These days I mostly ignore what the establishment media says about bloggers. It's usually a predictable mix of condescension, ridicule, and thinly veiled anxiety that the blogs are gaining influence at the expense of "real journalism".
But Matthew Klam's piece on political blogs in this weekend's NY Times stands out. It takes all of the above attitudes to dazzling new heights -- and tops them with a few other staple Times prejudices: contempt and loathing for passionate liberalism, a contrasting and mysterious silence about right-wing excesses, and plenty of old-fashioned class snobbery.
Welcome to Matthew Klam's tour of the blogosphere!
We start at the Tank, the NYC performance art space that served as liberal blogger HQ during the GOP convention. Klam notes the sex-oriented play running at the theater next door, the homeless guy outside, and the "crummy little courtyard" inside.
Then we get a vignette of Markos Moulitsas, aka Kos, "slouched in the corner of one squashed-down couch in shorts and a T-shirt", cutting and pasting a story from NYTimes.com on to his site. His readers post "their own fevered thoughts in response", while Kos tries "to think of the next rotten thing to say about the right".
The three themes established here -- lefty bloggers' grubby, low-rent lifestyles, their lack of journalistic legitimacy, and their rabid, loony views -- are carried through the entire piece. Kos is a "cruel and superior" purveyor of "crystal-ball babble", who "really blew it" with his "swaggering" remarks last April about the dead mercenaries in Fallujah.
The sober and articulate Josh Marshall becomes "an irate spitter of well-crafted vitriol" whose trademark is "oversimplifying weighty issues". He is mocked by Klam for his home-made press pass and wrinkled clothes.
There's at least one blogger Klam seems to like: Wonkette. I'll let his description speak for itself:
The Wonkette is more fun to read than Daily Kos. She's also more fun to hang out with. Before we went off to the fabulous party that Americans for Tax Reform were throwing at the New York Yacht Club on Monday night, we had time for an expensive dinner at a really nice restaurant in SoHo. Wonkette hadn't been anywhere near the Tank, and when I told her about the scene there, she laughed. ''They've got the raw carrots and radishes,'' she said, ''and we've got the raw tuna appetizer.'' The candlelight reflected off the Champagne bubbles in her glass. ''Other bloggers don't consider me a real blogger,'' she said. ''Kos is the platonic ideal of a blogger: he posts all the time; he interacts with his readers.'' She swallowed an oyster and smiled. ''I hate all that.''
Ana Marie Cox has peachy cream skin and eyes of a very bright blue, strawberry blond hair and a filthy mind; she likes to analyze our nation's leaders in their most private, ah, parts.
Are you following along, readers? Let's recap:
- Pretty face, potty jokes, swanky parties = good.
- Taking politics seriously, wearing disheveled clothes = bad.
Why don't other bloggers consider Wonkette a real blogger? Speaking for myself, the few times I've read Wonkette, I've never found much political principle (or subtle wit) beneath the gossip, sex jokes, and self-promotion. It's not that kind of site. But more significantly, she might not be considered a "real" blogger because -- as Klam admits -- she's actually a low-paid employee of Nick Denton, the entrepreneur behind other for-profit pseudo-blogs like Gawker, Defamer, and Fleshbot.
But Klam says she likes to party!
So after surveying the fevered, rotten, cruel, superior, babbling, irate, vitriolic, and oversimplifying left-wing blogs, what does Klam have to say about their counterparts on the right? We're told approvingly that they are the province of "credentialed gentlemen like [Mickey] Kaus, Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds". Kaus writes "in a strong, distinctive, original voice". And, well, that's about it.
New York Times readers, it appears, don't need to know about Jerome Corsi, co-author of the anti-Kerry screed "Unfit For Command", and his rants on FreeRepublic.com against gays, Muslims, and Catholics. They don't need to know about the racial slurs, death threats and rape fantasies directed against liberals, Democrats, Muslims, foreigners, and journalists on LittleGreenFootballs.com.
These are two of the most popular, most widely read right-wing weblogs in the country. But never mind -- Matthew Klam wants to tell you about the raw tuna appetizer at Grover Norquist's fabulous party, and the way the candlelight catches the bubbles in Wonkette's champagne glass.