Logrolling, Blogrolling and Other Bad Habits

In December 2005, I engaged in an interesting discussion with Dan Solove of the very good law blog Concurring Opinions on the nature of the blogosphere Left and Right. I took issue with this assertion from Solove:

. . . [T]he conservative blogosphere is much better integrated in its intellectual and activist dimensions. For example, the conservative political blogosphere seems much more deeply connected to the legal blogosphere, where political bloggers seem to more routinely tap into the expertise of law professors about various legal issues. Indeed, many of the prominent political bloggers in the conservative blogosphere are academics; fewer of the liberals are. This strikes me as representative of a larger difference between the Left and Right. The Left must better connect its intellectual and activist sides.

This struck me, and still does, as extremely naive about the nature of the so called "intellectual" side of the Right, which is nothing if not activist and highly partisan. Solove fundamentally failed to grasp this basic point at first, though he came to concede a fair bit of it in comments.

I responded to Solove as follows:

"A politically saavy wonkishness." Do you consider this blog politically savvy?

. . . I submit that the fact that Wingnut blogs link to you consistently and the fact that your blog has had only negative things to say about daily kos sort of explains why we may not be paying that much attention to you.

. . . You write:

"As a result, we're read and listened to by many libertarians and conservatives . . . and sometimes we may be convincing or find points of agreement. I think that this is a very good thing. Before recent politics, liberals and conservatives could find some agreement on certain issues. Many issues can be discussed in an intelligent non-partisan manner."

The key phrase is "[b]efore recent politics."

After Bush, politics, AND wonkery, is not the same. That is atrios' premise, and one I fully adhere to.

If you believe you are engaged in honest discourse with Powerline, more power to you. I would find that view naive in the extreme.

Posted by: Armando at December 28, 2005 09:32 AM

A similar issue is discussed by Scott Lemieux:

To no one's surprise, Project Runway can't find herself getting worked up about the firings of US Attorneys, yet she does acknowledge, with her usual contrarian disdain for actual thought, that "the sheer intensity of the effort to make this the big story of the week is bringing out the resistance in me."

The thing is I believe Professor Althouse is not that interested in issues. She has a quasi-Kausian mentality, as she has admitted, a real disdain for the Left and that is how her blogging reads. Certainly her right. What was more surprising to me was the post by Orin Kerr that Professor Althouse linked to:

I haven't written about the U.S. Attorney's story because I'm having a hard time figuring out just how big a deal it is. Parts of it are obviously very troubling: I was very disturbed to learn of the Domenici calls, for example. More broadly, I have longrunning objections to the extent to which DOJ is under White House control, objections that this story helps bring to the fore (although my objections are based on my views of sound policy, not on law).

Coming from Kerr, whose intellectual skills and integrity I greatly respect, this is disappointing. I think the reason for the concern - the big deal - is pretty darn patent. But it points to a larger concern I am having, about the Left blogs and their unwillingess to disagree with other Lefties and the Dems in Congress. And yes, Iraq and the Spending issue is what has heightened this concern for me. During an election, I certainly go into full partisan mode, writing with an eye for political advantage for my side. But it is March 2007, a time for governance. More importantly, it is a time for concentrating on ending the Iraq Debacle.

As folks who have been reading me have seen, I have been quite critical of House Dems AND Left blogs regarding their attitudes and prescriptions for Iraq. My views have almost universally been ignored by all, except for the occasional patronizing riposte that does not engage at all my arguments.

Why is this so? Are discussions of how to end the Debacle in Iraq that are not exclusively critical of the GOP and Bush not worth notice?

It is ironic to me, as perhaps daily kos' most staunch defender on questions of ethics and conflicts of interest, to have to ask this question, but I have to ask it - what is behind this?

Are there professional relationships, existing or potential, that stand in the way of honest critiques of Democrats? I know for a fact that the two biggest Left bloggers have no such issues - Atrios and Markos have no political contracts or relationships - they make money from ads, which are based on traffic.

But what of the rest of us? This site is written by practicing lawyers with no political income. But this is not universally true. Some bloggers are political consultants. Is this affecting their blogging? I know it can not be affecting it CONSCIOUSLY. I know some of these folks and they just are not like that.

As for the rest of the Left blogs, is it the home team mentality? Perhaps. I know, as I said, come election time, I go completely into partisan mode. I think I can and do adjust in non-election times. Are blogs incapable of switching gears?

At this point, I must say the answer appears to be yes.

