Friday, August 24, 2007

You are not of the Body -- Part 1

File under: Fun with numbers.

In case you’ve been living under a rock or in the West Wing and didn’t know about it, there is a longstanding pie-fight over here in Left Bloggistan that cycles hot and cold, high and low, and is fought through many proxies.

But what it comes down to is this:

1. The digital Left came into its own in response to the suffocating “Fuck You, Rabble” Play-Doh Bullshit Factory hierarchy of traditional Media and Political entities.

Year after year, the Wise and Serious Men of the Center dined out lavishly on the simple premise that no one could be too far to the Radical Right not to be taken Seriously…and no one could be Moderate Left enough to avoid a beatdown for Not Compromising More on Stuff.

And so as the Newt/Rush/Rove/Falwell Party of God bum-rushed the nation into oblivion, the Mainstream Media took up their brickbats to castigate…

…the Left…

…for not being even bigger pussies than they already were.

Which, among other things, also helping to breed new strains of gooey-spined Dems who now have to be taught to fight for us as if their country depended on it -- because it actually does -- or need to be weeded out and sent back to whatever the hell glad-handing, professional vacillator job they had before they ran for office.

2. And they got away with both abdicating their fundamental role of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” and betraying the nation into the clammy hands of its internal enemies largely because, for all practical purposes, there was no alternative and comparable source of information, analysis or means to engage or rebut the opinion-makers who were shaping the national dialogue.

There was nothing to drink but the toxic effluence of the MSM, which meant you could either die of thirst and cede the whole game as hopelessly rigged to the pig people and their avatars, or drink the poison and hate it, while hooking up in small, isolated islands and trying to move the pyramids one brick at a time.

3. That is, until blogs arrived: a cheap, publicly-available platform for analysis, opinion-journalism, kittens, knitting, porn, fund-raising, penis-embiggening unguents, and some old-fashioned reporting.

The Right adopted it as a newfangled form of their Old Media mainstay: Hate Radio. Another virtually zero-cost way to reinforce their Hive Mind caste system and keep the smothering Rovian Goodthinkfullness Machine rolling.

The Left, on the other hand, seized on the technology almost literally as the desert-parched survivors in the “Flight of the Phoenix” would have seized on the miraculous appearance of a case of cold beer and a brand-new airplane. Suddenly there was a way to make democracy’s pie higher by activating those myriad voices on the Left that had been systematically and deliberately disenfranchised by Big Media and Professional Politics.

And that’s right about when the pie-fight starts.


4. …it begins to look as though some of the champions, early-adopters and financial beneficiaries of this tool of lively and participatory democracy might be using their size to nudge things down precisely the same kind of Insider/Outsider clique-track that was supposed to be the Evil Bane of Big Media and Professional Politics, against which we were all going to link arms and march and sing. Or something.

When it begins to look as though the heroes of the “Battle of the Cowshed” are getting too cozy wearing Farmer Jones’ pants and sleeping his bed.

For myself, I have no particular axe to grind.

First, my ego does not live or die by hitcount; being shot down by countless libidinous liberal lasses and having one’s lit’rary efforts form-letter-shredded and returned in the SASE (My Preciousesses! What have they done to My Preciousesses!) by legions of magazines -- large and small, good and execrable -- are great curatives for such disorders.

Second, this site, you may have noticed, takes no ads and runs no fundraisers. And while I thank the many readers who have asked if there is a hat into which they can kick a few bucks (and while that situation may or may not change in the future), I have no vested financial interest in the patterns and volume of traffic flow.

Third, and most important, far from feeling cranky or somehow underappreciated, I believe I am spectacularly fortunate. I am the sole proprietor of my own funky little café on the edge of the Sprawl. The rent is zero – my day gigs cover the expenses for my meager vices, and any “value” the place has comes from word/sweat equity and the cool people that hang out there.

I set my own hours and whip up any kinda pie (or pictures of pies) that suits me. And when I set them out, smart, accomplished, passionate humans come by to nosh, read, chat, rebut, add, call me a smartass commie, riff, whatever.

Sometimes a bighearted Great Fish like Crooks & Liars or Firedoglake will grab my little tart shack by the door jamb and drag it way, way out past the continental shelf where you can’t even see the ocean floor anymore, and huge things bump at your toes.

