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BlogThink: The Collective Rationalization of the Blogosphere
Posted by: Jon Henke on Friday, February 18, 2005

I'm noticing more self-segregation within the blogosphere, lately. It's not new, but I'm really picking up on it now.

Lee, at Right-Thinking, observes...
I’m curious, why is it that when I point out left-wing idiocy and make strong statements against said idiocy everyone here things it’s brilliantly hilarious, but when I point out right-wing idiocy I’m “lame” and “a dick” and “Bill Maher”? Either I’m honest and consistent in my opinions or I’m not. Insult me all you like, if that’s all you have, but you can’t deny my sincerity.
Critics can disagree with you, and they'll usually just dismiss you as a hack, a partisan, an idiot, etc. But, as Andrew Sullivan discovered, if you commit heresy against your own "Team"? Well, that's beyond the pale....that's unforgivable.

I think that's a function of the fact that many of us read blogs to find takes that support our prejudices, assumptions and Teams. That, I suspect, is why QandO gets so much more grief when we inveigh against torture, tax cuts and the Republican leadership.

Not that we mind. I think I speak for all of us when I note that the comment sections -- dissent or support -- provide some of the most thought-provoking, worthwhile interaction we can get. They are an invaluable aspect of the blog.

Still, I notice a gravitation towards comfortable rationalizations. Case in point, Hannity VS Freepers. Briefly: Sean Hannity called Freepers "fringe", Freepers went ballistic. But he's right. [and then, he went on to call his site a "blog" -- well, Hannity has never impressed me with his intellect] Free Republic is as hyperpartisan as DemocraticUnderground, though not quite as, well, nuts. And, you know, I think that's a natural aspect of human nature. We all like to be reinforced.

Nevertheless, it's unhealthy. And I think it's even more common on the left side of the blogosphere. As Tom Maguire recently noted, while the Right side of the 'sphere is a "totally disorganized pack of hungry bloggers", the Left side is led by a few blogs like...
the Daily Kos [where] members can leave comments, or write "diaries", which function as blogs within a blog. ... So, for a member, the hours can be whiled away, and there is always plenty to do in Kos World.
While not as complicated as Daily Kos, this scenario plays out in other prominent Lefty blogs. The comment sections at WashingtonMonthly/Atrios/etc can reach into the hundreds rather easily. That leads to groupthink.

But there's something else: blogrolls. I notice that, while the right side of the 'sphere tend to have bipartisan blogrolls, the 'sphere:Left blogrolls are in ideological lockstep.

While Instapundit has a very non-partisan blogroll -- Reynolds even has (hyper-shrill Uber-Insta-critic) Oliver Willis on the blogroll, though, he has yet to blogroll QandO! For shame! -- note that Daily Kos, Atrios, Pandagon, Smirking Chimp, Dean for America, TalkingPointsMemo, Matt Yglesias, MyDD, Orcinus, and TBogg have apparently enforced a rigid embargo against contrary viewpoints. No variation on those blogrolls. And still other bloggers have only the merest hint of bipartisanship on their blogrolls.

Naturally, there are contrary examples, with some rightwing bloggers hosting quite partisan blogrolls, too. It seems to me that such a thing is the rule on the Left, though...that they venture outside their own network of compatriates only rarely.

In any event, such a practice--on the left, or on the right--is exceedingly unhealthy.

Maguire argues that prominent bloggers -- left and right -- need to broaden their reading/linking habits to support the good work done by other meritorious bloggers on their own ideological side.

I would argue that intellectual curiousity should demand that standard apply to the best arguments of both the Left and the Right. And it should start with a blogroll that incorporates both sides.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

"Sean Hannity called Freepers "fringe", Freepers went ballistic. But he's right."

In what way is he right? FRINGE?? As it has been configured the last several years, Free Republic is a cheering section for George W's EVERY move----including his open borders immigration policy.

Hmmm, the same can be said of Sean Hannity.

