Snakes on a Blog
Writing for USA Today, Bruce Kluger uses some rather strained logic to argue that the power of the blogosphere is largely mythological. His evidence? Bloggers failed to kill of Joe Lieberman’s independent campaign for the Senate and “Snakes on a Plane” had only modest success at the box office.
On Aug. 8, Connecticut businessman Ned Lamont defeated U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary, a triumph widely credited to the rah-rah racket produced by pro-Lamont armies stationed along the Internet.
Indeed, the bloggers had scored big. They had helped vault a local politician to national prominence and cemented the Iraq war as Issue No. 1 in the congressional elections. Not a bad day.
But their victory was short-lived. Even before the primary, Lieberman announced that, should he lose, he’d still run in November as an independent. This electoral chutzpah effectively rope-a-doped the bloggers and recharged the senator’s fabled Joe-mentum. Lieberman’s still the man to beat in the general election.
While it is helpful of Kluger to point out that bloggers are a subset of voters which are a subset of people, it’s unclear what that insight reveals. Would Ned Lamont be the Democratic nominee for the Senate absent the organized movement led by lefty bloggers? Doubtful. Can the Netroots have the same kind of impact in the general election? Well, no. So what?
If this wasn’t enough to drain the effervescence from the blogger bubbly, America’s noisy Web wags were dealt an even more sobering blow 10 days later when Snakes on a Plane opened nationwide to a decidedly flat $15.3 million box office.
Before its premiere, Snakes had been the latest blogger darling, as swarms of online film geeks prematurely crowned it the summer’s big sleeper. This hyperventilating fan base even convinced Snakes‘ distributor, New Line Cinema, to up the movie’s rating to R, to ensure a gorier, more venomous snake fest.
But all that clapping and yapping couldn’t put enough fannies in the seats. Ticket sales for Snakes‘ debut barely topped those of Talladega Nights, which was already in its third week.
So a comparatively low budget film overtaking a highly promoted film starring perhaps the biggest box office draw today, despite having been publicized almost entirely through a grassroots online effort is evidence of the failure of online marketing?
And which bloggers, precisely, were touting this film? I have read in various media outlets that bloggers were hyping–and even helping write–the movie. But I don’t recall any of the political bloggers I read–and I read a lot of them–touting the movie except as a one-off cultural reference.
There are some good comments on this at Crooked Timber, with Kieran Healy observing that, “in the absence of the jokey attention it got online, would have gone straight to DVD and never come close to the top of the box office for even a single weekend.”
Commenter Steve LaBonne offers, “I’m tired of these [censored] silly blogosphere columns in these [censored] newspapers.” And Michael Bérubé ties the two events together beautifully, offering up this gem: “Joe Lieberman is the only Democrat who takes seriously the threat of motherlovin’ snakes on planes. Elect Ned Lamont and you might as well hand America over to our Herpetofascist enemies.”