Three For The Price Of One Blogosphere Post

#1: From Ann Althouse

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a political moderate. More than any ideology, I care about rational discourse. In the year that I’ve been blogging I’ve taken a lot of different positions, some left and some right. What I’ve noticed, over and over, is that the bloggers on the right link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you’re evil/stupid/crazy, and don’t even seem to notice all the times you’ve written posts that take their side. Why is this happening? I find it terribly, terribly sad.

…A reader emails: “I’ve heard it said that the Right is looking for converts and the Left is looking for heretics.” Actually, it’s probably more fun to be a heretic … in a free country, at least.”

Why is it that, “over and over, is that the bloggers on the right link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the left link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you’re evil/stupid/crazy?”

Well, as Charles Krauthammer once opined,

“To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”

I’d probably replace “stupid” with “hopelessly naive” or “let their emotions cloud their judgement,” but I think Krauthammer is basically on target. On many issues, most liberals don’t look at deviations from the holy scripture of liberalism as differences of opinion, they view them as moral failings. You aren’t just wrong, you are as Ann’s reader puts it: a “heretic.”

There are a few conservatives who look at things the same way, but for the most part, if conservatives disagree with you, they tend to think you’re a bonehead on that issue. If you’re a “bonehead” on too many issues, they may write you off, but if you’re not Atrios or Paul Krugman, hey, they’re happy to work with you where they can. After all, you’re not evil, you’re just wrong (in their view) — and who’s not wrong sometimes?

#2: I guess I won’t have Andrew Sullivan to kick around for a while because he’s putting his blog on hiatus

“After much hemming and hawing, I’ve decided to put the blog as you’ve known it on hiatus for a few months. The Dish will still exist, the site will be updated weekly with new feature articles, and I’ll still post when I feel like it. But it won’t have the regularity or content of the past four and a half years. Why? The simple answer is that I want to take a breather, to write a long-overdue book, to read some more, travel to Europe and the Middle East, and work on some longer projects. Much as I would like to do everything, I’ve been unable to give the blog my full attention and make any progress on a book (and I’m two years behind). It’s not so much the time as the mindset. The ability to keep on top of almost everything on a daily and hourly basis just isn’t compatible with the time and space to mull over some difficult issues in a leisurely and deliberate manner. Others might be able to do it. But I’ve tried and failed.”

After reading that, Tim Blair wondered how many people who chipped into Sullivan’s fund drives are feeling cheated right now

“Andrew Sullivan pulled in close to $80,000 during his 2002 pledge drive. By some estimates, he raised another $120,000 during other annual drives. Those who’ve donated (I’m among them) may therefore be a little disillusioned…

Sullivan’s massive blog earnings have ended up funding a Euro-Middle Eastern stroll with time off to write a book. His next pledge drive might deliver a substantially lower return.”

But has Sullivan even gone on his vacation yet? One of Tim Blair’s readers, Richard Mcenroe, noted Sullivan’s penchant for indecisiveness and speculated that…

“Actually, he’s only trying to go on vacation. When last seen he was at Kennedy airport, running back and forth between gates at opposite ends of the terminal, unable to decide on a destination…”

That’s funny Richard! You should get your own blog.

Now, if only Sully would be a sport and invite Pat Buchanan, Tucker Carlson, Arlen Specter, Michael Savage, Jerry Falwell & Pat Robertson to take nice long vacations as well, he’d be doing conservatives a service for the first time in about a year.

#3: Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly chides many top conservative bloggers for not having comment sections…

“….Atrios is right to mock the pretensions of right-wing blowhards who loudly insist that the blogosphere is superior to old media because it’s “self correcting.” Their notion that someone else pointing out your errors counts as “self correction” is risible. By that standard, everything in the world is self correcting.

What makes this all the more mock-worthy is the longtime aversion of conservative bloggers to comment hosting, which is the only genuine self-correction mechanism in the blogosphere. Yes, my comment section might be full of trolls and their vitriol, but anyone who has a factual disagreement with what I write has a forum to point it out in the same place as the post itself.

But take a look at the Ecosystem. As I write this, the top ten conservative blogs are Instapundit, Powerline, LGF, Malkin, Captain’s Quarters, Sullivan, Hewitt, Volokh, Wizbang, and The Corner. Of those, only three have comments, and the LGF folks do everything in their power to keep anyone outside their own sycophantic fan base from contributing.

There aren’t enough liberals in the top 30 to even make a top ten , but the top six are Kos, Marshall, Atrios, Washington Monthly, Crooked Timber, and Yglesias. All but one host comments — and if we could just get Josh off his butt we could make it a clean sweep.

…Tight message control has always been a key characteristic of conservative politics. It’s emerged as a key characteristic of the conservative blogosphere too.”

Two things: Although a comments section does make it easier for the blogosphere to “self-correct,” it’s not the only mechanism in place. Every time a story is passed on from blog to blog, it’s fact checked by another person who is capable of publicly correcting the record. Moreover, if the information is wrong, there are trackbacks from other bloggers, emails, and posts on other blogs that help shed light on errors.

On top of that, the variety of viewpoints and perspectives in the blogosphere makes it much more likely that an error will be caught here, rather than inside the media “bubble,” as Bernard Goldberg calls it. In other words, if there’s a factual error in an article, the chances of it being picked up by a conservative who does tech support, a Libertarian law professor, a soldier in Iraq, and a history teacher are much greater than the chances that 4 liberal reporters from New York will catch the same mistake. That’s part of the reason why the blogosphere is much better at catching errors made by the mainstream media than other MSM organizations are.

Next up, I have a comment section and it makes my work more accurate, improves my writing, and helps me get a better idea of what my audience wants to talk about. However, it can be a real pain to maintain as well.

Movable Type, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have a way to give people moderator privileges only. That means I’m personally responsible for dealing with comment spam, trackback spam, deleting objectionable comments, trying to get rid of trolls, and helping people who have problems with their usernames/passwords. Doing that on a blog that gets roughly 8,000 daily uniques is a pain. Realistically, once I start getting up in that 20,000-25,000 readers a day range, I may have to take a hard look at my comments section and decide whether it’s worth continuing. That has nothing to do with “staying on message” and everything to do with all the extra work involved in dealing with the comments. Personally, I’m going to cross that bridge when I come to it, but I can see how the headaches could easily outweigh the benefits at a certain level. Maybe some large liberal bloggers might be willing to put up with the aggravation of comment sections, but I can understand why many bloggers of a certain size just wouldn’t want the hassle.

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