Konvention

At the end of the linking thing in Philly yesterday, Jay Rosen was headed off to Vegas to be on a panel at the Kos konvention, where about a thousand online and offline political machers are showing up — including big names who want to curry favor with the Kos krowd. As we discussed this, David Weinberger shook his head, recalling someone at one of the panels that day who’d said that bloggers aren’t influencing politics. The Kos thing is the (latest) proof that they are.

And then here is the lead of Adam Nagourney’s New York Times story on the konfab today:

If any more proof were needed of the rising influence of bloggers — at least for the Democratic Party — it could be found here on Friday on the Las Vegas Strip, where the old and new worlds of American politics engaged in a slightly awkward if mostly entertaining clash of a meeting.

The Kos event is a fascinating clash of lines:

What is the line between blogger and media? Nagourney and Maureen Dowd (expensive link) wonder whether the bloggers are trying to be media as they go off to write books or columns in big publications. Also, judging by rather slapdash way Dowd wrote her column, one might wonder whether media are trying to be bloggers.

What is the line between blogger and activist? Markos makes it very clear that he’s the latter. But not everyone in the crowd would paint themselves similarly. Still, they’re all there because they share agendas and from an old-style journalistic perspective (we have no opinions, we have no agenda), then that makes them activists. But from a new-style blogger perspective (I am media, hear me roar), that makes them media. Is activism media? Should media be activism? Nagourney makes the rather silly observation that there weren’t Republicans in the crowd. Well, of course not. Whether this was a meeting of activists or a meeting of media makers, it was definitely a meeting of Democrats — well, Democrats of the Kos kamp.

What is the line between insider and outsider? In one breath, you hear the attendees talking about taking over the party. In the next gasp, you hear them talk about supplanting both parties. Markos declared in his acceptance (of adulation and power, if not office) speech: “Both parties have failed us. Republicans have failed us because they can’t govern. Democrats have failed because they can’t get elected. So now it’s our turn.” So is this an attempt to influence the party (Howard Dean, today) or to take it over (Howard Dean, yesteryear)?

And what is the line between Democrat and Democrat? The Kossaks, like the Deaniacs before them, push orthodoxy over the dialectic. They are the outsiders who want to be in and who decide who’s in and who’s out. When asked about whether Hillary Clinton would be welcome at his event, Kos said, “Oh, my God, no way!” Nagourney said she declined an invitation. The outsiders declare she’s in the wrong crowd so she’s out with them.

So is this a party? A caucus of the party? A splinter from the party? A new party? A gathering of bloggers or media? A gathering of media or activists? A candy mint or a breath mint? Life is so confusing now.

Since the Kossaks can sometimes be rather defensive, let me make clear that I’m not criticizing the gathering. I’m celebrating it. But I’m also trying to figure out what it is — as are the scribes in The Times. But I don’t think it fits any old definitions. It’s something new.

Some quotes from the coverage. Nagourney:

There were the bloggers — nearly a thousand of them, many of them familiar names by now — emerging from the shadows of their computers for a three-day blur of workshops, panels and speeches about politics, the power of the Internet and the shortcomings of the Washington media. And right behind them was a parade of prospective Democratic presidential candidates and party leaders, their presence a tribute to just how much the often rowdy voices of the Web have been absorbed into the very political process they frequently disdain, much to the amazement, and perhaps discomfort, of some of the bloggers themselves….

They may think of themselves as rebels, separate from mainstream politics and media. But by the end of a day on which the convention halls were shoulder to shoulder with bloggers, Democratic operatives, candidates and Washington reporters, it seemed that bloggers were well on the way to becoming — dare we say it? — part of the American political establishment.

Dowd:

As I wandered around workshops, I began to wonder if the outsiders just wanted to get in. One was devoted to training bloggers, who had heretofore not given much thought to grooming and glossy presentation, on how to be TV pundits and avoid the stereotype of nutty radical kids.

Mr. Moulitsas said he had a media coach who taught him how to stand, dress, speak, breathe and even get up from his chair. Another workshop coached Kossacks on how to talk back to Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. “One of my favorite points,” the workshop leader said, “is that the French were right.”

Even as Old Media is cowed by New Media, New Media is trying to become, rather than upend, Old Media….

Were the revolutionaries simply eager to be co-opted? Mr. Moulitsas grinned. “Traditionally it was hard to get your job,” he said. “Now regular people can score your job.”

Fine. I’ll be at the Cleopatra slot machine pondering a career in blogging, which will set me up to get back into mainstream media someday.

Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post:

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the liberal Daily Kos blog and iconic figure of the liberal Left, asserted Thursday night that the Internet-based progressive movement had gone from the fringes of politics to its center in just four years.

Michael J Smith at Counterpunch:

…The other thing I had expected was that the Kosniks themselves would provide abundant material for ridicule. But they don’t. They’re much more engaging than their posts on the Daily Kos web site would lead you to expect — and this really should have come as no surprise, since people notoriously show their worst side online.

No, the Kosniks are mostly not only sane, but obviously intelligent. A lot of them have pretty good haircuts. They’re personable, kind, witty, self-deprecating, thoughtful, earnest, and generally likable….

Most of them seemed to be honest, sincere, good-hearted people, baffled and dismayed by what their country has become. What, I wondered, are nice folks like this doing in a cult like Daily Kos?

  • Kat

    Kos Kult Konvention

  • WJA

    Questions for the Kos Konventioneers:

    - If you’re passionate, how come only a few thousand of you have paid for Kos’ book?

    - If you’re influential, how come all of Kos’ general election endorsements have lost?

    - If you’re so serious, how come you advocate extreme language from mainstream politicians, and when they understandably backpedal, backstab them?

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Utilities/printer_preview.asp?idArticle=5823&R=C61B4B3

    THE DICK DURBIN FIASCO of a few weeks ago provides a wonderful case in point. As is well known, on June 14 Senator Durbin compared the conditions at the Guantanamo detention center to what one could have seen in Nazi Germany or a Stalin-run gulag or while receiving the tender mercies of Pol Pot.

    Durbin’s comments made him an instant hero in the left-wing blogosphere where hyperbolic Bush-bashing is always received warmly. Steve Gilliard, a Daily Kos alumnus, penned a lengthy defense of Durbin in which he reminded the senator’s critics that climate control was the preferred interrogation technique for the Luftwaffe. Moulitsas called the ensuing controversy a “moronic Right Wing smear attack” and proclaimed, “I stand with Durbin. Proudly.”

    Durbin’s attempt to curry favor with the left-wing worked. Temporarily, at least. But one shouldn’t require the counsel of David Gergen or Michael Barone to realize that outside the alternative worlds of the blogs, comparing America’s military to Nazis, Stalin, and the Khmer Rouge is a political loser.

    In the week that followed, it became apparent to the senator and his staff that he had made a terrible mistake. Now that he was in the soup, to whom did the senator turn?

    To the bloggers. On June 21, Senator Durbin’s office held a conference call with several left-wing bloggers. Of the seven attendees, there was no representative of the left-wing blogosphere’s royalty. There was no Moulitsas, no Gilliard, no Atrios.

    Even more indicative of the pathetic nature of this outreach attempt is the fact that this became probably the first Senatorial background conference-call ever to be “liveblogged.” One of the participants, “Annatopia” of MyDD.com, posted a fairly detailed account of the proceedings on her blog . (Curiously, this post was later taken down for reasons unknown; you can see a copy of the post here.) At least two members of the senator’s staff talked strategy with the bloggers and testified that thanks to the senator’s acquaintance with a constituent who was a POW in Vietnam, Durbin felt very strongly about this issue.

    (It is interesting to note that there is some disagreement as to how the call came together in the first place. Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker insists that the senator’s office arranged the call in response to a request from the blogging community. Jeralyn Merritt of Talkleft.com, one of the call’s participants, recalls things differently. She writes in an email, “A number of bloggers, myself included, had been e-mailing back and forth with individual members of Senator Durbin’s staff on the issue of Guantanamo and his remarks. Sen. Durbin decided it would be more productive to get us all on one call. I was asked to invite some bloggers to participate, and I did.”)