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    you're not alone (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by chicago dyke on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 12:19:00 PM EST
    Why is this so? Are discussions of how to end the Debacle in Iraq that are not exclusively critical of the GOP and Bush not worth notice?

    there are lots of different types of people, and communities around the blogosphere. at corrente, we encourage the most open form of debate we can, and encourage even republicans to comment and present their, snicker, arguments. we're hard core free speech types like that.

    but we're not widely read by people who like to be comfortable. that's what i perceive at many larger blogs- "let's only talk about things that won't make us really depressed or enraged." americans can be like that, unwilling to face horror and big problems squarely. i don't even blame most of us for that, as from birth we're taught to be uncritical consumers who avoid "messy" topics like politics and religion when in the company of "nice" people.

    certainly, some bloggers have very specific motivations not to criticize democrats. some want political jobs or access, some have friends in campaigns and offices, some truly believe in 'strength thru unity,' and some think that the republicans are so bad, even a poorly behaving dem can't be on the same level and thus worthy of attention.

    finally, i would add fatigue to the list of things that limit blog discourse. people are tired of being angry, being outraged, and it feels good to be happy and believe that your side is working towards your goals and winning the important fights. my own family often tells me that the reason they won't read my blog frequently is because it's "too negative." that's a critique i accept, because my feelings aren't hurt easily and it's true that i tend to focus on "what's wrong" where ever i find it, more than who or what is doing good on any given day.

    sober, informed reflection on topics like gov't corruption, corporate oligarchy, the environment, the war, the democratic record of action, the economy-it's the abyss alright, and most folks will not even walk up the edge, let alone stare into it. people call me a doomsayer, but i guess the only point that matters is who will be proven right. time will take care of that, so i don't stress about the fact that some people want to live their lives in full-time "don't worry be happy" mode.

    BTW (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:00:12 PM EST
    What is your view of the Housde's perforamnce on Iraq?

    What do you think of the defunding argument? Of my argument? Do you have a response? A substantive one I mean.


    Ooops (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:00:42 PM EST
    Intended for the Anon, not you.

    That's interesting (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 12:33:15 PM EST
    I've always enjoyed corrente and never felt uncomfortable with the topics or discussion.

    Hmmmm (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:15:40 PM EST
    I think that the power blogs have is relatively new. The last two elections were, I believe affected by the power of the left blogosphere but that is an entirely new thing.

    For the blogs to have a measurable effect on legislation, war, and the day to day machinations of Congress seems more remote at this point. The only reason, I believe this to be true, is that this is so new, relatively speaking.

    In a way I see the blogs as a way to get back to the days of early America where the people had a say. Now powerful lobbies and moneyed intrests rule the lawmakers.

    I think it is just a matter of time before the blogosphere will get some traction. It took some time to gain power during election season. That is an easier job though, discussing policy and legislation is more demanding and the ways that works more entrenched.

    Do not despair BTD. You are just way ahead of the curve.

    We'll see (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:23:26 PM EST
    I'm not convinced that is all there is.

    Thought provoking comment (none / 0) (#29)
    by PaintyKat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 05:18:56 PM EST
    You make some important points about being worn down by attacks by GOP and personally, whether I react over sensitively to critiques depends on how they are framed and the depth of discussion.  

    For the larger Democratic blogs, the quantity of comments probably adds to limiting the depth of discussions, with high numbers of folks parroting lines without any real understanding of the mechanics or the overall process in which decisions are being made, resulting in an actual breakdown of communication.  

    Frustrations result from this breakdown in communication more than differences in opinion and adding to the distress can be overly personalized complaints about particular legislators with any specificity or details concerning the decisions, impacts, or how it ties into the larger picture. Folks almost become adversaries without knowing why because of the resultant defensiveness more than any personal proclivities for ability to accept substantive critiques or constructive feedback.

    When the trite offerings are on the level of ....Joe Blo is spineless, Dems need to grow a spine, Dems have no backbone, the effers are still just keeping their powder dry, or any number of comments which are attacks, it is impossible to find any meaningful information that can be countered with argumentation.  Responses are limited and most will be equally nasty or folks will refuse to engage.  

    Impeachment is a good example and one in which it is difficult to engage in the discussion if you are not in favor of impeachment.  Sometimes it is impossible to engage because reasonable points resulting from practicality are misunderstood and result in accusations of Bush support or a diatribe about sharing guilt with the administration for the resultant deaths failure to impeach will cause. Deaths which result from abetting and aiding murderers.

    On such a superficial level, the intra-group tensions make me feel frustrated and unequipped for the discussions.  

    When discussion levels hover or remain at the mud slinging level among Democrats or progressives, it can feel much like the nastiness of the Republicans for the last several years and that brings on the defensiveness or perception of facing enemies.

