Friday, November 09, 2007

Blogworld Expo 07 - Raising the Level of Political Discourse

I'm here at Blogworld Expo this week and will be posting notes from the sessions I attend. This session was about making the political conversations in the blogosphere more cordial. I took a lot of snarky notes that I deleted halfway through. It just didn't feel right to do that. Instead, I'll just give a summary and analysis.

First off, the people in the room all had unhappy looks on their faces. They also sat away from each other. It looked like a prison yard where no one knew who among them had the bed spring that was sharpened into a knife point. This contrasted with the fun and friendly atmosphere of the marketing sessions I attended.

Michael Medved was the moderator and did a good job of it despite finding out he was going to be the moderator only a few minutes before the session started. The panel included Gateway Pundit, Roger Simon, Jeralyn Merit who runs Talk Left, Natasha from Pacific Views and Captain Ed.

Much of the conversation circled around what was and was not acceptable conversation on their blogs. There were varying levels of moderation. From time to time one side would try to cast the other as the real reason the conversation was so hostile. Gateway Pundit pointed to a blog analysis that showed that lefty blogs have 18 times as much cursing as righty blogs. The lefties didn't deny this fact, but claimed that the Bush administration policies were the real obscenities. Michael Medved asked if obscenities coarsened the tone of the conversation on the blogs, but the lefties weren't bothered by it.

Well, !#^!&#*&!(&%@#! Me neither.

Actually, I think it does. I am easily the most foul-mouthed person at work and I dislike what it does to my conversations and the way people react to it. It's just a habit that I have failed to take the time and effort to break. ^@*@(! I need to get to work on that.

There was more conversation on how things were moderated. Natasha tried to get Michael to disavow Michelle Malkin and Misha the Rottweiler over their attacks on the Democrats' poster family for S-CHIP. Michael said he did not agree with their methods, but said if you were going to be used as a national prop by a political party, you pretty much had to take what came with it. Just for the record, I dislike both Malkin and Misha for the reasons the lefty bloggers enumerated.

As the session neared it's end, an interesting thing happened. Each of the bloggers talked about how they didn't like to be categorized. Roger Simon said he was socially liberal and a war hawk. Jeralyn Merit from Talk Left was pro-gun. Michael Medved talked about how he was pro-immigration and Captain Ed said he was disappointed in how the Republicans were obsessed with sex. What it showed was that these opinion makers of the blogosphere don't fit into pigeon holes and they are not tools for one party or the other. That is a huge sea change in the political environment. Political parties are watching the populace pixelate into smaller and smaller, semi-disjoint subgroups.

Before I go farther, I want to respond to Captain Ed's assertion that sex should be way down on everyone's list of priorities. I'm a single father. I live with the results of loose morality every day of my life. Society's attitudes towards sex should be #1. It's not even close. Still think it doesn't matter? Live it up, guys. Enjoy.

When immigration came up, Natasha told the audience that if they had eaten food in the United States, they had hired an illegal alien. That's the same kind of illogical reasoning as the whole chickenhawk argument. Statistically speaking, if you're over, say, 40, then you are virtually guaranteed to have executed a financial transaction with a child molester. I guess that makes Natasha a pedophile supporter. She should be ashamed of herself. If not, she can rest assured that I was ashamed for her.

During the Q&A session, one of the lefties in the audience asked why there weren't more working-class families blogging. Hidden question: "Where is the enraged proletariat in all of this?" The panelists all responded that in all likelihood, working-class families didn't have the time to blog. Captain Ed hit it out of the park by mentioning how low the barrier to entry is for blogging. He was the only one who did so. Before I asked the question described below, I responded to this. I told them that there were plenty of working-class bloggers. Most of the momblogs out there and the contributors to the Festival of Frugality were working-class. They just aren't a pack of angry political cranks. They're happy people who share stories and tips with each other. They have fun, they don't spend their time angry and outraged. Try Scribbit if you want to see someone who does it well and then look at all the mombloggers who leave comments in her posts.

As I watched the discussion unfold, I kept being struck by the incongruity of it all. At the end, I finally got to ask them my question. Weren't they struck by the irony of the whole thing? Here they were, living in the greatest nation on God's green Earth (to borrow Michael's tag line), blogging on computers across a sophisticated network in houses and offices unmatched for comfort and luxury in the history of Mankind and they were endlessly carping and whining and being outraged.

After a full hour of discussing how people on their blogs were behaving like distempered wolverines, the collected panel engaged in faster backpedalling than unicycle-riding bears at the circus. Oh, no, they weren't outraged, they were educating and discussing and illustrating and guiding and ...

Oh, get over it. Look at the audience and read the comment streams. There is a constant sense of rage and unhappiness on these blogs. Yep, I engage in it, too and I hate what it does to me after I blast someone over politics.

Michael Medved followed this up with an outstanding observation that there is a huge gratitude deficit in this country and we spend way too much time being outraged. Amen, brother!

The whole thing made me want to eschew politics forever on my blog. I won't, of course, because from time to time I'm moved to blog about it and the posts are just so darned easy to write.

I'm sure I'll think of more on this topic later, but I'm going to go work out now and watch ESPN. If the TV in the gym is set to CNN, I'll change the channel. I can do without all the negativity, thank you very much.

Update: Despite my snarkiness, Captain Ed linked to this! Yay! Thanks, Captain Ed. The Feline Theocracy will soon welcome you into the fold.

