March 19, 2006

"I generally avoid politicians. I find them quite dull."

Pithy NYT interviewer Deborah Solomon goes after Kos. My favorite question and answer:
Is it odd to live so far from Washington and spend every nanosecond of your life writing about it?

No. I avoid Washington like the plague. And I generally avoid politicians. I find them quite dull.
Yes, I identify with this attitude quite a bit. I'm interested in politics, but most definitely not in a way that makes me want to be near politicians.

Solomon starts off with questions about his book and reveals her bad attitude about blogs:
As the founder of the left-leaning Daily Kos, the largest political blog in the country, did you find it hard to write "Crashing the Gate," an actual book, as opposed to your usual raw and episodic three-sentence musings?

It was brutal. My co-writer, Jerome Armstrong, and I had no idea of what we were getting into. There came a point where we literally sat around for a day trying to figure out how to tell our publisher there would be no book.

Which may prove that bloggers are better at demolishing arguments than building them.

When bloggers make an argument, we can add a link to support our premises. You cannot link with books.
I like the way Kos ignored Solomon's disrespect and told the truth about the main problem a blogger has writing a book: you can't do links.


Here's a problem for a blogger trying to write a book that I've noticed. Moving downward all the time feels wrong. You want to put the new things on top.


Dave said...

I feel the same way about politics and politicians.

I suspect the same is true of most bloggers who blog about political topics. Those who are always around politicians probably would not be good bloggers because their idea of candidness is whatever the politicians' talking points are.

Robert said...

I was a writer before I was a blogger. Amusingly, it feels weird to me that blog posts go on the top. Fortunately, bloggers don't usually write directly to their body of work - we write on an input screen or something and then "publish", so we don't see our words appearing in the "wrong" place.

Beth said...

Her question about Washington reeks of elitism, as if it's odd for citizens to discourse about politics. How the hell can we do that if we're not in the Beltway?

Ann, your last comment, on the oddness of writing downwards expresses very well why I haven't used blogging in my composition classes. Some comp instructors report positive experiences in generating more student writing, but I'm not persuaded that results include organized prose advancing a sustained argument. I like your succinct statement distinguishing blogging from other argumentative prose.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: Yes, there's the sense that the newest post pushes down what has gone before, causing it to sink further into oblivion. Readers have no feeling that they ought to go back and see the earlier things. With a book, everyone starts at the beginning. For a blogger writing a book, you get this bad feeling that what you do now is going to be stuck at the end, which doesn't seem exciting enough.

knox said...

kos: There is no partisan liberal media ......


XWL said...

That sounds vaguely like one of those suggestive license plate holders you see people driving around with occaisonally.

"Bloggers Do IT On Top"

Palladian said...

Knoxgirl: That's a standard left-wing talking point. Eric Alterman even wrote a book about it called "What Liberal Media?". The proper way to understand that is not that there is no partisan liberal media, just that the partisan liberal media (such as it is) isn't left-wing enough. These are people who think that former President Clinton was a reactionary.

Beth said...

I have to wonder, knoxgirl and Palladian, if either of you actually WATCH mainstream media news, especially the news talk shows like the ones Tim Russert and Chris Matthews host. Track the Sunday morning talk shows sometime. It's entirely common for the entire slate of guests to be Republicans. Presumably, they theorize about what the left might have to say on an issue, and call that "balance."

Beth said...


What you describe is vital and intellectually refreshing in the hands of skilled writers; I'll eventually work it into more advanced writing classes, and I've used it in literature classes to create a dialogue outside of the classroom boundaries. But novice writers need to practice their scales before they improvise.

Can we call blogging a new genre of writing? It draws on sequential writing, is reminiscent of handbills in a way, and of epistilary writing and journaling, but the immediacy of it, coupled with concurrent readership, are distinguishing factors. It's not surprising that it's difficult then to shift to another format. Has blogging made any difference in how you wrap your mind around your scholarly writing?

