ShareThis Page
News Columnists

Triumph of the blogs

| Saturday, March 5, 2005

The moment of "blog triumphalism" is upon us. This may sound like odd news to you, since it's entirely possible that you still don't know what a blog is. If you're in the dark, hie thee to the nearest Internet search engine and type in the word.

The phrase "blog triumphalism" speaks to the growing sense of optimism, self-confidence and power -- and, perhaps, depending on one's perspective, arrogance and even hubris -- that characterizes the bloggerati's mood these days.

Virtual taxidermists are taking orders to stuff the carcasses of all sorts of Mainstream Media ("MSM") mastodons bagged by the bloggers. New York Times editor Howell Raines and CNN news chief Eason Jordan top the list of felled beasts. Dan Rather, meanwhile, (like Sen. Trent Lott) was merely tranquilized and defanged.

I'm pro-blog -- a reader of many and a admirer of quite a few. But the steady drumbeat about the "revolutionary" nature of blogging is getting out of hand. Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, may be right that "the revolution will be blogged," but the revolution isn't about blogging.

First, some perspective. The typical blogger is not some hyper-smart, tenacious lawyer -- like the guys at Powerlineblog -- poring over the minutiae of a faulty CBS story. Nor is he a crusading consultant/activist/left-winger like the guy who runs the Daily Kos. The average blogger, according to a 2003 survey, is a teenage girl who updates her site a couple times a month with the latest 411 about her prom dress or which Olsen twin she, like, really likes.

In many ways, the real story of the bloggers' triumph is the story of a right-wing (though not always conservative) populist uprising that started half a century ago. The story begins with National Review's founding in 1955 and extends through five decades of steady, heavy and difficult work.

In the 1970s it was Spiro Agnew's denunciation of liberal media bias that ultimately resulted in William Safire getting a job at The New York Times. In the Wall Street Journal, the late Robert Bartley's op-ed page opened a new front in the heart of elite daily journalism.

Don't let the word "conservative" fool you. Rebels on the right were pioneers in the political exploitation of new and alternative technologies long before anyone knew what blogs were. Led by Rush Limbaugh, conservatives even revived AM radio, making it a major source of a populist backlash against liberal-controlled institutions.

Cable profoundly transformed politics. C-Span alone did more to demystify government than a generation of muckrakers -- or bloggers -- ever could. CNN pioneered the steady erosion of the Big Three networks' stranglehold on information. Later, Fox News soon destroyed CNN's stranglehold on 24-hour news.

And, remember, the Internet was a big deal before the onset of the of the blogs as well. For good or for ill, Matt Drudge refused to treat the MSM as a sacred monastery, and in many respects he remains the ur-blogger. National Review Online, if I may say, was no slouch either in the story of the political Internet's rise, before the blogs. (Now we have many blogs of our own.)

Left-wing bloggers believe they are part of the same "revolution" as right-wing bloggers. They're not. The conservative blogs are the shock troops of a decades-long battle to seize back the culture. Conservatives have always had to rely on "alternative media" -- magazines, AM radio, blogs -- because the Mainstream Media barred the door to conservatives.

And even when they let a few token ones in, they had to be labeled "conservative" first and journalists a distant second. The lefty blogs are something else entirely. They represent -- much like the still lame liberal talk radio and the new liberal think tanks -- an attempt to copycat conservative successes.

Their fight is not with the monolithic mainstream media (or academia) but with the usurpers. Politics is not a battle of technology. It is a battle of ideas, and therein lies all the difference.

Jonah Goldberg is editor of National Review Online.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me