Nowhere is Bob Somerby or The Daily Howler directly mentioned.
Perhaps I have not looked in the right place in the index or missed the specific pages where The Incomparable One is discussed, but I'm sitting here, scratching my head, trying to figure out how anyone, let alone someone as perceptive as Boehlert, can omit Bob Somerby from an analysis of the media and the blogs in Election '08, especially as Somerby was cranking out some of the most clear-eyed, trenchant commentary on the circus.
Where is mention of Somerby's brilliant phrase, Whoever Kidnapped Josh Marshall?
A phrase that neatly sums up the schizophrenia gripping Left Blogistan by the throat from November 2007 through the Democratic National Convention, and continued to rear its psychotic head through the confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Clinton. A phrase that points directly to the paradox Boehlert himself identifies, then shies away from investigating, in the final few pages of the book - that "The bad news for liberal bloggers was that as the Obama campaign unfolded... it became obvious that bloggers were never really invited to the party." (p.261)
Boehlert's book is interesting in a number of ways, and I encourage my readers to get your hands on a copy and read it, but something I find disconcerting is its presentism. Part of this is in the nature of the topic - the recent election - but to represent the political critique of both the Movement Conservatives (to use Paul Krugman's phrase) and the Villager media culture as having started with Chris Bowers, Kos and Atrios boggles my mind. In the introduction, Boehlert talks about Timothy Crouse's 1972 expose of the political press, The Boys on the Bus, from which this new book draws its name. He says,
And yet there hasn't been enough serious public attention paid to the netroots phenomenon, which is why I decided to write Bloggers on the Bus. Inspired by Crouse's book, although I'm in no way comparing my work with his pioneering effort, I believe the uniquely twenty-first-century phenomenon of the netroots ought to be documented. (p. xi, Introduction)I agree that there has not been enough serious public attention paid to the netroots, but, Eric, sorry, Bob Somerby was blogging back in 1998, the twentieth-century. The foundation of the liberal blogosphere is Somerby's writings on the war against liberal politics and the Democratic Party conducted by the so-called liberal media. The impetus for his blog was the media assault on the Clinton Administration.
The Daily Howler is one of the (if not the) longest published political blog of substance out there. The Howler and The Horse (Media Whores Online - The site that set out to bring mainstream journalism to its knees, but found it was already there...) were the two must-read sites for anyone who wanted to get around the courtiers of Versailles. Somerby's influence on and inspiration for what we know today as Left Blogistan is as incomparable as his archives. Somerby is difficult to read, bugs the hell out of me at least half the time, and some of his obsessions are not on my radar, but unlike people like Kos, Josh Marshall, Big Media Matt and other Blogger Boyz, he has never allowed himself to be compromised or co-opted by the mainstream media. Or by a political campaign.
Somerby would probably agree when Eric says,
The outdated campaign bus had broken down. Worse, over the years not only had its media passengers slavishly maintained the same pack-driven approach that Crouse bemoaned decades earlier, but the political press had become increasingly unserious, with an almost nonstop devotion to campaign tactics, process, and trivia. (p. x, Introduction)but would add "and the big name bloggers of the netroots, the people you so admiringly write about in your book, are part of that unserious press corps. They want to be the pool boys servicing the media celebrities in their cabanas."
On the same page, Boehlert can describe in excellent detail how thoroughly the Obama campaign worked with the mainstream media to ensure delivery of his message with his spin, and then state (with no hint of irony), "The Internet, as Barack Obama demonstrated in 2008, offered a way for candidates to go around the traditional Beltway media and communicate directly with voters." (p.x)
Obama was the candidate the MSM wanted to see elected. Obama's "joke" at the press roast this weekend (some of you reported on me, all of you voted for me) is as revealing on this count as George Bush's quip about the mega-rich ("or, as I call them, my base."). They worked just as assiduously for Obama's election as any of the Blogger Boyz. Their political war in 2008, just as it had been from 1992 through 2000, was conducted against those upstarts from Arkansas and Gore the Bore. The paradox of the 2008 election was how little effect the liberal thinkers and writers, from Paul Krugman down to yours truly, had on the public discourse. Obama was the establishment candidate, and the leading lights of the Left Blogosphere were as thoroughly managed by that establishment as any of the talking heads.
The Election of 2008 marks the moment when some bloggers were allowed on the media bus, as long as they directed their ire at the same people Tweety and Tim Russert held in contempt. Those who refused to adopt the language and goals of the CDS-afflicted DC Elite were shoved in front of that juggernaut. We're still there, clinging to the grill, just as undisciplined and scrappy as ever.
Chapter 8, The Blog War of 2008, tries to capture some of that dynamic, but is still captive to the misapprehension that the A-list blogs on the Left were not part of the media's magic circle. Or perhaps Boehlert is well aware of the phenomenon, but not willing to state it himself. Instead, he quotes a conversation he had with Paul Krugman about the campaign:
But as the primary unfolded in 2008, Krugman, a Clinton supporter, did not like what he saw online. He objected to what he called the creation of a false portrait of Hillary Clinton. To him, the pile on recalled how the traditional media savaged Al Gore during the 2000 campaign, portraying him as borderline delusional. In 2008, Krugman watched Clinton get tagged by the press as delusional, except this time lots of liberal bloggers joined in as well, he said, twisting stories and quotes to make CLinton look as unappealing as possible.What we witnessed in 2008 was the cognitive capture of the major blogs by the Beltway. The A-List bloggers are now functionally and culturally part of the Village.
"It was ugly," said Krugman, who was also startled to see portions of the Obama-loving netroots alter their views on cornerstone issues, such as the need for universal health care. Specifically, the netroots had been stalwart in calling for government mandates to insure universal coverage. Clinton supported mandates and Obama did not, yet progressives online flocked to Obama despite his position. "Suddenly being opposed to mandates, which for me is basically being opposed to universality, becomes a touchstone of being a real progresssive?" Krugman asked incredulously. "Wow. There was a definite [Orwellian] 'we-have-always-been-at-war-with-Eastasia' feel to that."
For the columnist, the Democratic race represented a turning point for the blogs, an end to innocence. Said Krugman, "I don't think people like myself are ever going to look at Daily Kos the same way."
I doubt those bloggers will ever leave the bus.