The creepiest part of the trudge through Wingnuttia was that it did not feel like a carnival freak show or Aryan rally. Even worse, it felt more like looking through a mirror - everything was familiar, but completely backwards.
Hold your nose and spend 20 minutes at Free Republic or LGF and see if you don't recognize the style and pattern of discussions that you see here. They demonize and dismiss Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid and Charles Schumer the same way it is taken for granted in these parts that Tom DeLay is a corrupt bully, Frist is a cat-killing fundamentalist ghoul, and Santorum is, well...Santorum.
One thing that struck me, however, was the labels that stuck to their enemies. Whenever I saw Joe Biden mentioned, "plagiarism" was always mentioned in the same breath. It seemed ridiculous to me; so what if 20 or 30 years ago Biden plagiarized something. It's irrelevant to the debate now, and it's a cop-out way of dismissing the message itself. But by the same token - we do it too. Frist, for example, is a cat-killing ghoul. We all know he's a Dobson sock-puppet crapweasel too.
Well - those things may be true, but they don't help win debates. And once one of the "bad guys" has been deemed such, we dismiss them at our own risk. If we simply write off Santorum as an unhinged religio-hypocrite with a thinly veiled fascist agenda, we'll keep having trouble selling our message to the rest of the country - not because we're wrong, but because they're just not starting with the same knowledge and assumptions. "Mainstream America" doesn't know who Rick Santorum is, doesn't know what his views are, doesn't know what his rhetorical and legislative history is, and won't see his support for a law or policy as inherently suspect.
This leads into the other "problem" with blog echo chambers. Sites like Kos and Eschaton are not supposed to be news. They have an avowed ideological slant, and their choice of posts and commentary are usually designed to inform and promote progressive policies. This is fine, but one of the obvious side effects is that the Psych 101 "confirmation bias" starts churning into overdrive. We are barraged with news and opinions that reinforce our existing notions. We start not seeing information and opinions that contradict what we already believe, or we do see it but discount it.
This is something we have to fight. Although it's comforting to read like-minded information and opinion, it's not quite honest. If we really do pride ourselves on being in the reality-based community, we owe it to ourselves to keep looking outside our own echo chamber. We need to be aware of what Freeperville thinks. Go read through the last couple days of Freep or LGF "news." You may, like me, find a couple news items you hadn't heard about. I didn't know how much truth there was to them, because I hadn't heard anything about them in the left-wing bubble. But I wanted to. If some facts or opinion are getting the wingers into a lather, we should know about it. And we shouldn't just assume they're wrong, or spinning the facts. Although they probably are spinning, or just outright wrong, the best way to arm ourselves in a debate is to know what the other side is going to argue, before they argue it, and have a response prepared. And the response should be based on facts; we should not be spinning or ignoring inconvenient facts. After all, it is the folks on the right who are supposed to tailor the facts to fit their policy - not us.
As creepy and loathsome as Right Blogistan can be, it's worth trudging through, and not just through the lens of snark. We need to be constantly challenging and re-assessing our own beliefs, and not falling into a lazy cycle of only seeing news that reinforces what we want to believe. Keeping our policies and opinions tested and challenged will only make our positions and arguments stronger in the end. It may not be fun, but we all need to wander through the Looking Glass from time to time.