Friday, May 11, 2007

Bloggity Blog Part the Second - The Vacuum

To the Editor:
A woman I had dinner with the other night said to me that the atmosphere in this country since the Persian Gulf war is like that at a party in a beautiful home, with everybody being polite and bubbly. And there is this stink coming from somewhere, getting worse all the time, and nobody wants to be the first to mention it.

KURT VONNEGUT (to the New York Times, March 27, 1991)

Some of the discussion has been about when and why blogs and the netroots emerged. I'd say, roughly, online liberal activism began with Move On, the online liberal web generally grew in response to the Clinton impeachment and the 2000 recount/selection*, and the liberal blogosphere as a semi-definable distinct movement emerged in 2002 in response to the glorious summer of war.

Political blogging generally was a post-9/11 phenomenon, headed by the ole perfesser under the name "warbloggers." It was a subculture which consisted mostly of people who were conservative and self-described liberals who knew that the 2nd most serious the country faced was the all powerful The Left, which was generally represented by some anonymous poster on Indymedia, Some Guy With A Sign Somewhere, or occasionally Cythia McKinney. Subsequently a few actual liberals such as myself joined in, and for awhile it was a kind of semi-civil amateur debate club with the ole perfesser, the only person with significant traffic, acting as a one-hand-on-the-scales moderator of the conversation. That brief moment of relative comity faded quickly as the Iraq war debate began and people like me were regularly accused of treason, of supporting dictators, of "being on the other side," by our very civil non-swearing friends on the right side of the blogosphere.

The uniting feature of all of the catalyzing events - whitewater and impeachment, selection, the Iraq war - was that they were moments when it became clear that there was something tremendously flawed with our various elite institutions and of "the liberals" which supposedly represented people like me in them, especially in the mainstream media. They represented tremendous failures of our elite classes.

There were almost no anti-war voices in the media, and the few who were present were basically ridiculed. There were some "war skeptics," but they didn't really question the basic premises of the war - the existence of WMD, the concept of preventive war, the flowers which would follow - but instead nitpicked around the edges. You know, we need more allies, we need the UN's blessing, maybe we need more troops. There were no mainstream media voices who actively opposed the war. Joe Klein did in his heart, he claims, but in public he supported it.

Opposing the war seemed to many of us to be a perfectly non-crazy thing, yet that viewpoint was either completely ignored or actively ridiculed. Even many of our so-called liberals didn't simply support the war or fail to oppose it, but actively "opposed the opposers" by joining in with conservatives to attack and marginalize any one who dared suggest that their Great and Glorious Crusade might be a bad idea. There were only us dirty fucking hippie bloggers.

*added after the fact, though in my mind it was there all along. I blame steve simels.