Friday, June 4, 2010

OpenLeft Announces The Death of Amateur (White Heterosexual Male) Progressive Blogging

Recently, the New York Times announced that it was incorporating the liberal blog FiveThirtyEight, authored by Nate Silver. In response, Chris Bowers of OpenLeft has declared that amateur progressive blogging has died.

What evidence does Bowers cite for this proposition? Several liberal bloggers have taken paid jobs at professional sites like the Washington Post and Salon.Com. Also, other progressive blogs have become large professional and money-making operations. Finally, bloggers have used their blogging experience to obtain paid consulting positions, which they perform along with blogging. Ergo, the amateur liberal blog has died.

Ahem. There are many liberal bloggers who make little or no money from their efforts. Bowers' essay indicates a pesky problem within the liberal blogging community. Larger, more established blogs -- often those run by whites, men or heterosexuals -- are the only ones that get serious attention among many so-called liberals. Developments at these blogs supposedly represent the status of the blogging world at large. Therefore, if many or most of these blogs are chasing dollars and becoming professionalized, then amateur blogging no longer exists.

Well, there are many liberal bloggers, especially many who write on feminist, race and LGBT politics. Bowers' essay attempts to recognize the power of monied interests, but to make this point, he slights the efforts of people who represent diversity in the blog world.

Bowers laments the death of amateur progressive blogs, suggesting that liberals are being co-opted by larger institutions. Perhaps Bowers should read blogs outside of his comfort zone. Let me know if you need a list of suggested reading, Chris.


Chris in DC said...

Can't write much now, but you make some very important - and too rarely stated - points. The liberal blogosphere, for all its preaching about media/political hierarchies, exclusive circles, and comfortable blind spots, has its own that cry out for examination and alleviation.

Ediberto Roman said...

Roman in Miami notes:

Well said Professor Hutchison. There is too little examination of the make up and structure of the blogging elite. For an alternative means of communication, it seems to be replicating the same old structures of privilege.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Chris: Thanks so much. When I started blogging, I received more engagement from conservative bloggers and from feminist bloggers. Odd bedfellows, right? But the point is that they were willing to look outside of establishment channels for analysis. Glenn Greenwald is an exception to this trend. He is truly committed to citing and giving exposure to women, LGBT, people of color and lesser known blogs.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Ediberto: Thanks! For those of you who do not know this already, Professor Roman is the co-author of a progressive blog written by Latino law professors: Nuestras Voces Latinas

Joanna said...

I think it is sad that people seem to think that unless a blog has thousands of readers, it is not worth mentioning/thinking about. A lot of the blogs that are the most well known/popular, may have gone on the corporate route, but why not seek out some of those blogs that have a strong voice, but not such a strong following. Does a blog not really count unless it is read by thousands?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Joanna: You raise very important questions. If blogs are an alternative to the "corporate" media, shouldn't the blog community recognize those blogs that are not funded by corporations?

Lisa said...

Thank you so much for voicing what I think everyday. I never go to the big boy sites anymore. They reek of lemmings. Not one independent thought amongst the group of them.

poplicola said...

"Bowers' essay indicates a pesky problem within the liberal blogging community. Larger, more established blogs -- often those run by whites, men or heterosexuals -- are the only ones that get serious attention among many so-called liberals."

I still don't get the obsession with skin color, particularly on a blog. I take your word for it that the photo on this blog is you, but I read for your ideas, for the content of your character, not the color of your skin.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Poplicola: Several reactions.

I mentioned more than just skin color.

This post does not suggest I am obsessed with skin color -- unless writing an essay about race/gender/feminism proves an obsession with the topic.

Also, if empirically, the statement about Bowers is true -- isn't he the one obsessed with these traits?

Furthermore, the "content of my character" is undoubtedly shaped by my experiences growing up black in America. That does not mean that we do not have common understanding, but common understanding does not negate the role of identity.

Finally, thanks for reading!