    Yet later that day, Durbin offered an overwrought apology from the Senate floor, his commitment to his former POW constituent having apparently evanesced with remarkable rapidity. Shortly thereafter, Durbin learned that the left-wing blogosphere was not won over by his charm offensive and that liberal bloggers far prefer substance (in this case, determined and unflinching opposition to the Bush war effort) to touching the hem of a senator’s garment.

    For many of the bloggers who had supported Durbin through his ordeal, his apology occasioned a spasm of characteristically potty-mouthed outrage. Steve Gilliard suggested that Durbin “go fuck himself”; on the Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas concurred, observing that he agreed with Gilliard and added that “Durbin fucked up.”

  • Jimmy

    I always find it interesting that Moulitsas gets tagged with the label of extreme liberal lefty. Granted, he’s never met a Bush policy he didn’t dislike, but that doesn’t make hm a liberal lefty, it just makes exactly like 60-65% of the nation. If anything, Moulitsas a slightly left centrist. Granted, he can be outspoken and quite rude in his opinions, but again that doesn’t mean he’s an extreme liberal lefty. In reading his blog and this one I often find very similar ideas. Now, I won’t deny he’s a bit full of himself, but what well-known blogger has gotten a bit of big head? This site included.

  • http://www.writingup.com/blog/ashok ashok

    I’m willing to wait a bit longer before passing judgement. It looks like the Kos drama is taking time to unfold – first it started with Dean, now this convention. Which is fine.

    The question is what sorts of citizens are being produced and enabled. It could be a good or bad thing, ultimately. My own personal experiences with readers of DailyKos have not been good, but that is not a basis for judgement when it looks like something major is happening – that Old Media/New Media, insider/outsider distinction is not to be taken lightly in terms of of whether wants and goals for those at YearlyKos are changing.

  • Kat

    If the guy who said SCREW ‘EM when referring to Americans tortured, barbecued, and hung from a bridge is like 60-65% of the Nation, then God help the nation. With 65% of the population being assholes like Moulitas, we are doomed.

  • http://www.writingup.com/blog/ashok ashok

    I want to add that my gut screams Kat’s feeling. But aren’t we watching a community of bloggers/activists transform from people that were disgruntled into something else?

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    The best part of that post was where they said Hillary was not “welcome” at the convention, right before acknowledging that she “declined an invitation”.

    On planet Earth, an invitation seems a most bizarre way to tell someone they aren’t welcome.

  • http://www.lexalexander.net Lex

    [[Most of them seemed to be honest, sincere, good-hearted people, baffled and dismayed by what their country has become. What, I wondered, are nice folks like this doing in a cult like Daily Kos?]]

    I can think of at least two possibilities:

    1) These “honest, sincere, good-hearted people, baffled and dismayed by what their country has become,” are finding neither Republicans nor Democrats are meeting their political needs.

    2) Daily Kos isn’t a cult, or at least isn’t just a cult. It’s also a place where people of generally like mind — a mind represented by a majority of the country these days — come to congregate because they’re not seeing their views reflected in either the actions of government or the reports of the news media.

    One other thing: Daily Kos has a boatload of regular contributors, many of whom disagree with one another on a variety of key issues. I would urge caution to anyone tempted to generalize about it.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Lex,

    You urged others not to generalize about Daily Kos but just before that you asserted that it represents a “majority of the country”.

    That’s a bald, self-aggrandizing generalization if I ever heard one.

    Yeah, there are no sweeping generalizations on the Kos site either(sarcasm).

  • http://snunes.blogspot.com Susan Nunes

    The plain fact of the matter is that despite all of the media hype. “left” bloggers have little or nothing to show for all of their efforts. What they are capable of, however, is stirring up a lot of trouble for the Democratic Party with their pursuit of ideological purity. They can do a lot more harm than good when they don’t realize they are repeating the same history as what the party went through in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    These people are NOT the base, no matter how much they claim they are.

    As for Kos, I believe he is an opportunist who is merely out for himself.