Which is certainly exhilarating.

And then, in a day or two, the tide drifts me back to my thigh-deep bioswale inlet, which is just fine too.

Fourth, I am a believer in intellectual and real property rights. If you build a site and a loyal readership/commentariate, then you should be free to take your thing in whatever direction suits you.

And fifth, I believe in the Advice to Young Bloggers once offered by Steve Gilliard. To wit, roughly: Shut the fuck up and write and quit worrying about seeking other people’s approval.

Which is true, but it is not sufficient.

Because it is entirely true that if you keep making a great beef sammich, customers will eventually show up at your door.

But it is also true that if you publicize honestly and wisely, then even more people will show up at your door to share in the sammichy love, which is kinda the point of going into the beef sammich trade.

Conversely, however life-alteringly wonderful your beef sammiches may be, no matter how cleverly or aggressively you promote your wares in “The Vegan Pantograph”, your ads there ain’t gonna move any product.

So while your obligation as a writer is to read and write, well and regularly, as an activist your job is to figure out the rules of the arena in which you have chosen to operate: because there is just no sense in working yourself up into a state of High Pissoff over getting knocked around by the other basketball players, or how unfair the third base umpire is being…when you’re actually smack in the middle of a rugby match.

So rather than sit on the parapet of Castle Driftglass

(pictured here after a series of recent storms
reformatted the local trees and viaducts)

drinking Blue Moon beer with mineola wedges (oranges slices are for rubes) and speculating, I thought maybe I'd kick the shrubs statistically and see if anything interesting falls out.

To test the received wisdom of the Elders of the digital Left that --
A) A-listing is hard, hard work.

B) The market is saturated, so stop trying to break into the top tier. And/or,

C) It’s a matter of quality. If you would just Blog!Harder!, your wonderfulness will be eventually be recognized.

-- against the proposition (often spoken of below decks) that the commanding heights of the Left Blogosphere are dominated by a self-reinforcing, self-referencing clique who talk mostly among themselves, and past whose velvet rope you will almost certainly never be invited, no matter how well you write, or how Hard!You!Blog!

Which would otherwise not be a very interesting phenomenon to take apart and fiddle with, were it not for the fact that the digital Left rose to prominence by denouncing precisely such hierarchies in the Old Media.

Before proceeding, here are a few caveats.

End Part 1.


Ronzoni Rigatoni said...

Drifty, if the blog makes no money, how could you have afforded to buy Castle Driftglass, AKA Mont St. Michel. Been there. French Beer (ugh!) cost only a coupla bux back in the days before the dollah really tanked.

Ah, well, lemme go read the rest of this.

cleter said...

I hear and obey the will of Landru.

Judi said...

You just keep on keepin' on, Drifty. Your writing is the best on intertubes and like fine single malt is not meant for just any old body. Statistics, schmatistics; figures lie and liars figure. While your numbers may not run wide - kinda like the rivers and streams around the Stinking Onion of late - they run deep. Just like you, Drifty. deep. You're a treasure and all the more so because you're one-of-a-kind and I'm one of a privileged coterie just 'cuz of all the other gin joints in left blogistan, I found yours!

Anonymous said...

Love your stuff, dg. I'd like to check out your coffee house some time.

Why don't you try hanging with the _This is Hell_ crew (KNUR Evanst.-Chi) -- somehow I think you might hit it off. They have the best (bar none that I've seen) political (A/V) commentary to be found anywhere, in-depth with the world's very best (unknown and very known), the right questions asked and answered. Plus they have a wonderful blasphemous sense of humor. They do 4 hours live every Sat. from 9a-1p ('stupid anough to think that we an be a regular part of your saturday morning hangover'). _Entirely_ commercial free (like public radio used to be before Reagan). (Except for National National... Na-tional Beer) .Then they usually hang out afterwards at Kerry's Lounge on W. Devon with listeners and a recreational beverege of choice or two (often from a can with a twist-off cap).

Their streaming comp.-geek-tech has sucked a bit in the last few weeks, since some of their talent finished math grad school and went off to the green pastures of NJ, but just grab any show from the archive that looks good and check it out. (I myself listen to their downloaded shows off and on throughout the week from New Mexico). Don't miss Jeff Dorchen's _Moment of Truth_ that's usually around the middle of the show.