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Lisa: Thanks! One thing I thought of is that Bowers complains about the lack of independent blogs, but the blog roll on OpenLeft is laden with corporate-style blogs. Kinda makes you wonder why he's complaining.

poplicola said...

Re-reading my post I think I ought to have made clear that I don't think you're obsessed with race, but that there is a general focus on it in public to our detriment. As for shaping of character, I've never thought that where a person's ancestors came from or less, what they looked like, was as important as what they did once they got here.

ZombieHero said...

First off, thanks for responding to my tweet on Kagan and Marshall.

Now for disclosure, I'm a Free-Market zealot, aka a Hillary Dem turned Libertarian...apostate to most and pariah to others.

One thing that continues to fascinate me is the dichotomy of liberal/prog bloggers that want to be both be recognized/gain credibility/have their voice heard and the want to maintain the "independence" label. Its a lot like the Punk music culture, they label others as sellouts at the drop of a hat, but are the first to sell out themselves in the name of getting their "message out" but don't worry they will always remember their "roots." I just don't get this mentality anymore...what is wrong for getting paid for what your good at?
The Anti-Capitalist mentality of the prog blogs just astounds me, so when I read that article and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd complaints are just variations of the "sell out" theme...I can't but help ask...what is so wrong with that? Is the idea a starving artists or activists so romanticized in liberal culture that to make money is a sin?

Of course that leads into the other thing that fascinates me, the constant ad hominem from both sides, of "corporate media." I think it's something the Left needs to discuss more than ever...although I do think it someone ironic that is was the conservative/libertarians that are the first to worry about it. It definitely fits well with Dr. Sowell's constrained vision.

ZombieHero said...

The last paragraph should read more like this:
"Of course that leads into the other thing that fascinates me, the constant ad hominem from both sides, of "corporate media." The Left is in danger of running out of "approved" sources soon...peak sources? I think it's something the Left needs to discuss more than ever...although I do think it someone ironic that is was the conservative/libertarians that are the first to worry about it (Epistemic Closure). It definitely fits well with Dr. Sowell's constrained vision."

That said, I do like to read your blog even if I don't comment much. At least most of the people here aren't completely hostile on opposing views, unlike Huffpo, Kos and Open Left.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Poplicola: I did not say that the origin of my ancestors or my skin color determined anything about me. Instead, I said it was the experiences I had growing up black in the US. Those are two different things. I define race as a set of experiences and relations. They are based on a social construct, but this does not make these experiences irrelevant. In terms of science, skin color is practically irrelevant, however. But I would not conflate this with race.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

ZH: I don't even think the big liberal bloggers are anti-capitalism. If you go on those blogs, they all have ads and ad space for sale (including OpenLeft).

As for your second post, I was chased off Huffo, Daily Kos and OL. A person who posted and commented on one of my articles was banned from DemocraticUnderground. The article said that Bush was not the worst president in US history. So, I know what you mean.

ZombieHero said...

That doesn't necessarily prove they are anti-capitalist. It just means they want to make money. But that's part of the dichotomy I was referring to.
They blame the markets for the financial crisis, even though misguided regulation (government failure) was at the root (see John Taylor's account). Or take Healthcare for example. Most on the Left are of the thought that markets don't work, which is a very anti-capitalistic world view (See Von Mises "Anti-Capitalistic Mentality")
As I said I think it's funny that most on the Left (not all) vilify business as "exploiting" the consumer or the worker or some other nonsense, but nonetheless have the dream of not working for the Man. Yet, when put in the position of deciding to fire someone or risk going out of business, they'll act in a rational self serving way, which the Left would think is unfair.

Another way of thinking about it is charity. The Left typically loves to talk about how many poor people there are or what not, yet are the worst in giving to actual charity. Biden's charitable giving comes to mind as apposed to Cheney's. I know that seems off subject, but I think that it's relevant to the money motive.

Bowers' article is just another extension of that mentality. Woe because some Prog bloggers decide to take the money instead of keeping it real somehow, and starve.

I can't tell you how many times I've been called a sell out or some kind of traitor, because my political views have changed. I've been chased off a few blogs, or disinterested, however you want to call it.
I think it's a question worth thinking about, how fast your liberal friends will turn on you if you change your tune to some liberal warming is a good one...nothing gets their fires going like Gaia.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

ZH: My point was simply that Bowers, who laments the fact that bloggers are becoming professionalized and using their posts to make money, is on a blog that does the same things!

As far as the rest of your post, I am somehwere in the middle on these things like regulation. Many liberal economists are as well. I would not say that everyone on the Left (or even most persons on the Left) favor government over markets. That just is simply untrue -- at least when you think of liberal economists (i.e., people who know something about economics).

I strongly believe in the concept of a market failure. Sometimes, correcting a market failure requires government intervention, but usually, this intervention rests on market principles. So, for example, the polluter does not internalize the costs to society of pollution. The market intervention should force the company to take these costs into consideration. This is a simplistic example, but it shows collaboration between market and private among the Left.

ZombieHero said...

I see your point. I just think it's indicative of more than just his double standard.

I agree markets do fail. But how they fail and to what extent is largely subjective. We probably will agree on the margin but not on average, on what constitutes a market failure. For example, you may or may not think the financial crisis was a market failure, while I see it as a government/regulation failure. I think a lot of the cause of it was due to past government actions, institutional moral hazard (ie Too Big to Fail, Russ Roberts has a good essay on it)

I think the big place we might differ is on solutions to market failures. I think the predominant though among the Left is that Government needs to step in. I disagree, due to Public Choice concerns. I see government action as being the worse of any possible solutions in a lot, but not all cases.

I think another place we differ is on your assertion that "intervention rests on market principles." I take the Hayekian view that markets are a very dynamic and random phenomena. We can't predict what 1000 people are going to do tomorrow, yet the market is explicitly dependent on what those 1000 people do. The incentives for each actor might be exactly the same, but each of those 1000 might do totally different things, that might be perceived by an outside observer to be totally random or worse, go against "market principles." (I'm assuming that when you say market principles your talking about rational choice theory)
When your say that Government intervention rests on market principles, I see that as an oxymoron. The Market is decentralized, and by imposing top down centralized rules, your not going to get the results you want. I liken it to a mad scientists working in a lab, saying that evolution isn't working fast enough, so he is going to help it along. How does he know which path evolution was going to take? Same with intervention resting on market principles. How does the central planner know what the market was going to do?

While you say the government will force the company to internalize externalizes, I say buy doing that your distorting what the market was going to do. How do we know the market wasn't going to bankrupt that company from the get go?

Think about the BP spill. If it wasn't for Government rules and regs that restrict entry into the drilling business, who's to say Transocean, Halliburton, or BP wouldn't go bankrupt over their actions? Or what about Goldman Sachs. Government intervention, bailouts, kept Goldman in business. The market would have bankrupted all those Wall Street firms that had a part in crisis, but it was government interaction that keeps them in business now, against market principles.

I could go on, but I'll stop. I think it's enough to say we will probably never agree, but I don't see that as a bad thing.

ZombieHero said...

Oh one last thing. Re: "I would not say that everyone on the Left (or even most persons on the Left) favor government over markets."

That's your opinion and I respect that, but we don't have any hard data on that. At least I couldn't find a poll that explicitly asks "Do you favor Government over Markets?" The best we can do for data is use a proxy. The Public option is a good proxy, I think. We can probably bicker on the percentages of Liberals that want a public option, depending on the pollster, but I think we can both agree that it the majority. Right?
Also there is this old Rasmussen poll (Which liberals usually don't like, I don't know your take on Rasmussen) that says 30% of Democrats prefer socialism to capitalism (39%). Either way Capitalism aka markets are in the minority.

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