-Through Being Cool-
Daniel Schulman has written an eye-opening account on the current state of the political blogospshere. In this July/August edition of MOTHER JONES, Schulman offers an evolutionary chronicle of the ‘sphere’s devolution in his article: Meet the New Bosses -- After Crashing the gate of the political establishment, bloggers are looking more like the next gatekeepers
Has the Left’s online community, formerly know as the blogoshpere, devolved into an online, lock-step status quo forum that it originally set out to challenge? From the “Skull & Bones” secret society, invitation only list known as “Townhouse”, consisting of some 300 liberal bloggers, journalists and consultants, has the liberal Left become an emulation of the Right’s bullying behavior with its bloggers elbowing each other in line to the trough? To answer this question, one needs to look no further than to the concept of groupthink as defined in Wikipedia:
“Groupthink is a type of thought exhibited by group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. During Groupthink, members of the group avoid promoting viewpoints outside the comfort zone of consensus thinking. A variety of motives for this may exist such as a desire to avoid being seen as foolish, or a desire to avoid embarrassing or angering other members of the group. Groupthink may cause groups to make hasty, irrational decisions, where individual doubts are set aside, for fear of upsetting the group’s balance.”
Can the Left do better? After reading this article, it is clear that the blogosphere is a magnet for certain people who have not yet graduated from that distinctive highs school clique mentality, best characterized by the intense desire by certain students to conform. One great example that everyone can recall is between class period gatherings at the lockers -- where basically three “types” of social groups would meet: the bullies, who would gravitate to one side and the smart iconoclasts to the other, and in between, the third group, which consisted of those who were oblivious to the social strata altogher either out of conscious rejection of all things “groupthink” and stereotypical labeling or those who appeared to either have had no clue, bad breath, or were so woefully lacking in basic social skills of any sort as to be left on their own, no worse the wear.
But politics is all about POWER, and what every ‘conformist first’ or groupthinker subliminally knows is that there is strength in numbers – however, in some cases, completely asinine that strength or those “numbers” may be. Schulman describes in this article that some of those who are described as “Big Bloggers” in the blogosphere are heavily invested in working with political campaigns, noting one former Republican and soldier Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos as being “in regular communication with Democratic leadership aides, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, himself.”
But with groupthink comes the same high school bully behaviors like backstabbing, the cold shoulder and its evil twin, the small-minded, petty and jealous conformity which risks earning it nothing more than a reputation of “bullies only allowed”, and to be sure, like the notorious “Skull & Bones” secretive in-club, this may well be an earned mark of distinction for those hypocritical bloggers who claim to be “for the People” but chase the economic and social status rewards at the expense of the very civility, respect and common decency that it initially sought to challenge and replace the status quo MSM.
For all of its emphasis upon politics but with its peculiar absence of what I refer to as “socialtics”, it is this very lack of civility and decency that undermines the sustainability of this medium. That the “Big Bloggers” would push their own mothers down a flight of stairs to line up first at the trough is a natural extension of power seeking and anti-intellectual maneuvering that indeed belongs to a class unto itself. Suffice it to say that the honorable journalist, Bill Moyers, would be as far from this groupthink-o-sphere as one could get.
A community of human beings. The Democratic Party's ultimate voice of civility himself, Howard Dean, says that
“The Internet is not just a tool. It is a community of human beings who are tired of what I call the one-way campaign…it’s (now) about listening to you first before we formulate the message.”
But what Schulman describes is a disturbing account of incivil groupthink so foul in the treatment of one notable and prolific blogger, Maryscott O’Connor, of Myleftwing.com, also a frequent blogger at Daily Kos. Several months ago, Ms. O’Connor penned a witty post about speaking truth to power entitled “Something is Rotten in Blogmark” and explained to Schulman:
“This is what happens when you crash the gates. All of a sudden, you're not just a pajama-clad kid in his parents' basement; once you've demonstrated your power and influence, people start demanding accountability and transparency. They want to know, for instance, that you aren't pushing a candidate MERELY because you (or your friends) have been paid by that candidate to do so."
"It's fucking Skull and Bones, man." One month after Schulman spoke with Maryscott, Moulitsas banned her from the site over a copyright violation. O’Connor further explained that she had begun to feel there was a "schism" in the blogosphere:
"I think that certain bloggers, the big ones, think politics is sexy," she said. "They want in, and they're getting in. They'll do anything to get in, almost. They want a seat at the table. They want to be in the inner circle of the Democratic Party."
A member of Townhouse, she was at first reluctant to talk about the list but changed her mind midway through our conversation, predicting that her comments would get her banished. "It's fucking Skull and Bones, man," she said.
"The very secretive, behind-closed-doors nature of it is anathema to everything that blogging is supposed to be about: accountability. We are supposed to be showing the way, not skulking around behind closed doors, coming up with strategies. Those are the people who we're trying to fight. I know about 'the real world' and all that shit. But we're the idealists, aren't we?"
Wow! ‘Big, bad Maryscott’ must have threatened the jack-boots off of Markos…I mean, for speaking truth to power, this guy ‘bans’ her? With ‘friends’ like these, who needs enemies? What level of intolerance, insecurity, egomania, smugness, and flat out megalomania prompts this type of ridiculous, anti-intellectual behavior? I mean, it’s not like Maryscott called him names or mooned him or anything, so what’s the big deal here? To say that Markos owes her an apology would be an understatement, for it is precisely this kind of over-inflated sense of self-importance at the risk of community and common decency toward one’s fellow colleague that is bringing down our civilization – whether in the blogosphere, or at the high school lockers, this is, for a lack of a better word, ‘bullshit’. If that’s how the “Big Bloggers” on the Left behave to one another, they deserve to enjoy the company of their fellow mean-spirited mindless counterparts, banished forever to hold their bullying courts with their boring and useless tools of devolution.
Speaking truth to power? Are some in the Left blogosphere consciously emulating the shameless behaviors of the Right it once shunned in its mistreatment of each other with its backstabbing and mean-spirited high school bullying behavior? Is questioning the status quo now so threatening to those few few groupthinkers that they are indistinguishable from the Right?
Will the charter of the Left blogosphere’s initial core motivation –- to challenge and fight the status quo --- ever find its way back to the soul of community? That the very message of peace and love that the sixties movement put together so beautifully is now tumbling down around the Left blogosphere like the Walls of Jericho in the Groupthink-o-sphere signals pause for all to listen and to reevaluate the merits of the trough versus our collective civility and what this means for our democracy.