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: I'm participating in a conference next month where that is the subject. I think blogging can both help and hurt scholarly writing, but this has less to do with links and putting new posts at the top and more to do with intensifying the demand for clear, sound writing. It's definitely destroyed my tolerance for the usual bullshit. I can't believe the time-sapping things I used to feel I had to take seriously.

knox said...


You doubt the media is liberal?

Virtually every major newspaper except for the Wash. TImes and the Wallstreet Journal has a liberal slant. New York Times...LA Times... Washington Post...

Every mainstream news magazine: Time... Newsweek...US News... has a liberal slant.

Every network news program ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and every cable news outlet except for Fox News (and arguments can be made for MSNBC) has a liberal slant. And I'm not talking about "opinion panels" I'm talking about reporting.

Not to mention all of Hollywood and virtually every movie that has a political message is a liberal one.

I personally think Tim Russert is pretty fair, but Chris Matthews is just too loud to watch, so I can't comment on him.

But yeah, I consider myself to be pretty familiar with the "mainstream media news" and it is overwhelmingly liberal. No question.

Liberals consistently assert that Fox and talk radio is tainted conservative, yet somehow everything outside of the Village Voice is pristine, fair and balanced. Please!

Patrick Wahl said...

I would replace the word "pithy" with the word "bratty". She had a short interview with Harvey Mansfield, equally obnoixious.

Maxine Weiss said...

You can do links in published material: they are called footnotes.

Frankly, computer links bug me, because I feel compelled, like I have some obligation, to click them....mid-article.

I never finish articles because I'm to busy clicking.

I don't have the problem with printed/published media. Yet, footnotes give me the option, at a later time, to come back if I want to.

Ann, call your Agent!

Peace, Maxine

Aspasia M. said...

Liberals consistently assert that Fox and talk radio is tainted conservative, yet somehow everything outside of the Village Voice is pristine, fair and balanced. Please!

Most liberals (including me) think that the mainstream media is not fair or balanced. It's generally criticized for having a conservative slant.

I understand that the media has long been criticized by conservatives as too liberal. But just FYI - liberals for many, many years have been criticzing the mainstream media as too conservative.

And outside of the liberal/conservative polarization -what happened to CNN? I don't get cable and saw it recently. That court woman (Nancy Grace) was a host and the graphics made the news look like a video game. Yikes.

Beth said...

Knoxgirl, I do in fact doubt the mainstream media is a liberal institution. Hollywood isn't the news media, so I don't care about that, and it's not relevant. How about some evidence about this liberal lockhold on the press? Instead of just saying how obvious it is.

The NYT liberal? Tell Clinton that. Read their "reporting" on the runup to the Iraq invasion and show me how that was slanted "liberal." The Washington Post, liberal? That's funny.

The fact that you see Russert as fair and Matthews as simply too loud, tells me alot.

The press is commercial, and toothless. But liberal? Not hardly.

knox said...


The NYT not liberal?????????? Let's just agree to disagree on this one!

Al Maviva said...

Her question about Washington reeks of elitism, as if it's odd for citizens to discourse about politics. How the hell can we do that if we're not in the Beltway?

It's a lot harder to hold extreme positions or even fairly moderate but really vehement positions if you are closer to the seat of the government and the people who run it than Kos is. Living in D.C. I've come to realize that government is neither as bad as the minority party always makes it out to be nor as good as the majority party says. Mostly though I am highly skeptical about claims that the government can do anything really useful at all.

Balfegor said...

The NYT liberal? Tell Clinton that.

Well, there's two things to distinguish here. Clinton != the supreme avatar of liberalism. So first, attacks on Clinton's policies != attacks on liberalism. Second, a lot of the attacks on Clinton are not really ideological at all.

On that first -- Clinton, after his first two years, where he tried to implement liberal programs (e.g. to nationalise the health care industry, to integrate gays into the military) ended in ignominious failure and a Republican resurgence in Congress, spent the remainder of his term pursuing rather conservative policies. Part of this was that he had a conservative Congress to deal with, but whatever the reason, he signed Welfare reform, NAFTA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the like. Now -- did the NYT attack him from the right or the left? On Welfare, for example, I'm pretty sure the NYT et al. attacked him from the left, not the right. You know -- making welfare recipients work will destroy America and usher in the a dark age of unfettered economic exploitation and starvation, etc. etc. Probably the same with DOMA. Probably the same with his more trivial ideas, like V-chip censorship and school uniforms. And then, of course, there's the bombing campaign in the Balkans, where (shocking!) we went in with no UN approval. (I think they approved of that one, though.)

On non-policy issues . . . that's not really ideological. Partisan, yes, but not ideological. I don't think, for example, that "Do not harass your female subordinates and use them for your sexual pleasure" is really an issue conservatives and liberals split on -- pretty much everyone agrees that it's wrong and a rather slimy thing to do. So also with "Don't shred evidence," and "Don't lie in court" and "Avoid receiving campaign funds from America's rival powers." These are all questions on which there is, I think, a fairly broad consensus. And for the most part, the news rags are going to reflect that consensus regardless of whether they're liberal or conservative.

It's sort of like the recent Dick Cheney affair -- you don't have to be a liberal to think "Don't shoot your friends in the face" is a good principle to live by. It's an area where there's broad agreement among the public.

reader_iam said...

This comment is with regard to the "latest on top" aspect of blogging.

I find that the arrangement of blog posts is reminiscent of one particular writing output: journalism it comes over on wire services.

Think: "developing." Think: "this just in.

When I first started reading blogs, I didn't have a problem with the "reverse narrative" nature of their organization, as some of my friends did, and I do think it was because I'd had access to and been reading wire services since around 1981 (when a lot trees were still laying down their lives for the cause--oh, the scrap paper!!!!).

Blogs share some of the same ephemeral qualities that newspapers and newspaper stories do--except that in the age of the Internet, things don't actually "go away" anymore, or molder in file cabinets, closets, desk drawers and so on.

However much I may be skeptical of the concept of citizen journalist, there really are some powerful similarities between blogging and journalism (and, obviously, bloggers and journalists), more so than other types of writing.

(Of course, there are exceptions.)

The sometimes contradictory thrust of blog style vs. traditional, building narrative is why I sort of like the idea of a main blog being "new on top," but then divided into categories, under which posts are presented oldest first, so that it's easy to, first, view subject areas together and, second, easily track developing information, point of view, opinions etc. over time. Readers could look at things either way.

It wouldn't be right for all bloggers (maybe not even most), but for some people and some topics it would make sense.

I'm not suggesting or prescribing this, by the way. In the case of your blog in particular, Ann, form really seems to neatly dovetail with function--and blogger. But one-size-fits-all nearly never does fit all, or at least not well, and one of the great things about blogs is that there can be many different "sizes."

My, this comment rambled a bit! But your post directly or indirectly happened to hit upon some thoughts and concepts I've been pondering.

Beth said...


Clinton a bastion of liberalism? That hardly explains the whole Southern Democrat strategy of running to the right, of which he is the big daddy. How is opposing the the Defense of Marriage Act a liberal stance, anyway; opposing using Federal power to intervene in a state issue, and pandering to bigotry, is liberal? Goodness. And why is supporting the right of gays to serve in the military a liberal stance? If I were conservative, I don't know that I'd want to just come out and admit that civil rights are anathema to my philosophy. Or that having the willies about gays in the barracks is conservative. Nor do you account for the conservatives who oppose Don't Ask, Don't Tell--did they become liberals?

The problem with the NYT isn't liberalism. It's bad reporting, it's using sources without ensuring their veracity (ala Judith Miller, whose drumbeating for the Iraq invasion is hardly liberal reporting), or circular reporting in using another media outlet's report as a source. There's a host of weaknesses at the NYT, in terms of competent editing and reporting, not partisanship.

Balfegor said...

Clinton a bastion of liberalism?

Sorry, perhaps I was unclear. != is "not equals" I.e. my entire thing there is premised on the observation that Clinton is not a bastion of liberalism.

Balfegor said...

How is opposing the the Defense of Marriage Act a liberal stance, anyway;

DOMA was intended to enshrine a conservative social order in federal law. One may be a conservative and think that's an overreach in federal power, as I do, but I rather doubt that was the NYT's argument. As I said there -- "Did they attack him from the left or the right?" Do you really think they used a Federalism argument there?

And why is supporting the right of gays to serve in the military a liberal stance?

Again, it's primarily a question of what grounds one opposes the policy on. Your snide insinuating tone notwithstanding.

If I were conservative, I don't know that I'd want to just come out and admit that civil rights are anathema to my philosophy.

I really shouldn't reward your nyah-nyah tone here. But what constitutes a "civil right" is kind of major point of contention in politics today. You're trying to steal an intellectual base there.

Or that having the willies about gays in the barracks is conservative.

I suppose the most conservative thing would be rum, buggery, and the lash? But in the current political dynamic, yes, it's conservative. Uh, duh. Does that mean all conservatives agree? Of course not. But I mean, what -- are you so out of touch you don't realise that the opposition to gays in the military is by far strongest on the right?

Nor do you account for the conservatives who oppose Don't Ask, Don't Tell--did they become liberals?

See above.

Simon said...

The argument that you can't link in a book - at least, when deployed as a defense - is fairly weak. Scholars have been "linking" to other scholars' work for generations - they're called "footnotes."

Simon said...

"How is opposing the the Defense of Marriage Act a liberal stance, anyway; opposing using Federal power to intervene in a state issue, and pandering to bigotry, is liberal? Goodness."

Liberals don't have any problem with Federal power, they just don't like it when it's used for purposes of which they disapprove. They're interested in the ends, not the means; I suspect that Dems will rediscover the joys of federalism in due course, as they continue to lose relevance and power in Washington, and if they start to capture it at the state level.

Beth said...

Balfegor, gosh, I feel so rewarded by your responding to me! Now, that was snide. My questions about liberalism and conservatism were not. My issue is defining the press as liberal based on the shifting lines drawn defining those mindsets. One day conservatives support states' rights, the next day they don't. And your answer draws on moral relativism to explain that. In the end, we're still stuck with the conservative bogeyman fantasy of the "liberal" press.

Ann Althouse said...

Footnotes are NOT the same as linking. Linking does not clutter your page, and it can take people into very extensive other writings or to pictures, which you couldn't simply appropriate for your book. Linking can surprise and delight the reader. You flash to another page, so it's a little like a cut in a movie. I have tried to use the footnote move in translating the blog to a book. It can be an alternative to linking, but it just isn't the same. Do you really want a book full of footnotes? I wanted the footnotes to work in a witty, delightful way, like linking, but that could be annoying!

Simon said...

" Do you really want a book full of footnotes?"

Yes, absolutely! Footnotes allow you to provide more depth, either in the form of citations or sidebar text without distracting from the flow of the argument. I know there are those who don't like footnotes -- indeed, in high school, my English teacher disapproved of footnotes and other sidebars, such as the one I'm in now, which shows how strongly I agreed -- but I'm strongly in favor of them, and I think they do provide the functional equivalent of hyperlinks (and may even be better, since you can discuss the thing you're citing / linking to).

How'd the keynote go?

Wickedpinto said...

Let's see them bitch at Glenn. Oh wait, no reason, they already praise Cox. Who'd've thunk that the MSM LOVES the COX, LOVES IT, LOVES COX, COX Everywhere, COX is what they think about whenever they can.

However Glenn thinks about everyone else, and about an idea, but lets ignore Glenn, and go for the Big old nasty sloppy COX, prove your independant stance by standing up to Kos, in a deviant way, but slobber the COX book, ignore glenn and his forthright method of speaking his truth, but COX is great.

summary? the MSM LOVES THE COX.