Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Not to be Contradictory or Elitist

I appreciate the part blogs played in the CBS scandal. Increasingly, though, their reaction is somewhat masturbatory. Yes, LGF and Powerline played an integral part of the Rathergate mishap. They unraveled what I for one would have ignored anyway. The TexANG scandal was given a good shake-down by Al Gore's campaign in 2000 and I viewed the Kerry version as a weak mixed drink.

Additionally, I don't think most people really gave a crap. The report was not exactly headline news this morning on the Today Show, et. al. Most people are far more interested in why Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston broke up than why Social Security can't last. Tsunamis and mudslides are also far more popular, as human suffering always sells.

I know I am being a bit cynical in a moment where the blogosphere seems to rejoicing. I've yet to read Hugh Hewitt's new book on the significance of blogging.

Individ brought up a salient point the other day. He points out in a post on blogs, that, at best, relevant political blogs are read by about 9% of the population (if you want backup Pew stats, hit his post, because my staff doesn't do that sort of research.) Given, this is probably the same percentage of people who watch Dan Rather. So, at best, 18% of the population even knows WTF is going on. People like my mother don't know and don't care.

So people invested in this "scandal" are a minority at best. I am in no way bagging on the blogs that brought this journalistic SNAFU to the front. They should be complimented for their vigilance.

I just don't see the "blogosphere revolution" as keenly relevant to today's punditry as some people do. Instapundit, Glenn being the root of this online movement and perhaps the biggest blog out there, shows a daily hit count of 152,000. This is applaudable, considering this site fetches about 44 readers a day for the last several months. This, however, is by no means some kind of revolution. 152,000 people is still a meager fraction of the population.

Forgive me, but I think the Onanism and self-importance that blogs have approached the CBS report with is a bit too congratulatory. I think this medium has an influence, a growing one at that, but they're not going to tilt the 2008 election so we should all take a deep breath and quit pretending that NRO's Geraghty is going to transmogrify the face of politics in America.

The guy writes a good blog. Let's leave it at that, for the time being.

UPDATE: Peggy Noonan, who I consider to be one of the better pundits out there, believes the "this changes everything" meme. I don't.

What the hell does your grandmother watch at 6:00 every night? O'Reilley? I doubt it. I bet of Rather's viewership, a larger percentage turns out to vote. You, your brethren, et. al. have to get groceries, go to work, pick up kids, etc. Old people watch TV and vote (and suck up public funds; "Hey let's set up another community center in my district and I'll get re-elected!").

And, yes, old people don't know what blogs are. For that matter, Boomers can't really figure it out.

So this life-changing phenomena called blogs that affect maybe 9% of the population (of which maybe half vote?) is going to sandblast the face of American politics?

I doubt it; at best.

I'll disagree with you on this one, Benjamin. You wrote: "(blogs are) not going to tilt the 2008 election..." No? They tilted the 2004 election.

Had blogs not existed, would Rathergate have been exposed? If not, what effect could it have had on the election? What about the Swift Boat Veterans. They'd have been virtually ignored.

Blogs forced these into the Mainstream Media where the people who've never heard of a blog got to see them.

THAT is the power of blogging - the ability to make the voice of the individual heard. Prior to blogging about all we could do was call or write to TV stations and newspapers. Perhaps our bleatings would produce a retraction on page A19 or a (heavily edited) letter to the editor - three weeks or more after the initial event. No more. When 10,000 small blogs start discussing something, a LOT of people hear about it, and the media can't keep shoving it into a closet.

Trust me, Rather's viewership learned right quick that Rather was full of shit, if they didn't know it already. That made a difference.

I'm afraid that this is an issue that won't be reconciled. I do not believe that Rathergate or the Swift boat guys had a whole lot of influence on the election. Whatever effect it had was completely eclipsed by the ongoing dispute about Bush's service (this happening for the last five years, and having nothing to do with Rathergate.)

The one thing I don't think I made clear in this post is that bloggers do have influence, but not unduly so. And more people watch TV.


I can't remember which publishing bigwig it was who said that he thought the media was going to give Kerry/Edwards 15% in the polls, but he certainly believed they could. As it was, K/E lost, essentially, by about 3%. It was that close.

Rathergate was an attempt to swing 3-5% of the vote. It failed. It even possibly produced some backlash. The Swiftboat Veterans was an attempt to swing 3-5% of the vote. Even Kerry thinks they were at least somewhat effective.

Hewitt puts forth in his book (most convincingly) that the Blogosphere has been responsible for not one, but four major media events: Ousting Trent Lott as House Majority Leader after his praise of Strom Thurmond, the resignation of Howell Raines as editor of the NYT after the Jayson Blair scandal, getting mainstream attention paid to the Swiftboat Veterans when the normal gatekeepers would have deliberately ignored them, and Rathergate.

The last two, IMHO, had an impact on the election, and both were bad for Kerry. Without the blogosphere, I am pretty damned sure that we'd be inaugurating Kerry on Thursday, not Bush.

The next big thing the blogosphere will affect, in both Hewitt's opinion and mine, is any Supreme Court nomination. The Left AND the Right will pull up every word available from every decision ever written or commented on by whoever is nominated. Perhaps only 9% of the population reads blogs (right now), but that 9% will know far more about the nominee than they ever would have before - and that knowledge will affect the likelihood of that nominee being approved.

Onanism exists, but it's not all self-gratification.
Error Correction: Trent Lott was SENATE Majority Leader. mea culpa
Rathergate was the end of the MSM. It may or may not be the rise of blogs.
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