Nope, Hannity is just upset because many Freepers can't stand him.
Written By: freezin
URL: http://
I gave up talking about the Freepers after one of them argued that the site doesn't deserve its 90s-era bad rap, and I realized it wasn't worth my effort to spend enough time there to figure out whether he was right or not. I know those guys are sensitive about the DU comparisons.

What was maddening about Sully wasn't that he criticized the Right; he'd been doing that all along, and it was always a part of the deal in reading his site. It was the following:

1. He totally flip-flopped on a number of issues around the war that he had been very vocal on. Thus, he switched sides on particular issues rather than just maintaining a set of consistent views that don't fit in an ideological box.

2. He didn't just attack the Right, he threw in every bit of personal invective he could lay hands on and - perhaps worst of all - in many cases adopted wholesale the rhetoric of the Left and of the Kerry campaign. I appreciate when conservatives disagree with me on the basis of shared philosophy; when they suddenly start sounding like Paul Begala, I tune out.

3. He denied, falsely in the opinion of a great many of us, that this was all about the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Written By: Crank
You're right but it largely mirrors the increasing polarization of the two major political parties. Check out the increasing marginalization of members who don't perfectly reflect party orthodoxies.

And you're also right about Q&O deserving a slot on Glenn's blogroll. It appears to be pretty backward-looking at this point. There are blogs on there now that haven't posted a decent post in years (and that he probably hasn't linked to other than on his blogroll in a similar interval).
Written By: Dave Schuler
well, Hannity has never impressed me with his intellect

His intellect has never impressed me, either. His show with the also unimpressive Alan Colmes is "must not watch" TV. IMO, anyways.

Written By: Mark Flacy
URL: http://
My blogroll is mostly partisan. But I have a specific section marked "Opposite Views", which is a blogroll of the Lefties I think are worth checking out...though I rarely read them. Then again, I rarely read all the blogs I have on my blogroll...many of them are reciprocal links, and I don't have time to follow all the excellent blogs on a daily basis.

...I couldn't live without Q and O Blog, though.
Written By: Nathan
It's interesting that you think that comments leads to groupthink, while many left-leaning bloggers think of it as a way to allow dissent. Places like LGF or Free Republic, while they do allow comments, are fast at banning, which is something that will happen very rarely, if ever, at any of the left-winged blogs you mention.
BTW both Orcinus and Pandagon links to some conservative voices.

Oh, and while I consider Democratic Underground lunatic, there seems to have been a lot more cases of violence and menance committed by Freepers. Also, the Freepers actually get listened to, who listens to the DUs?
Written By: Kristjan Wager
URL: http://
Sorry to burst your bubble, but on the right side of the blogosphere's insularity has been the rule for some time now (since about '01). It's only since about early last year that you started seing liberal bloggers mostly only link to fellow travelers on their blogrolls. In the past you'd nary see someone from the left on a right-wing blogroll. Of course, there's a reason for this nowadays.
Written By: Oliver
I couldn't live without Q and O Blog, though.
Thanks, Nathan. You are one of the commenters who make the comment sections so enjoyable and educational to read.

while many left-leaning bloggers think of it as a way to allow dissent.
Have you ever tried being a right winger in the comment sections of Pandagon, Atrios, et al? I have. I'm generally called a "moronic brownshirt fuck" within 5 minutes. Then, it starts going downhill.

I won't offer support of LGF or FreeRepublic, either. Their comment sections lead to groupthink just as easily as those on the Left.

BTW both Orcinus and Pandagon links to some conservative voices
Looking more carefully, I see now that each of them link to two quasi-conservative (or, at least, right-of-center) bloggers. I stand slighly corrected.
Written By: Jon Henke
Sorry to burst your bubble, but on the right side of the blogosphere's insularity has been the rule for some time now (since about '01).
Projection, Oliver? Right of center bloggers have frequently criticized the President, and his policies. Left-of-center bloggers have frequently fellated their own.

