Does The Internet Political And Blog Revolution Live Up To It’s Hype?

Jay Rosen, the MUST READ blogger and associate journalism professor, takes a look at some magazine hype at an article looking into the internet political revolution hype and asks some pointed questions of Mother Jones.

Here’s his sub headline:

“Mother Jones invites you to question if the Politics 2.0 revolution really lives up to its hype.”

And PressThink asks whether the printing press progressives at Mother Jones have any kind of grip. “They saw the Internet and freaked: this can’t be real. Recovering their bravery, they decided to debunk it.”

His intro:

Mother Jones magazine has come out with a special Politics 2.0 package. It has a great collection of interviews with “bloggers, politicos, and Netizens,” including MyDD’s Jerome Armstrong, Howard Dean, Chris Rabb of Afronetizen, Digg’s Kevin Rose, conservative Grover Norquist, Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, and Phil de Vellis, the guy who created that “Hillary 1984” video. Absorb them all and you have a tour d’horizon for how the Web is changing politics.

The writing and framing from the journalists at Mother Jones is another story. This will give you the flavor:

Are we entering a new era of digital democracy—or just being conned by a bunch of smooth-talking geeks?

New dawn or techo con game: such illuminating alternatives! Again:

Blogs, social networking, and viral video are redefining where political discussion takes place. But are they just replacing the old machine bosses with a new group of bullies?

And what an irony that would be. (See Meet the New Bosses.) Another:

Is old media dead, or is the blogosphere just a flash in the pan?

And so Rosen, who not only thinks like a blogger, but also thinks like a journalism professor and a toprate journalist, got on the phone:

When I later asked Clara Jeffery, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, from whence comes this impulse to debunk (and who provided the bunk that made your de-bunking so imperative…?) she said: impulse to debunk? We weren’t out to debunk. I don’t know what you’re talking about. We said some good things and we said some skeptical things. You have a problem with that?

Which is kinda how the whole interview went.

To fully appreciate the kind of questioning — you could say vetting — Rosen did, you need to read his WHOLE PIECE which details the interview.

One more tidbit:

The Mother Jones editors had a great story about politics and the web within their grasp, but they were too busy fabricating myths they could bust up later— and so they missed it. Jerome Armstrong told them: right now there’s a generational conflict being played out within the campaigns. In 2004 the “big” operators around the candidate weren’t focused on the Internet, and didn’t see why they should be. And so at times the kids and outsiders could show the way to new uses, bypassing legacy thinking at the top.

Now in ‘08 all the old hands have woken up to the Internet and through embrace and extend they have tried to exert control over that department, colonizing it for the kind of command and control, push-the-message politics where (boomer) knowledge is ancient and decisive. “I know people on all these campaigns that work on the Internet and they’re frustrated as hell,” said Armstrong. “That’s throughout the Democratic Party.” But I bet you could find a similar dynamic on the Republican side.

Read. It. All.

And indeed, here we are now in coming up on the second major election where bloggers and blogging will likely play a role and you must conclude:

Many political parties, candidates and the mainstream news media still don’t get it.

Political parties and candidates think they can pluck a blogger out from the Internet, put him or her in charge of media outreach and blogs will run their stuff because they’re contacted by a blogger. Candidates think they can win blog friends and reach blog readers by only preaching to good buddies on their conference calls. Some of these candidates and some of these writers probably criticize politicos on the left and right for not taking tough questions — which these candidates are avoiding by only talking to best buds.

Some bloggers don’t entirely understand the process with politicos, either. I’ve told people in emails something Rosen knows: most journalists are really not impressed by a politician’s fame or status when they must interview a politician; some bloggers are impressed by being in on an interview. And the politicians and their handlers KNOW THAT.*

And the mainstream news media?

It’s at times amusing to see newspapers run columns showing their “blogs.” There are some excellent newspaper blogs (we have linked to them and will continue to do so). But in many cases it seems as if the newspapers realize there is something called blogging out there, done by people who don’t have journalism degrees so they want to get in on the action and put up a page so they can say they do blogging.

It’s sort of like watching the old 1960s TV shows where the writers and musical composers tried to make teens talk like teens and write music that sounded like rock. The Greatest Generation writers and composers didn’t have a clue.

In reality, Rosen’s reaction to the Mother Jones piece is in a way reacting to our whole culture being enmeshed in the Hollywood idea of “high concept”: where things are painted in simplistic, starkly contrasting, immediately recognizeable terms. Boil it down to a line or two (and God forbid “nuance.”

Its what we increasingly see in broadcast journalism in particular and on cable TV shows. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews just HAD to have Ann Coulter on for an hour? She’s selling her books and gets ratings because of her outrageous quote of the day. List “ANN COULTER ON CROSSFIRE” and it triggers emotions and people tune in. Discussions are considered successful on TV when people get red-faced and shout and talk over each other.

Events and trends must be painted in stark terms because in the minds of some it almost triggers a political “fight or flight mechanism.”

The old rule for sensationalistic news was “if it bleeds, it leads.”

The new one seems to be “lower the volume — lower the readership and viewership.”

Read Rosen:
he gets the generational change, the larger news media change (which many in the mainstream news media are starting to get but still puzzles some which is why you see the periodic article where a journalist lashes out at blogs) and nails the idea of trying to identify and question THE ASSUMPTIONS behind some pieces that are written….broadcast…and blogged.

  • GreenDreams

    Good post, Joe. I haven’t read the entire Mother Jones “package” but I think the critique misses the point. We Americans are suffering from a misinformed or poorly informed electorate that is not being served by the mainstream media or by our educational system. We’re being distracted with Paris Hilton stories and sensationalistic reporting of sordid crimes, while the true intent of the media is to sell us products, not to make us better informed.

    Young bloggers, like the ones I see here both posting and commenting, are training themselves to be citizen journalists, and many are remarkably more conscious about citing sources and posting links to support their arguments, than are the old-school journalists who populate the mainstream media. This I think is the true revolutionary power of the blogosphere: its ability to better inform the public by encouraging independent research and a peer mediated feedback system that quickly challenges those who do not support their views with facts. To be sure, there are many here simply flame (I won’t name names), but many more who present well reasoned, sometimes rational arguments (depending of course on which side they’re debating {grin}).

  • DLS

    No, it never has and it never will, despite all the all the claims from the largely self-absorbed cyber-columnists on it and other starry-eyed tech hypers.

  • Harkinson

    Please see my response to Rosen at the Mother Jones blog: