Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Evil portents

Second blogger quits Edwards campaign - Yahoo! News

A second blogger working for Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards quit Tuesday under pressure from conservative critics who said her previous online messages were anti-Catholic.

Melissa McEwan wrote on her personal blog, Shakespeare's Sister, that she left the campaign because she was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the level of attention focused on her and her family."

Shakespeare's Sister is a reader of this blog. She and I have emailed back and forth a bit. I was very happy to hear that she got the gig with Edwards, and am very sad that she no longer has it. It's bad for her, and it's bad for the rest of us.

I know everyone is focusing on impending war with Iran, increasing disaster in Iraq, and the imploding good will for the cowardly Democrats in Congress. All important stuff, to be sure. But what happened to Shakes and Amanda matters to all of us.

You can look at this episode through a micro lens, and see it as petulant scandal-mongering from the loathsome William Donohue. But I see it as ominous and brimming over with long-term nastiness.

As I said a ways back, the powerful do not attack the inconsequential. The liberal blogosphere is starting to matter, and some powerful people are starting to see value in getting a piece of our mojo. Most of the effort expended on lefty blogs has been aimed at influencing the path and voice of the Democratic Party. At first we were barking at the moon, but lately we have started to accomplish these things, and I think we have more than a little bit to do with whatever spine the Dems are now showing (leave for another time the question of how much spine that actually is).

And that scares the piss out of people like Bill Donohue. Folks like him liked it when the Democratic wing of the Democratic party had no voice. They much prefer to see both parties connected to and focused on the money and K Street and Big Religion.

So I see the assault on these two bloggers as a highly strategic act of intimidation against all of us, and against those who might bring us inside their (vastly more lucrative) tent. They are telling all of us that every word a blogger ever wrote will be used against anyone with the temerity to hire us.

What does the Right get out of that intimidation? Lots. The Right benefits immensely from the tight integration between the money and power on the one hand and the energy and intellect (well, relatively speaking) from the Wingnut Welfare crowd on the other. Cut off the support and stop the spinning of the revolving door, and they would suffer.

The liberal side of the ledger has virtually no real counterpart. But recently we who blog have started to supply a piece of that role. If we can move into important roles in campaigns and easily move back and forth between the real and virtual worlds, the energy level in the blogosphere will increase because it will be a viable path to influence and sustainable income and careers and the like.

That is not an attractive scenario to the far Right. They like the existing asymmetry.

So nipping such bridge-making in the bud is a high priority for Donohue and his ilk. If they can make hiring us a high-risk move for political campaigns, risk-averse Dems (that would be all of them) will stay away. If they can keep the path from blogging to mainstream Democratic politics blocked, bloggers will, like Billmon and Berube', increasingly fade away. If they can force us to sound as bland and inoffensive as NPR, whatever influence we have will evaporate in a sea of beige.

The specific cudgel they took up this time was allegedly offensive statements about religion. Next time it will be about our lack of civility. They have a perfect Catch-22: they hypocritically insist on white bread public discourse. They dominate the loudest media. All of which means that we have little choice but to speak in public the way they do in private if we want to be heard. But if we do not play by their rules, they feel free to ignore the substance of our speech anyway.

Publicly, the Edwards campaign said (more or less) the right things. Privately, I'd wager that we won't be seeing any more bloggers coming on board major campaigns any time soon. Which is likely to be a problem for all of us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am trying hard to understand what you are steamed about.

Is it the absence of the possibility of a career path for leftist bloggers? The door didn't slam on that, it was never open. Nor should it be.

Is it the fact that politicians who are too stupid to know who they are hiring are also too slimy to stand by any principles? You can't really have expected otherwise.

Is it because your friend was hurt? Well, did either of you think politics was a gentleman's sport?

You disappoint.

The truth is either worth saying for its own sake, or not. Not much room in there for whining, nor chest beating for that matter. Is that what this freedom of expression stuff is about?

It seems these last couple of weeks you have been seeing success and influence for bloggers where it didn't exist. Now you have just had your sights adjusted. It's not so much that you need to grow up as that you need to be less emotional about the very events that are the most important to all of our lives. The emotional response is always a losing response, no matter what the movies show.

Winning political strategies are always a very cool, long-game kind of event. They are so cold that it really turns most people off. That's one reason the bad guys win so often. Nevertheless, if you can't be as detached as they are, you will lose. Perhaps it needs to be pointed out that they are not playing this game because they enjoy it. They don't. They don't much enjoy (or dislike) most of life. That is why they are ghouls and that is why they can be dedicated to winning, even when they don't care.


3:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw Melissa McEwan briefly interviewed on TV. A more vapid, plain-Jane, shrinking violet cannot be found. She has yet to comprehend that words are more powerful than swords. She has the freedom to write what she wants, but was unprepared for others to have the same freedom. She is pathetic.

9:39 AM  
Blogger bluememe said...

TA: You are right that winning is easier for the Cheneys of the world, because they have no moral imperatives beyond Al Davis's "Just win, baby." We will forever struggle with means vs. ends, and sometimes that struggle will costs us dearly.

The ultimate cynic is never disappointed. I am not quite there yet. If you are disappointed in me, I guess you aren't either.

And anonymous #2: I've never seen Shake's Sis, in person or on TV. I can tell you that my Blogger package did not come with a course in how to be telegenic. And if you want someone who is not a "vapid, plain-Jane, shrinking violet," you can find Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter on Fox Noise.

Appearing on TV is a skill. I doubt I have it naturally, and have done nothing to cultivate it. I blog, as does Melissa. The two are very different. Dismissing her blogging based on her TV appearance is not unlike dismissing her blogging because she can't run a four minute mile.

Some of us (e.g., Glenn Greenwald) seem to translate well to live media. Some won't, and some will if given enough training and practice. Speaking for myself, I've had quite enough of the Andrea Mitchells of the world -- the people for whom a TV appearance is just that -- an appearance. I'm sick to death of style over substance.

I don't know what Shakes looks like (beyond the artsy pic on the blog) and I don't think it is relevant to her blogging. And I have made a real effort to resist criticizing anybody's looks -- I think that is almost always out of bounds. (Had she appeared on "America's Next Top Model," and thus asked to be judged by her looks, my answer would be different.) I find Ann Coulter physically repulsive, but I don't use her looks as fodder for my criticism. Calling Shakes "plain Jane" is an equally low blow.

10:45 PM  

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