As I read this lengthy piece at Washington Post, I ponder the wisdom of imbuing the "Web Roots" with political clout. I’m concerned over the direction is will lead us.
Here’s the gist of the article: a moderate House Democrat, Ellen Tauscher of California, is under fire from a few prominent liberal bloggers. Daily Kos and Moveon.org are alleging she has worked too closely with the Bush Administration during the previous congress. The crux of the dispute seems to be summed up in the following paragraphs:
Tauscher’s liberal critics say she has undermined the party during the Bush years, making a fetish of bipartisanship at a time when Republicans had no interest in real compromise, demonizing the far left at a time when Democrats needed to unify against the far right. And they’re still seething about her "left cliff" quote, which echoed GOP talking points before Election Day.
"She reinforces the idea that lefties are out-of-control children," said Brian Leubitz, who runs a liberal California blog called Calitics. "She provides cover for Republican extremists."
Tauscher says it’s obvious that Democrats will alienate independent voters if they tack to the hard left and she won’t apologize for stating the obvious. "The speaker has been indefatigable about saying she’s going to govern from the center," she said. "I guess if you’re looking to be offended, that’s what’s going to offend you."
Kos promises a "vicious fight for her seat." He doesn’t seem to be concerned about the fragility of the Democratic majority. I question the wisdom of handing first-tier bloggers undue power to influence and attack politicians. Are we leaning leftward into anarchy? Kos, of course, thinks not.
"We’re creating real democracy," he said.
Regardless of facts, we are seeing a disparity between the blogosphere, whose forerunners are essentially influential local businessmen, and a member of congress. Before the Internet such disharmony could only be expressed through letters, withholding campaign contributions and by voting. Now, one man’s grudge can have sweeping ramifications.
I see a emerging habit of news media to give legitimacy to bloggers through news coverage. Internet grass roots activism is new, unpredictable and important, true, but an interesting feedback loop is occurring. Perhaps it is symbiosis.
In theory, the idea of handing government accountability to the masses seems a Good Thing, yet with a caveat: The masses tend to exhibit a mob mentality. Dangerously so. Can they learn to behave with the decorum necessary for affective political debate?
Media history has proved that a few can influence many with the power of broadcasting. The Internet upends the equation. The many have the power of broadcasting and the few must react. The mob now has better weapons. Are they wise enough to use them, or will they cave to the very human tendency toward personal satisfaction and grudge politics? With the peanut gallery newly empowered, Americans find themselves with more masters to appease.
Can we vote the Kos’ and Malkin’s out of power? Perhaps by not visiting their sites. A rapid decrease in page views my send a message, to the media as a reduction of influence, who will quickly run to the next big story maker. Also to the blogger as a reduction of advertising revenue. I fear the process is both too weak and too slow.