Bloggers Regurgitating Talking Points?

Bloggers Regurgitating Talking Points? Since no subject fascinates bloggers quite so much as bloggers, it’s no surprise that former White House communications director Dan Bartlett’s Texas Monthly comments on the subject have generated a blogstorm.

In the critical exchange, highlighted by TPM’s David Kurtz, Bartlett reacts angrily to a question about a “myth that there’s an underground tunnel between the Fox News studios and the White House,” claiming that Fox was of very little help. By contrast, however, bloggers like Hugh Hewitt or the gang at Power Line were considered must-reach targets because of their impact with the base.

I mean, talk about a direct IV into the vein of your support. It’s a very efficient way to communicate. They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we’ve cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.

This draws appreciative chuckles from Kevin Drum, who chortles, “the right-wing blogosphere now has a new motto: Even more credulous and slavish than Fox News. It’s a proud moment for them.”

As if Democratic politicians don’t use left-wing bloggers, including some of the very most prominent ones, in precisely the same way?

For the most part, bloggers aren’t reporters; we’re advocates. Some of us do original reporting from time to time. A handful, like Josh Marshall and Michelle Malkin, do quite a bit. But we don’t pretend to be unbiased and we tend to bite on talking points that are favorable to our candidates and run with stories that are detrimental to political adversaries.

Still, Dan Riehl‘s largely right when he says, “In my opinion, simply regurgitating what professionals give you isn’t blogging, not blogging I respect, anyway. And the best bloggers just don’t do it.”

To be sure, there are bloggers who are partisan hacks. And a handful of them have a large following. Most of us, though, are independent on an issue-by-issue basis even if we’re predisposed to give our guys the benefit of the doubt or to view information about the other side more harshly.

Ed Morrissey reminds us of several prominent examples: “I wonder if Bartlett has an explanation for the blogospheric response to Harriet Miers, Dubai ports, and most of all immigration that fits in with his ‘regurgitation’ model.”

For my part, I lambasted the administration on Harriet Miers (in opposition to Hugh Hewitt and others) and was one of a relative handful of right-of-center bloggers defending them on Dubai and immigration. In any case, though, the White House doesn’t have me on speed dial, as I haven’t been offered any exclusives to regurgitate.

White House PR Spam I get plenty of emails from them, but they’re of the garden variety hack press release variety and have been filtered directly into my “PR Spam” file for months. Indeed, most of the contacts I’ve gotten from campaigns, congressional staffs, and advocacy groups are similarly worthless.

While Bartlett and other Republican activists might consider their blogger outreach effort successful, they’ve done a horrid job. Sure, getting talking points out to the most credulous bloggers and their readership is worthwhile. But merely stoking a dwindling base is hardly the best way to build a coalition.

They’d be far better served emulating the model the John McCain campaign has used. While his blogger outreach guy sends out a ridiculous number of emails to his list — sometimes a dozen or more on the day of a debate — and could do a better job of focusing his effort, they’ve gotten the big picture right. McCain has frequent blogger conference calls to which he invites a wide range of Republican-leaning bloggers, most of whom have aligned themselves with other candidates for the nomination. He simply asks that bloggers listen to what he has to say (usually a one or two minute statement) and then opens the floor for 40 minutes or more of unscripted questions, to which he gives candid responses. The result of this is that he gets a fair hearing and creates an actual relationship with bloggers and, in turn, their readers.

That’s a more risky model, I suppose, than calling up the usual suspects and having press releases appear as blog posts. It’s also potentially much more rewarding.

UPDATE: Screencap of the most recent 20 (of hundreds) of messages from the White House Communications Office added above.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Blogosphere, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Not the senator says:

    You are one of the few conservative bloggers who seems to primarily offer your own opinions. Though the right-wing blogosphere as a whole, stays exactly on that day’s talking point and key conservative opinion leaders have long exploited that herd mentality.

    Left-wing bloggers on the other hand are the proverbial herd of cats.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Thanks for the compliment but I think your assessment of most others is too harsh.

    With the rise of aggregators like Memeorandum, there’s a tendency for everyone to talk about the same stories. That, combined with the “team sports” mentality of politics that I’ve talked about a lot, lends itself toward an echo chamber effect. But I see that among the left and right blogs on the main.

    There’s much less of it among the bloggers that I read, but that’s a matter of self selection.

  3. James, I doubt anybody thinks you’re one of those who Bartlett was talking about. From what I see, there’s a general consensus that you’re one of the few right of center bloggers worth reading.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Libby, I appreciate the compliment and didn’t think Kevin and others are including me in with the “wingosphere.”

    Still, I’d say there’s quite a bit of partisan cheerleading and credulousness among highly trafficked blogs on both sides of the aisle. Bluster sells, as does strong branding.

    There are so many very worthwhile blogs on both sides, though, that I can’t keep up with all of them. The problem is that most people read mostly blogs on their side and they mostly site a handful of the high visibility but shrill blogs as representative of the other side.

  5. Hal says:

    So James, is Bartlett simply lying? You seem to be saying, quite simply, that he is. Well, maybe lying is a bit strong. Rather, you’re saying that he’s completely in error and simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    I mean, we’re faced with the fact that he either doesn’t know what he’s saying and is telling a whopper of a mistruth, or that – in the position he was in as the former directory of white house communications – he actually does know what he’s talking about and he’s accurate in saying it.

    Oh, and I’ll just echo the rest of the sentiments that even though I believe Bartlett is quite on the mark, I don’t think this blog falls into that category. OTB sticks out like a sore thumb.

  6. Cernig says:

    I’ll endorse what my co-blogger libby said.

    But Libby – are you intercepting my talking point emails from the DNC and MoveOn? I’ve received nary a single one. Nor yet my check from George Soros.

    Regards, C

  7. James Joyner says:

    So James, is Bartlett simply lying? You seem to be saying, quite simply, that he is. Well, maybe lying is a bit strong. Rather, you’re saying that he’s completely in error and simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    I think Bartlett is saying that there are bloggers to whom he could feed talking points and expect to see it regurgitated. I’m sure that’s the case. Indeed, I presumed that was true before he said it.

    I’m merely saying that a handful of party hacks aren’t representative of the blogosphere — left or right.

  8. Hal says:

    I’m merely saying that a handful of party hacks aren’t representative of the blogosphere

    Well, I don’t think that he was saying – or implying – that it was a “handful of hacks”. Again, what you’re saying is that he’s really quite mistaken and simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about – and he’s the former communications director of the white house who would presumably know if he was only talking about a few hacks, hardly worth mentioning.

    Further, even if it’s a handful, and it happens to be the handful of the most popular blogs, then given the power law we know operates, that handful has the vast bulk of eyeballs. Who cares if some low traffic blog doesn’t regurgitate – it’s probably getting nothing to regurgitate anyway because of the fact it has no traffic and isn’t worth noticing anyway.

    Also, your hidden assumption – that left and right are really just the same in the blogosphere – is pretty much proven false by simple observation. Right now, there is a huge battle between the “netroots” and the main stream of the democratic party. I don’t think that anyone disputes that – I’d certainly like to know if I’m wrong and what the evidence is that they’re actually part and parcel of the same well oiled machine. So, it simply isn’t the case that officials on the left would be using blogs in the same way simply because of the extremely adversarial relationship between the two. Granted, some on the left have made some effective use of blogs, but these are – by definition – outsider candidates and those who are challenging the status quo within the party. They’re viewed with suspicion and often treated with derision by those in power.

  9. James Joyner says:

    would presumably know if he was only talking about a few hacks, hardly worth mentioning.

    He mentioned two sites.

    Right now, there is a huge battle between the “netroots” and the main stream of the democratic party.

    There’s long been a division between the right-of-center blogs and the GOP. Libertarian-leaning Republicans are much, more prominent online than in the party. The Porkbusters and Club for Growth movements and others have been wildly critical of Republican leadership, particularly in Congress.

  10. Hal says:

    He mentioned two sites.

    Okay, fair enough

    The Porkbusters and Club for Growth movements and others have been wildly critical of Republican leadership, particularly in Congress.

    Again, the point I made wrt left blogs wasn’t that that they were critical of the democratic leadership, rather that the democratic leadership is at best suspicious and more commonly outright hostile to the left blogs. The democratic leadership heaps scorn and derision on them pretty much every chance they get if they’re not simply ignoring them.

    The fact that the right, right-center and libertarian blogs are critical of the leadership doesn’t mean that the republican leadership doesn’t take the same view of the right’s blogs that the democratic leadership does of the left blogs. Rather, as Bartlett points out, they are avenues they use to get their message out – despite their being critical of the leadership.

    Clearly, this is not the case on the left.

  11. REGURGITATION…

    I think there’s a problem here of perception. The first starts at Dan Bartlett. For a man who had the job of communications, he did a horrible job. I agree that …

  12. just me says:

    I tend to do the majority of my blogreading at slightly right of Center blogs and a few left of Center blogs.

    I find that both are often talking about the same things-I think in general certain stories just become “the” story for that day.

    In general I don’t find all those on the right marching to the same drum-but that may be a matter of blog choice than anything else.

  13. Right Truth says:

    Culturism – Book Review…

    Can you define culturism? Do you know how it differs from multi-culturalism? “Culturism is premised on the idea that cultures do have the right to define themselves.” The book Culturism, by John Kenneth Press deals with America’s right as a…

  14. Just Another Blog Regurgitating the White House Talking Points…

    Actually, I do get a list of talking points from the White House on a daily basis. So, tell me again how we “regurgitate exactly and put up on [our] blogs what you said to [us]”? Ace points out that……

  15. I Feel So Left Out…

    Lefty blogs are crowing over how the White House is supposedly spoon-feeding conservative blogs i…
    Popularity: unranked [?]……

  16. British imam’s daughter under police protection after converting to Christianity…

    Added to the List. Hat tip, DW. Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him. — Muhammad A British imam’s daughter is living in fear of her life under police protection after she received death threats from her family for…

  17. It’s a good thing I’m registered as an independent…

    Otherwise, I’d be voting against God in the Republican primary. At least, that’s the direct implication of what Mike Huckabee recently stated……

  18. Reflections On The Romney Speech…

    Upon the completion of Governor Mitt Romney’s speech in College Station, my dear wife sent me an email that set the tone for our discussion tonight. His speech is/was extremely boring, like listening to you lecture 🙂 Indeed, I suspect……

  19. So, Where’s My Mortgage Relief…

    Given this plan to freeze mortgage interest rates on borrowers in the sub-prime market with adjustable rate mortgages, I have to ask what the government will do for me about my mortgage. President Bush will announce this afternoon an agreement……

  20. Boston Globe: Those Who Report Crimes Are “Vigilantes”…

    Now to be fair, they are simply agreeing with Hillary Clinton, who made the same statement about those who call the authorities about known lawbreakers. And besides, they are only referencing those who call the authorities over those who break……

  21. […] of hindsight, Huck made a decision that if he could change, he most certainly would. Trackposted to Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Rosemary’s Thoughts, The Random Yak, Adam’s Blog, Right Truth, […]

  22. More info on the NIE…

    Days after the initial release of the National Intelligence Estimate, there are yet more questions and articles. As I am not an ‘expert’ in this field, I would like to take this time to provide yet more ‘expert’ input…

  23. Rosemary says:

    Gee, I must have forgotten to turn on my snoop machine. I wasn’t even aware there were talking points! When I hear someone talking as if they were for someone as much as they are against someone else, I change the station. I don’t need either. Gosh. How did they miss me? However it was, keep it up. LOL

  24. […] to Outside the Beltway, The Random Yak, Right Truth, The World According to Carl, Pirate’s Cove, The Pink Flamingo, […]

  25. Breasts for a Cause…

    Ezekiel 16:7
    I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall and reached the age for fine ornaments; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown….

  26. Pat Buchanan Is Right (In the Wrong Way)…

    NORMAL ROCKWELL’S AMERICA IS DEADOur American Culture is in danger.   I will give that much to Pat Buchanan.  America ……

  27. […] to Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Rosemary’s Thoughts, The Random Yak, Adam’s Blog, Right Truth, The Pet […]

  28. […] to Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Rosemary’s Thoughts, The Random Yak, Adam’s Blog, Right Truth, The Pet […]

  29. A strange free speech victory as Pro Columbine Teacher will not be charged…

    Those who read here often know I value free speech.  This was a case a friend told me about and asked if I thought was valid:

    Teacher arrested for pro-Columbine blog post

    Bloggers and free speech advocates are calling on prosecu…

  30. Hal says:

    I think that anyone who thinks there aren’t talking points is way too naive to be believed.