Saturday, April 15, 2006

Online and outraged

The Washington Post has a piece of schlock journalism up today on Maryscott O'Connor of My Left Wing, portraying her work and by extension that of the whole lefty blogosphere as a faintly amusing and ineffectual out-of-control ragefest. Now, MSOC is not my favorite blogger, and God knows I indulge in swearing and ranting on, ahem, a few occasions. Also I am willing to concede that I, personally, am largely ineffectual. But as Jeffrey Feldman points out, what is so amusing about hundreds of thousands of American citizens gathering every day for no pay to discuss politics, social issues, and change? And where exists the editor who would read a submission like this, red-ink the Karl Rove talking points, and send it back for a responsible rewrite?

Not at the Washington Post. And where was the examination of what the community has achieved?

Not at the Washington Post. Here's my letter to (sigh) Deborah Howell:

Dear Ms. Howell:

I’m a member of the liberal blogosphere and I’m not a caricature. So are hundreds of thousands of other American citizens. Yet today David Finkel has scribbled a cartoon sketch of one member of my community, Maryscott O’Connor, and served it up as if it were a meaningful portrait of her and by extension our whole community (“The Left, Online and Outraged,” April 15, 2006).

Yes, we’re angry; there’s a lot to be angry about. But there is a great deal more purpose to the work of Miss O’Connor and the liberal blogosphere than anger, swearing, and ranting. “Ineffectual” is not the term a thoughtful journalist would use to describe this new phenomenon in American politics. In a recent essay, Bill McKibben – a thoughtful journalist if ever there was one – credited the liberal blogosphere with helping to revive the Democratic party. “In my view,” he said, “nothing more interesting has happened in American politics in many years” (“The Hope of the Web,” New York Review of Books, April 27, 2006).

A short list of what this community does on a daily basis:

  • Obsess over strategies for defeating Republicans
  • Raise money for favored politicians
  • Rethink and debate issue positions
  • Harass lazy or ideologically biased journalists and commentators
  • Break stories missed by the mainstream press
  • Link people and organizations to share ideas and tactics
  • Organize supporters and volunteers for meetings, projects, and actions
  • Channel the energy of legions of interested citizens formerly frozen out of the political process (those of us who aren’t pols, pundits, journalists, big donors, issue advocates, or gravy train consultants)
  • Stake out new political territory for the Democratic party and help shake the grip of big money.
It’s not an insubstantial list. The community and Miss O’Connor deserve more thoughtful treatment than your cartoon portrait today.
You can add your two cents at or 202-334-7582. I'm off to think up another swearing, ineffectual rant.

No comments: