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.
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?