Update 2: Gateway Pundit linked, too. Hooray!


sharinlite said...

Thanks to Captain's Quarters for my reading you blog....I resemble what you wrote and I agree with you. I think next year, before I get too old, I'll make it to the Expo 08 if it's close. You, are right about a great deal. Did you ever get the lefty gal's blog name? Just curious.

K T Cat said...

Thanks, sharinlite! I'll check out your blog in a bit, but right now I need to scoot off and find an outlet. My little laptop is so very, very thirsty!


I did not get her blog. I'll keep looking for it.

Rose said...

Thanks for all these posts, KT. It's fascinating stuff. Sounds like fun, too.

Gateway Pundit said...

I agree. America is the greatest country in history.
Thank you for your question and for your terrific analysis of the session.

K T Cat said...

Wow, gateway! I'm surprised you didn't mind my snarkiness. You're alright. Thanks for coming by.

A Jacksonian said...

That sounds like a fantastic panel! I am unlikely to ever attend such a thing, but that is due to physical incapacity... my time spans from the era of the old/new media interface just before and during the stand-up of blogging. I attended various of the Seybold Seminars, massive Print '97 in Chicago, SIGGRAPHs, and tech/computer shows of that transition era from 1994-2003.

The striking thing about reading from BlogWorld is that this future, that the MSM and old media had put forth on in the 1990's as 'something they would figure out, RSN' is something they were unable to figure out.

Attending panels that had various old media representatives (NYT, CBS, WaPo) during the 1994-95 timeframe asked them: 'How will you address losing market share?' That above answer is the amalgam of what these industry representatives said. Everything from *faxed* newspapers to some sort of sophisticate 'buy only the sections you like' papers to 'our editorial control will always make our reporting good' are the responses had from that era. With the rise of HTML from SGML and new tools to format sites for a Graphical User Interface came the first bloggers. The last of the Seybold Seminars were New/Old media conferences and one lesson learned was that digital media would not see widespread adoption until it: adapted to individuals, was easy to use (via sight or through other channels for the disabled), and enhanced the way one lived without the need for cord or batteries. Cheap came up as the main driving force on each of those.

Blogging is the answer to the old media, yet it is not fully up and going even yet: audioblogs, videoblogs, and the omnipresent mixed media blogs all point to a massive change in outlook. The predictions for the future at one of the last Seybold Seminars was startling in the view by those developing the technology that widespread communication that was ubiquitous, cheap, easy to use and would adjust itself to *you* was due in the 2010-15 timeframe. The thing proposed by HP and INTEL was the 'LifeBlog': your continuous recording with automatic tagging of your life as you went through it, with help of sophisticated software and onto storage media the size of a sugar cube. The mixed media becomes the all-senory input recording with only what you *want* to share (if anything) made available.

While so many worry about 'Big Brother', this asymmetrical approach which has been seen as the 'end of privacy' is, in fact, just the opposite: it is the sharing of those portions of your life that you wish to share and violations of that become a societal concern in addition to legal views. Glenn Reynolds wrote on the 'Army of Davids' concept, and this was first put forth as all the 'Little Brothers' being able to out-think and out-maneuver the political and legal structure of today. The over-riding concept is that of disintermediation of media... and that term was borrowed from the economic impact of buying and selling on the web, as trusted retailers now needed to give a value for their activities as an intermediary between manufacturers and customers. The 'bricks' end of retailing will always have a venue as they become not only places to touch and feel objects directly, but to interact person-to-person and get some experience from the reseller on an item. Apply that to media and politics and that puts the MSM and political parties as those being disintermediated: as general collection points and organizing ideals they have a purpose, but as sole purveyors they will not survive.

Blogging is not just a US or Anglosphere concern, and the impact it is having in other languages where Nations and governments offer far less in the way of rights are feeling the Anglosphere concepts infiltrating into their societies beyond kids wanting their MTV. In China that is being fought, to the detriment of their ability as a Nation to manage itself while in slightly smaller India it is being embraced and the changes to Indian society have been staggering over the last 10 years. In the US and some other parts of the West the political outlooks come to be blandly known as Left and Right and the diversity has shrunk in ideology, even as the people in Western nations have diverse viewpoints. That static point will not last in the light of media and communications that become cheap, portable, adaptable, interactive and easy to use. What the printing press did for the Roman Catholic church, the new media will do for political organizations, save on a much, much, much faster time scale as Moore's Law is the vice that is closing on those structures.

And that all starts with individuals sharing their lives and communicating with each other via this new media and form we call blogging.

Faster, please!

K T Cat said...

a jacksonian,

that all starts with individuals sharing their lives and communicating with each other via this new media and form we call blogging

I think that you've hit upon the stopping point for the MSM. Can you imagine Anderson Cooper really engaging in a discussion with any of the milbloggers? He'd be outed as a nitwit almost immediately. When you watch the milbloggers talk with each other, the conversation immediately takes on a very technical flavor as they all can assume a pretty substantial foundation of knowledge in the others. I would think that someone like Anderson would feel like a high schooler in the middle of a pack of PhD chemists.

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I have read your commentary. It certainly won't be the last. Well said, and well done.


K T Cat said...

Wow, cerebus, that's quite a compliment! Thanks. I hope I don't disappoint you.