Blogs: Balancing the Conservative Media

Markos Moulitsas, a/k/a Kos, uses the first installment of his weekly column for the London Guardian explaining how blogs like his are saving the world from the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy:

It was the year 2000, and Democrats were running on a record of peace and prosperity stewarded by the capable, if morally imperfect, Bill Clinton. It was a race that should have been won by their candidate, Al Gore. In fact, it was won by Al Gore, but the Rightwing Noise Machine kept it close enough to be stolen by the Republicans and their allies at the supreme court.

A truly amazing number of lies and distortions for one, short paragraph.

What is the Rightwing Noise Machine? Conservatives in the United States have spent the last 30 years building a vast infrastructure designed to create ideas, distribute them, and sell them to the American public. It spans multiple think tanks and a well-oiled message machine that has a stranglehold on American discourse. From the Weekly Standard, Rush Limbaugh, Wall Street Journal, Drudge Report and Murdoch’s Fox News, to (more recently) the mindless drones in the rightwing blogosphere, the right enjoys the ability to control entire news cycles, holding them hostage for entire elections.

Indeed. It’s a wonder that there are no newspapers of greater significance than WSJ that espouse a leftist viewpoint. (Other than the NYT, WaPo, and LAT.) And, certainly, there are no liberal think tanks of any note. (Aside from Brookings and a dozen or so others.) Goodness knows, every paper put out by Heritage or Cato is immediately trumpeted in the mainstream press as if it were the gospel truth.

It’s true that Limbaugh and Drudge are without comparable rivals on the Left. Fox News is doing quite well considering that it started way behind CNN, not to mention the three broadcast networks that predated it by half a century. But I would argue that these venues are successful precisely because they are giving voice to news that would otherwise be ignored. Rather clearly, there is a vast segment of American society that feels that the elite institutions of society are working against their values–and it’s not the Left. That no liberal talk shows have had anything like the success of Limbaugh (or even Sean Hannity, Gordon Liddy, Laura Ingraham, Glen Beck, etc.) certainly isn’t because there are no people on the Left with the talent to pull of a show–Hollywood is full of them.

Liberal groups are fighting back, working to build a parallel infrastructure. My blog receives 350-400,000 visits every day – double that of and comparable to the Guardian’s print run. Daily Kos and other bloggers like Atrios, MyDD, TalkLeft, and Juan Cole have become a liberal counterweight to the mainstream media and the Rightwing Noise Machine. We don’t have parity, but we’re working on it. [numerous hyperlinks omitted]

Kos labels those who basically agree with him but make an effort to maintain a professional demeanor as apolitical as the “mainstream media.” Most on the Right would disagree. It’s no accident that most of the early successes in the blogosphere came from the conservative-libertarian side of the spectrum. It’s the same reason that talk radio and other alternative media outlets were dominated by the Right: one doesn’t need an alternative outlet if you’re already dominating the dominant one.

(Hat tip: Kevin Drum)

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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.


  1. bryan says:

    My blog receives 350-400,000 visits every day – double that of and comparable to the Guardian’s print run.

    The fact that the Guardian let this bit of b.s. pass the editing desk is a poor reflection on their editing staff. To compare 400,000 “visits” with the press run of a newspaper is laughable. How many of Kos’ visits are return visits? Is Kos saying there are a comparable number of Guardian readers who buy more than one issue of the paper?

    Not to mention the ~20 million in Rush’s audience on a daily basis, or the how many million who tune in to FOX on the tele rather than on the web site.

    If this is the type of “truth to power” that the left is putting out, I don’t think the right has much to fear.

  2. Paul says:

    That Kos must be smoking the good stuff.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Yep–the numerical comparisons struck me as rather apples/oranges as well.

  4. Stephen says: receives 350-400,000 visits every day

    I don’t know how accurate the web site “The Truth Laid Bear” is but as of this morning they show the DailyKos at 297,802 visits per day.

  5. Bithead says:

    A truly amazing number of lies and distortions for one, short paragraph.

    Not for Kos, it’s not….

  6. MoonCrowe says:

    I can make my hit counter show more hits than that!!!!! That a half million individuals hit that site daily is laughable.

  7. Bithead says:

    Not really, Moon.
    Consider the number of votes Howard Dean got.
    There’s a lot of idiocy out there. I suppose it’s thereby possible that Kos could attract that kind of HPD.

  8. mshyde says:

    Since the majority of the time Kos’ publications are
    false and full of twisted half truths, why should anyone believe the stated number of hits he gets on his site? Who is he paying to keep going to his site and hitting the refresh button over and over?
    How many are unique?

  9. James Joyner says:

    I have no reason to doubt Kos’ site stats are in that ballpark. He’s the highest ranked site on the BlogAds order page on a pretty consistent basis. His site is one of the four or five most popular blogs, quite possibly the most popular. It’s one of the few of the truly huge blogs that still allows comments–albeit registered users only–so there’s likely a lot of repeats each day, with people going back and interacting.