  • http://snunes.blogspot.com Susan Nunes

    The plain fact of the matter is that despite all of the media hype, “left” bloggers have little or nothing to show for all of their efforts. What they are capable of, however, is stirring up a lot of trouble for the Democratic Party with their pursuit of ideological purity. They can do a lot more harm than good when they don’t realize they are repeating the same mistakes as what the party went through in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    These people are NOT the base, no matter how much they claim they are.

    As for Kos, I believe he is an opportunist who is merely out for himself.

  • http://www.lexalexander.net Lex

    Captious nut: My generalization was accurate inasmuch as a majority of both Kos posters and Americans polled believe Iraq has gone bad. I had that example in mind when I wrote what I wrote, but didn’t add that essential bit of context, for which I apologize.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Lex,

    That’s real advanced, dropping selective poll results to buttress your point.

    To which majority of the country are you referring? The 65% that can’t find their own state on a map?

    Wasn’t 75% of the country against Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War?

    Majorities are neither categorically right nor wrong, but they seem to be consistent talking points for non-substantive arguments.

    Your clarification merely transformed your generaliztion from what the majority of Americans “think” into what the majority of Americans “think about Iraq”, as if that is the only issue people care about.

    Would it shock you to know that issues other than Iraq abound: illegal immigration, abortion, capitalism, GWOT, taxes, education, gas prices, ….

    Are Kos children in line with the majority of Americans on those issues?

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  • Eileen

    Sorry, Lex, and I don’t mean to pile on.

    But I don’t agree with your clarification point, EIther. What ‘majority of the U.S.’ believes that Iraq ‘has gone bad’ aside from Kos Kids and the MSM? Or that ‘we never should have gone there to begin with’?

    I don’t buy the MSM’s talking points/paid for and delivered ‘polls’ for even a second of their propaganda spin time.

    I guess we’ll see who’s right in November, eh?

  • http://www.lexalexander.net Lex

    Captious nut and Eileen, by all means check out the wealth of data at PollingReport.com. Any dispassionate review of the data shows a clear disconnect between the country and the administration on a number of issues — a disconnect so great that it must involve far more Americans than just the Kos Kids or the so-called MSM.

    Eileen, if you think the polls’ results are skewed by the news organizations that commission them, then I’m sure you were just as forthright in your criticism of them when the president’s approval ratings approached triple digits post-9/11. Right?

  • http://www.breakingranks.net breakingranks

    If anyone wants a peek inside the Kult, Link TV has been posting video clips of YearlyKos here: http://www.linktv.org/yearlykos/

    Longer segments with better video controls are posted here: http://www.fora.tv/

  • Eileen

    Well, Lex, I don’t recall any triple digit reporting by the ‘so-called’ MSM regarding Bush EVer in this lifetime. You’ll forgive me, I’m sure. But if that in fact occured following 9/11 and they cited one of their own polls, I wouldn’t have believed their numbers, then, either. I’m sure the true number was more like 113.

    After reading your blog and your lefty journalist blog to boot, I daresay you’re one of those ‘homogenous’ types Carson referred to.

    Cheers,

    We’re got YOur number.

    Thank God I took statistics.

  • Eileen

    P.S.

    No surprise buddy Rosen was on the panel.

    Ha!

  • http://www.lexalexander.net Lex

    Near- triple-digit, Eileen. You might’ve taken Statistics, but you flunked Reading and clearly have never been endangered by an understanding of figurative language.

    By the way, I’ve been a Republican here in North Carolina for all but a few months of my adult life, which is to say for almost 29 years. So be sure to include THAT number in your standard deviation, mmkay?

  • Eileen

    Whatever you choose, Lex.

    Yah, I omitted ‘near’ on purpose. Put that in your pipe and wonder why…

    And maybe do some reading?

  • http://www.lexalexander.net Lex

    Is that the best you’ve got? “Do some reading”?

    Geez. We’re done here.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Lex is a Republican turned Kos-ite.

    What’s that medication for schizophrenia?

    Lex, I look forward to your future posts.

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