosphere is getting around election time. The same thing happens around water coolers, family dinner tables, newspaper editorial meetings, just about everywhere people who care about politics gather to talk.

Anonymous said...

James Martin actually started the macaca story by siding with Senator Allen. Now that he acts super offended by the word makes him the least consistant.