Blogging, Red Meat, and Reasoned Debate
Still, only faulting Michele isn’t really fair. I believe she’s the most frequently read conservative politics only blogger. Things like that happen for a reason. What it ultimately speaks to is the current state of blogs, blogging and blog readers as a whole.
We can do trash TV one better, be sure and tune in. Unfortunately, as long as the more strident voices are also the most popular on the Left and Right, blogging in general will never amount to much as regards a broader more mainstream readership.
The problem is that if the alleged debate is always going to be framed with anger and sensationalist pleas to emotion, in the end, you’ll get back the same thing. It’s a food fight all around and ultimately serves no good purpose for politics as a whole. That is, unless one is all about firing up the base at any cost.
Ezra Klein takes a similar tack, albeit from the left, in his post on the issue:
I know I’m not supposed to, but I pity Michelle Malkin. Really, I do. Punditry is a game of incentives, encouragement, luck. You write a hundred articles before striking paydirt with one. That zeitgeisty dispatch activates an eruption of applause and adulation, so you try to repeat it. Soon enough, you’ve got a niche, a style, a persona. The lucky ones, among whom I include myself, find their path opening towards responsible, serious commentary. The sort of articles that allow us to wake up, yawn, look in the mirror, and feel good about what we see. And then there are the unlucky ones, the Michelle Malkins, who achieve acceptance through hatred and venom, and find themselves groping down the darkest path to political success.
Malkin has created an identity of outrage, she trades in hate because she proved unable to achieve recognition for anything more elevated.
To begin with, I disagree with Klein and Riehl–and, indeed, my co-blogger Steve Verdon–on the nature of Malkin’s blogging style. While I frequently disagree with her, I consider her the best blogger in the game today. She has a unique voice, posts frequently, does original reporting, leads the way on stories several times a week, and has always understood and followed the strange and nuanced ettiquette of the Blogosphere, including frequently linking others.
Klein is right that Malkin has “a niche, a style, a persona” but that doesn’t strike me as a bad thing. Is she, as Riehl charges, “strident”? Sometimes, especially on a few hot button issues that she is especially attuned to, notably the illegal alien/Reconquista/culture debate and terrorism/Islamofascism. While it’s an exaggeration to say, as Dan does in a comment on the earlier thread, “Everything is Moonbat this, unhinged that,” there’s undeniably a lot of that.
It’s also true that those who are hotly ideological and throw red meat out to the partisans, including ridiculing those on the other side, tend to attract a more rabid following that those who treat punditry as an academic colloquy. There is a reason Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Al Franken, and others who fit that profile are at the top of the business.
It’s true in the blogosphere as well. To varying degrees, DailyKos, Little Green Footballs, Huffington Post, Eschaton, Crooks and Liars, AMERICAblog, Firedoglake, and Smirking Chimp thrive as controversialists. Their readership consists almost entirely of rabid partisans who agree with the host(s) and people on the other side who follow links (usually to the most rabid and controversial posts) for the purposes of getting angry.
Still, there’s plenty of room at the top for bloggers who take a calmer view. Volokh Conspiracy and Crooked Timber have done quite well by maintaining, for the most part, an intellectual tone, they are rarities among the high traffic sites. While critics might disagree, Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, Kevin Drum, and Josh Marshall are generally quite reasonable in their tone. In the middle range of bloggers, say, those getting between 5000 and 10,000 unique visitors a day, there are too many to list, although it would include Klein, this particular post notwithstanding.
Malkin is somewhere in between those groups, depending on the issue. She’s neither part of the lunatic fringe nor likely to win over a lot of people that didn’t basically agree with her to begin with. I suspect, however, that she’s quite content to get the word out about the things that get her juices going every day to 125,000-175,000 readers.