Two Political Blogospheres

Two blogging conventions, Netroots Nation (the successor to Daily Kos) and RightOnline, are being held in Pittsburgh this week.  As Timothy McNulty reports for the Post-Gazette, they’re different in ways other than politics.

The RightOnline conference starting tomorrow morning at the Sheraton Station Square will have about a quarter of the 2,000 attendees at the liberal conference in the convention center, and only about 20 speakers to the 400 at Netroots. Liberals are throwing multiple parties at the Warhol and a gay-lesbian kiss-in. Conservatives end Friday night with a film criticizing Al Gore.

What, no conservative homosexual kiss-in?! Shocking!

Matt Yglesias says it’s the demographics, stupid:

The over-60 demographic is a hotbed of conservative sentiments, but it’s also very disinclined to go online. The stereotype of progressive bloggers and blog readers as “young” tends to be wildly overstated, but what is true is that the online universe contains relatively few senior citizens, and the current version of the conservative coalition contains quite a lot of seniors.

But conservative bloggers aren’t seniors, so that doesn’t explain it.  Demographics do matter, however. The Netroots do skew younger and their most prominent bloggers tend to have institutional affiliations or be full-time bloggers.  Most of the top conservative bloggers still have day jobs that don’t involve blogging.

An additional explanation is offered in McNulty’s piece:

“The problem by and large remains that on the right, the focus still tends to be on punditry as opposed to activism,” said Erick Erickson, the editor of RedState, and a speaker at RightOnline on Saturday. “It has been focused on bloggers trying to be the next Rush Limbaugh or the next columnist, not on urging readers to call members of Congress or go to tea parties.”

Beyond that, as Chris Bowers and others have argued for years, liberals have tended to be more communal online whereas conservatives have tended to be individualistic.  I, for one, can’t imagine traveling to Pittsburgh to talk about blogging for several days.

Photo by Flickr user Neeta Lind under Creative Commons license.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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. This is perhaps a restatement of what you have already said, but the progressive earnest young people who want to change the world seem to love these sort of convocations where their feelings can be reinforced and supported. Hubris is a foreign concept to may of them.

    The conservative folks across the street tend to be naturally suspicious of putting too much trust into the sort of convocations where a desire to change the world is the dominant theme.

  2. sam says:

    Hubris is a foreign concept to may of them.

    Tsk, tsk. Be sure and yell at them to get off your lawn, Charles.

  3. kth says:

    Conservatives have talk radio, which seems to work better for them. I suspect that the righty web functions mainly as an appendage of talk radio. The model is that the message is broadcast coast-to-coast, and the listener is referred to the web by those shows for more info, especially concerning local involvement.

    Ironically, local conservative talk radio used to be much bigger back in the day, before the syndication of the Limbaugh show changed the game so radically.

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    I suspect the right would be more likely to have a heterosexual kiss-in than a homosexual one. But I also suspect that they wouldn’t for good and prudent reasons.

  5. Tlaloc says:

    “The problem by and large remains that on the right, the focus still tends to be on punditry as opposed to activism,” said Erick Erickson, the editor of RedState,

    The heavy top down model of the right is really going to bite them in the butt as social media become the norm and even expected. They have to adapt or the right left balance IRL will come to reflect the right left skew online. Given all the other demographic challenges currently piling on the GOP that’s not something they’d survive. (as usual I do expect them to change and survive, but theres gonna be a lot of pain involved).

  6. An Interested Party says:

    What, no conservative homosexual kiss-in?! Shocking!

    Surely the Log Cabin Republicans could contribute something to the proceedings…

  7. triumph says:

    I, for one, can’t imagine traveling to Pittsburgh to talk about blogging for several days.

    Most liberals would do anything to go to dump like Pittsburgh.

  8. Tsk, tsk. Be sure and yell at them to get off your lawn, Charles.

    Will do. Just like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.

  9. Greg Ransom says:

    How many of these nutroot lefties are taking a check from Soros?

  10. An Interested Party says:

    How many of these nutroot lefties are taking a check from Soros?

    Why, all of them, of course! Didn’t you know? It’s the grandest conspiracy of all…

  11. fearthhesame says:

    I would gather from the “kiss-in” that for many of the attendees (gay or straight) this Notroots affair is more about hooking up than connecting.

    Anyway 2000 is not a big crowd. Especially when you consider all the attention the tinfoil-hat crowd got last year. Hannity and Glen Beck are able to get bigger audiences at their Freedom Concerts and Unelectable ’08 events. When you crunch the numbers RightOnline attracted 25 attendees per speaker, essentially what many educational reformers call a good classroom size. By contrast the Notroots were only able to attract 5 attendees per speaker. If the HuffPo only attracted 5 comments per post we’d be playing Taps for it. Seriously 5 attendees per speaker is not a good turnout. Especially when one of the speakers is Bill Clinton, the equivalent of booking Bill Shatner at a Sci-Fi con. Yes, 5 per speaker is a small crowd of the Tiberius of the Democratic Party. (Although he probably wouldn’t mind “three girls for every boy.”)

    The there’s Yglgesias comment that Republicans are essentially “death panel bait”. (I’m paraphrasing here.) I suspect that the median age of the Notroots crowd is a good bit lower than the RightOnline attendees, and not because the ROs were all getting AARP applications in the mail. My guess is the median age at RO was around 35 and at NotRoots it was the median age was under 24.

    In 1995, back when the WWW was still a new thing, there was a site called “The Right Side of the Web”. This site garnered a lot of attention because the Web was dominated by liberal voices. This was because the WWW had been for the last few years exclusive province of Academia and more college students web connections than anyone else. I suspect the strength of left-wing pressure on campuses is the real power behind sites like the Daily Kos. I can imagine that campus leftist furious that FBI agents can search library records to prevent a terrorist have no scruple suggesting private university accounts be scanned for hate speech. Meanwhile having an Internet diary advocating nationalized health care, heavier taxation, and doing “something” about global warming are a good way to get extra credit some classes. Some activist types may even pressure their schoolmates in various way to make Kos or Firedoglake their homepage. In short, I believe the left-wing culture of college campuses artificially inflates the power of left-wing blogosphere. My guess is there is a very high drop off after graduation.