Most right-of-center blogs I've come across also link to left-of-center bloggers. Few left-of-center bloggers do the same. (you are, to your credit, an exception)

QandO routinely links--and agrees with--liberal critics of the administration. When have you last criticized your party from the right? Or, for that matter, Atrios, Kos, Pandagon, etc?
Written By: Jon Henke
Left of center bloggers have frequently criticized their own, most recently the Senate dems for not showing any spine, and I personally criticized the initial MIA of the Reid "war room", as well as the left's general habit of acting as whipping boy. I've also repeatedly slammed the fairy tale visions of people like Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich, as well as the hucksterism of folks like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Do you think your experience on the comments of left wing blogs is any different from my experience on those of rightie blogs (just look at some of the comments posted on the "right-thinking" blog)?

Have liberal blogs become more insular than in the earlier days of blogging? Yes, but many of us see no need to pile on our own guys when the right and and the media seem to do so just fine on their own.

The dominant theme I see on the right wing blogs is open mouthed tongue bathing of the Bush admin for "demonstrating genuine leadership", with invective only reserved for those liberals who are on "the other side".
Written By: Oliver
Hey, Oliver, shouldn't you get back to writing another dozen items about Jeff Gannon? It's the biggest scandal since Watergate, apparently.
Written By: Lance Jonn Romanoff
I don't believe there to be causal relationship. Zanies hang out with zanies, more rational people hang out together too. Most of the folks on this blog have a wide variety of readings. The weirdos in the Freeper universe and the Daily Kos universe only reacd each other. This was the case before blogs. As with much else in the Internet universe, what is common before is emphisised now.

While some features are worrisome, the fundimental fact of the internet is that authority is diffused. Even in the land of the moonbats, since there is more variaty and more fact checking than was the case before.

One very good feature is that very few people agree totally with what they read, and the internet gives you the opportunity to talk back. Like I am doing right now. So with the commemnt and live journal feturs the fact that people can and will talk back is a check and a governor on the problems of political isolation
Written By: Steven
Looking more carefully, I see now that each of them link to two quasi-conservative (or, at least, right-of-center) bloggers. I stand slighly corrected.

Since your whole point seemed to be that right-winged bloggers linked to left-winged blogges, but not visa versa, it seems that the fact that you were wrong makes your point invalid.

There is no doubt that people of same political observations read and agree more often with each other than with people of the opposite end of the political sphere.
Nothing surprising in that.
However, you'll have to be blind to think that only right-winged people criticise people on their own side - it's one of the major problems with the Democrats; the infighting.
Also, the far-right is an united force, no matter that there are several issues where there are plenty of room for disagreement there.
Buchanon is the only far-right person I can think of who is critical of Bush, and even he endorsed him!
Written By: Kristjan Wager
URL: http://
Since your whole point seemed to be that right-winged bloggers linked to left-winged blogges, but not visa versa, it seems that the fact that you were wrong makes your point invalid.
No, I think I made it clear that it was a trend, and not a rule. Note that I mentioned right-of-center bloggers who had partisan blogrolls, as well as left-of-center bloggers who had a few righties on their blogroll.

I do not believe that "only right-winged people criticise people on their own side". I see far too many righties who do not. However, all of the criticism of the Democratic Party that I see coming from the blogosphere comes from the Left. The prominent bloggers virtually never criticize them from the right.

The right side of the sphere, on the other hand, has been quite vocal in critizing Bush for fiscal policy, the war, and a wide variety of other measures.

Buchanon is the only far-right person I can think of who is critical of Bush, and even he endorsed him!
Libertarians are generally regarded as "right" or even "far right", and they've been decidedly unenthusiastic in their support of Bush....or, more often, decidedly enthusiastic in their non-support of Bush.

For example, I spent quite a few posts detailing the reasons I would not endorse, or vote for, Bush.
Written By: Jon Henke

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