This morning, David Freedlander published a sloppy and misleading piece about the progressive Netroots at the Daily Beast, claiming: "What began 10 years ago as a network of progressive bloggers offering a voice they thought missing from the mainstream press has all but disappeared as a force in the Democratic Party."
Freedlander's story--hardly the first post about the supposed death of the blogosphere, yet here we are still--is built on the premise that quantity is more important than quality. In making this argument, he misses the point completely: today, the Netroots has never been stronger. In short, we've become the mainstream press, and many bloggers are now campaign operatives, progressive thought leaders, staffers of organizations, even elected officials. The difference is that instead of a thousand voices heard independently, our power comes from collective impact.
Ironically, this story comes in the wake of Newsweek announcing its move to an all-digital medium after 80 years of publishing. Maybe Freedlander forgot for a moment that change doesn't have to equal irrelevance and impotence. If it did, he might just be out of a job.
Where are the bloggers?
In the early days of the progressive blogosphere, a lot of individuals were blogging as a way to express their frustration with the direction of our country and the media's coverage of it. That's still true today. What's changed is that our paradigm has permeated the journalistic force we were initially criticizing.
The attendance of Netroots Nation, the country's largest gathering of the progressive online community, has grown each year since its inception (last year's conference drew nearly 3,000 participants). Glenn Greenwald now gets a paycheck from The Guardian instead of from Blogads, but he's got more reach than ever. People like Greg Sergeant and Ezra Klein came up through the Netroots but now write for a much larger platform. Nate Silver? He's still one of the most respected pollsters in the country, but his predictions are read by a much larger audience today. The platform may have changed, but the voices remain the same.
The Netroots helped make MSNBC viable and helped build Rachel Maddow's following while she was just starting out. Chris Hayes, one of the bright new voices for the network, came from the progressive community.
Many of the bloggers who used to run their own sites still write today, but at communities like Daily Kos and the Huffington Post. And many are using different tools, including Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms to tell their stories, inspire action and widen the movement.
The dynamics of the Netroots may have changed since its beginnings in 2004, but the influence has grown. Freedlander's premise that people of influence dismiss progressive bloggers is simply not true. Not a day goes by without a staffer, candidate or elected official asking for advice on how to reach bloggers--and get money and support from their readers. Blue America, which is made up of a trio of independent blogs, raised a half a million dollars for progressive candidates just this cycle. Then there's the money raised by Daily Kos, PCCC, MoveOn and DFA to name a few others.
The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the halting of Keystone XL and SOPA/PIPA simply would not have happened without the power and reach of online voices. The DREAM Act was kept alive by the Netroots, and now the community of activists supporting it is bigger than ever. Organizations like California's Courage Campaign and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee grew out of this community and are now successful, growing forces of change.
When the late Tony Snow left FOX News to go work as Bush's press secretary, did FOX lament that their influence declined? If anything, their prominence grew because of his move into a different--and biggger--platform.
Former bloggers and activists from the Netroots are now working in Congress, running for office, leading the progressive movement and changing our world for the better. I'd say that's a win.
Yeah, we're in decline and struggling to survive alright.
UPDATE: Markos has a reply from the same interview, thankfully he responded to the questions via email and has posted it.