Chuck Mertz is kind of a radio equivalent of you: among the best, yet fairly (perhaps thankfully) unknown. (Tho' at the moment Chuck's making a bid to go to the dark side (of more national-coverage public broadcasting) -- he's made some semi-final, but will probably fail because he sounds lame when he tries to squeeze into their whitebread standards)....

Anyway, they welcome regular (and irregular) new correspondents. Some of your pieces would fit right in.

g'luck in your continuing struggle against the Global War on Honor.


THIS IS HELL - WNUR 89.3 Chicago

cieran said...

Drifty, quality trumps quantity every time, and you own the quality end of the blog spectrum.

So keep doing what you are doing, because you just keep getting better and better at it, and because what you do so well here matters to the present and to the future.

And above all, thanks for all that you write...

chautauqua said...

Aye, all of the above and this: Beware the God of Big Success, for he he will consume you and your various parts all for the 20 nanoseconds of fame.

Thanks for doing what you do. And don't worry about the LLL Brigade - they will, one day, find YOU.

Anonymous said...

Rock on Drifty . . . be the hoss, be the hoss . . . cuz, well, yer the hoss, mostly . . . them Group News Blogs folks are kewl, the chicks at FDL have their moments but mostly their commenters are the heroes lately.

Ya GOTTA tilt a hat for Marcy though, and Josh, they be doin the ugly dirty and tedious paper work wading of our lives . . . and damn, they DO do it well . . .

Bones for all, let 'em shake out and down for the ONE WHO SPEAKS . . . and reads them bones. *G*

Rob said...

Easy now Drifty. That almost sounded like you were gonna throw in the towel. As I listen to the vapid dronings of NPR, which used to be a great source of news andinvestigative bombshells and is now little more than the radio version of Good Morning America, I can't imagine going on without the likes of you to paint the picture of what's happened to this country since the Reaganites goosestepped all over it. I remember actually looking forward to the Sunday morning analysts when they had a hint of the voice of reason. All that's gone now. You're it. Don't go anywhere. Enjoy your game of pool and then toss off another post to keep the rest of us going. Pretty please!
Thanks Man!

asha said...


triozyg said...

When Krugman is putting your stuff on the NYT (8/24/07, w/o attribution, natch) WE know your message is getting through, even if they don't appreciate where it came from:

"To appreciate what’s going on here you need to understand the difference between the goals of the modern Republican Party and the strategy it uses to win elections.

The people who run the G.O.P. are concerned, above all, with making America safe for the rich. Their ultimate goal, as Grover Norquist once put it, is to get America back to the way it was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over,” getting rid of “the income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.”

But right-wing economic ideology has never been a vote-winner. Instead, the party’s electoral strategy has depended largely on exploiting racial fear and animosity."

Of course he doesn't put it nearly as effectively as you do.

Scout said...

The reason you are best unfiltered righteousfuckingrant on the toobs is BECAUSE nobody pays you/owns you. Keep on keepin on and if you ever do put out a tip jar I'll toss you some change.

I loves me some Driftglass.

PhysioProf said...

What they all said.

Threesmommy said...

You'll always be one of my favorites, bookmarked for lo these many years. I'm not always up to a visit, sadly, because you don't spoonfeed. It takes a certain energetic frame of mind, a willingness to sit still and pay attention that I do not always possess when I'm on the tubes. I promise to try harder, visit more often, and quote you in my comments at C&L, FDL and, of course, DKos. Fair enough, Captain?

Jill said...

Still imitated, never duplicated. That's our Drifty.

PhysioProf said...

"It takes a certain energetic frame of mind, a willingness to sit still and pay attention that I do not always possess when I'm on the tubes."

It's interesting that you say that. For me, mental inertia cuts the other way: I find it more difficult to pay attention to little "squib" posts, like you get a C&L and DK, and my activation energy for reading them is, consequently, higher.

Long-posters like DG, Greenwald, FDL (sometimes) I find much easier to read, and consequently require a lower activation energy.

tokyoterri said...

you're an inspiration, Drifty. not just to me, either: multiply those who speak above by the hundreds and thousands: and still, I believe it's only the beginning of the beginning.