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June 22, 2006

The Sinestrosphere As Alterate Political Party?

At the tag-end of my general defense of Kos, I write this:

As they say, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. Even if Kos is found to have done nothing wrong in his dealings with Armstrong and his clients, there's still that matter of the La Kos-a Nostra oath of silence.

And there's still that matter of a previously-secret behind-the-scenes message-unifying email list. Liberal bloggers are coordinating with each other, outside the view of their readers, to agree upon a common message for the day.

Wonder why every lefty blogger decides, one day a week, to attack Jeff Goldstein as a "paste-eating drug addict housewife"? Well, wonder no more. What is held out as "independent" commentary and "spontaneous netroots response" is in fact at least partly a coordinated, pre-debated, top-down, here-are-your-marching-orders sham. The left of the blogosphere is employing the old tool of the political parties-- the blast-fax.

As they say, it's not so much "grassroots" as astroturf politics -- artificial "grass" made to look and feel like the real thing.

Nothing like that goes on in the right of the blogosphere. At least, nothing like that exists that I know about. It's possible that somewhere out there there is coordination, but I've never caught wind of it.

The most interesting thing about this scandal isn't what Kos might have agreed to do with Armstrong, but what many of the biggest leftist bloggers have agreed to do with eachother -- prescreen their postings with each other to arrive at a single focus-grouped message of the day.

It occurs to me that the dextrosphere (right-blogosphere) and sinestrosphere (left-blogosphere) may be following two different models.

The dextrosphere disagrees with each other, bickers, argues, etc., all in public. It's pretty transparent -- readers aren't missing anything going on behind the scenes. Sure, emails are exchanged, but of a "Check this out" variety. They're tips, not attempts to coordinate messaging.

The dextrosphere attempts, to the extent possible, to be an alternative media. We can never really replace the MSM, but to the extent possible, we try to displace those functions we can. Opinioniating, of course. And also editorial selection-- the MSM may say that this story is an A1 above-the-fold headline, and this story (say, on 500 chemical warfare shells discovered in Iraq) is page C13 (grudgingly), but we attempt to displace that function by substituting our own notions of newsworthiness for the MSM's lockstep liberal editorial boards.

But the sinestrosphere seems to be based on a different model. This secret message board for coordinating messages-of-the-day... it's the same as the DNC's or RNC's blast-faxes. And debating stories and opinions behind the scenes, focus-group testing them, agreeing on a common narrative?

That's not really something a media does.

That's something a political party does.

So it seems to me the right and left of the blogosphere have departed as to our basic assumptions. The dextrosphere seems primarily concerned with displacing the media, whereas the sinestrosphere seems primarily concerned with displacing the Democratic Party itself.

Much of what left and right do is similar, of course. We all slam our respective Party-Members-In-Name-Only, argue over points of ideology, attack the media for being too biased, etc.

But there does seem to be a difference in the basic conception of what this goofy pastime is all about. For the right, the blogosphere is an alternate media source; for the left, the blogosphere is simply a novel infrastructure for party-building activities.

Can't say, out of hand, that our model is better. Perhaps it would be more effective for the right to become more involved in the nitty-gritty of political activism and complete sell-out hackishness.

Then again, that sounds like a lot of work. Too much message-coordinating with internet dorks. So I'll stick with the alternate media model.

For all our differences, the left and right of the blogosphere seem to agree on two points: 1, the mainstream media is basically lazy, dunderheaded, and "intellectually incurious," and 2, the Democratic Party needs to be replaced by something that isn't pure crap.

It's interesting to me that the left of the blogosphere has been alleging for years and years that the right was all part of the same "rightwing noise machine" or "rightwing Wurlitzer," as Filet O'Fish calls it. We're all told what to write about by the RNC, or by Instapundit, and we all carry out our marching orders smartly.

And for all this time-- it's been the left that has been getting together, out of the view of their readers, to massage their daily Two-Minute Hates. All along, it's been the dextrosphere just writing about what we find interesting, with lots of different, and often disagreeing, points of views and idiosyncratic tics, while the left has been achieving its stultifyingly-similar GroupVoice by working out its bullet-points in committee.

This is an all-too-common failing of the left. They assume the rightwing bugaboos are doing something corrupt, or convince themselves that they are despite the evidence, and then use that as a pretext for doing the corrupt sorts of things they complain about. Rightwingers don't really out gay politicians, but the left convinces itself that we do, thus giving Americablog the purported justification to out any homosexual it dislikes.

And having convinced themselves that the right is conspiring to put out a common narrative and spin on the day's events, well, they seem to have decided to fight fire with fire.

Except, of course, there was no fire to begin with.

So, next time Oliver Willis mentions the "Right Wing Wurlitzer," I'd like what few readers he has left to ask him about the Townhouse Wurlitzer.


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posted by Ace at 06:13 PM

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