Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Message Machine

For those Canadians stopping by to see if I'm going to accuse Ignatieff of eating kittens...

You may be wondering why I assume that conservative bloggers are apparatchiks and sock puppets. That's largely because of the evolution of the U.S.-focused blog scene (which I've been loosely involved in for half a decade now) to a binary system of liberal citizen-bloggers and conservative talking point repetition machines.

For a good breakdown of this, I'd suggest this piece on Alternet by Digby.

(If you don't know who Digby is, you ain't a real political blogger. I don't care if you're Stephen Taylor, Warren Kinsella, or Stephen friggin' Harper; you're a dilettante and a fake, the equivalent of a rock critic who doesn't know anything about this "Chuck Berry" guy, or a Hip-Hop artist who wonders what the big deal is about James Brown. Learn yourself up a little, you philistines.)

so. Quote on the conservative machine:

What most journalists and others who observe the new phenomenon of political blogging fail to understand is that the "blogosphere" is actually two rather sharply distinct spheres. These roughly mirror the country's political divide and are organized in very different ways.

The right blogosphere operates largely as part of the greater Republican message machine. Many of its bloggers are already part of that infrastructure, working as journalists for conservative publications, writing books and lecturing. Independent bloggers on the right hail from all walks of life, but the leading voices are either part of the political machine itself, like Mike Krempasky of RedState, or closely connected to the conservative media and think tank infrastructure, like Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin and the PowerLine bloggers. The right blogosphere is a reflection of successful top-down Republican message control, and as such these bloggers are welcomed warmly into the fold.

As Garance Franke-Ruta writes in the April issue of The American Prospect, the right-wing blogosphere has also recently become useful to long-established political operatives such as Morton Blackwell, mentor to iconic GOP campaign strategists Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. In the recent Eason Jordan affair, the right blogosphere was credited with forcing the former chief news executive of CNN to resign over a controversial off-the-record comment. It turned out that many conservative blogs were part of this larger concerted effort. In the wake of this success, conservatives are now running what Franke-Ruta describes as "Internet Activist Schools, designed to teach conservatives how to engage in guerilla Internet activism," or what some people used to call "dirty tricks."
Bolded sentences are mine. It's a fair assumption to make that if the Republicans are doing it, Harper's doing it. Canadian conservatives go through all that "leadership institute" nonsense too.

So, no, it's not paranoia to wonder why the most prominent Liberal blogger (that actually allows people to respond) is constantly inundated by conservatives saying the same things using slightly different words, over and over and over again. It's a tactic, widely understood and used within the conservative movement, to translate the top-down messaging system that they've used offline for so long onto the "blogosphere". Even if they aren't sent emails by the central office (and they likely are), it's pretty much understood what you should be saying, and how, and where.

The response?

Well, it's simple. Either ignore them, or respond by noting their skill at repeating talking points and then ignore them.

(And, while you're at it, recognize that the most successful blogging community in the world, the American progressive bloggers, got there by being a little independent... so think about maybe not doing exactly what you're told to by your "party elders" either.)

(Well, "successful" is relative. Still, better than Instapundit and his meaningless cronies.)

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