    The fractious behavior among and between members of various groups is so laden with self-interest sometimes, it becomes challenging to identify commonalities which would encourage indepth critiques or result in much more than mud wrestling in some cases.  All too often defensiveness is the result of poor communication techniques coupled with misunderstandings of details or the process.



    Squeaky, my apologies (none / 0) (#32)
    by PaintyKat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 06:03:08 PM EST
    Though your comment is just as interesting I placed my comment in the wrong place.  

    It was intended to be in response to chicago dyke's and wanted to alert you so that you are not scratching your head and wondering.....



    Thanks PaintyKat (none / 0) (#33)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 06:38:25 PM EST
    Got it now.

    I think there is a learning curve for how to ... (5.00 / 5) (#10)
    by cal11 voter on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:15:51 PM EST
    act and react when you are the majority party in Congress with a Republican president.  How many of these bloggers have such experience.  But I see too much deference to our home team managers.

    Good comment (5.00 / 4) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:22:45 PM EST
    Makes my critique seem overly harsh.

    Perhaps it is.


    An impatience for immediate actions (none / 0) (#31)
    by PaintyKat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 05:55:04 PM EST
    In addition many of the younger folks haven't experienced being in the majority and seem to have unreasonable expectations about the speed with which things happen doupled with a total lack of knowledge about how to address legislators.  Anyway, respectfully, is the manner in which earlier generations were taught and the one I still embrace.

    Being a grandparent, my observations suggest that we have spoiled our children and some of the expectations are expressed as demands and I don't see that as a suggestion that will get much notice by legislators who probably have an overload of communications.

    We have been told that insults and name calling end up in the round file immediately but time and again I see "we must demand" "they work for us" and similarly ineffective means of communication.  My guess is any of our legislators would be happy to send that constituent their 25 cent refund for their wages and end discussion.

    From commenters, there is no limit to complaints about legislators perceived inactivity on ending the Iraq war, but details or knowledge of legislative processes, not so much.



    Lefty Blogs (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by JanL on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:28:05 PM EST
    I'm sure that the left has no shortage of passionate, intelligent writers and activists who write on blogs and I can't say why they're not more up in arms over this lastest round of wobblie-ness from the Democrats.  If they are like me, they're taking a "wait & see" attitude for the time being, given the Walter Reed scandal, the AG scandal, the Plame hearings - it's all too much.  And also, guys I respect like Joe Sestak & Dave Obey are not exactly helping at this point.  
    I'll be going to my 4th vigil on Monday night since this whole damnable war began and frankly I'm a little flumoxed as to what exactly to do next.  I did see a post by mcjoan on dkos yesterday that looked as if she's going in your direction.  However, you two alone can't pull the defunding train - our elected representatives have gotta step up, and soon.  Good to read you over here.  

    Good comment (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:36:53 PM EST
    Problem is the supplemental puts the Iraq issue on the back burner.

    Obey & others... (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by JanL on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 02:01:56 PM EST
    I got from his rant last week (and I'm not crazy about his performance, even tho I know he's sorry) that he will not vote against the supplemental because somehow it will cut funding for the VA, and real support for our troops on the ground.  I am the first to say I don't understand why any funding bills written couldn't be carefully worded to send support to the VA, etc. but stop the flow for the escalation, particularly since Petraeus now says he'll need more of our kids - surely there's a way to do this?  The other consideration from the blogs is possibly that we all know somehow Democrats will be portrayed as weak on defense, not supporting the troops etc. but to my mind this happens no matter what.  

    Good question (5.00 / 4) (#16)
    by BarbinMD on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 02:08:52 PM EST
    Are there professional relationships, existing or potential, that stand in the way of honest critiques of Democrats... is it the home team mentality?

    I think it's the latter. I've been critical of Democrats for their weak stand on Iraq, but I'm not going to trash them 24/7 because they are my my team. I suppose it's a case of picking your battles (with the supplemental being a worthwhile battle). I'd rather emphasize the downside of the GOP.

    And of course there is the issue of not becoming the Lieberman of the progressive blogosphere.  

    You've been great (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 02:12:19 PM EST
    on Iraq Barb.

    I have linked to you here on the very issue.


    I also think that as the events were (none / 0) (#30)
    by PaintyKat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 05:28:23 PM EST
    happening, it was almost impossible to keep up with the GOP audacities and it must be equally difficult for the legislature to identify all of them, have hearings, and keep public attention while doing so.

    There are so many that it is almost like having outrage exhaustion.  It would be simpler if it were just one or two but there are hundreds of major illegalities and thousands of instances of corruption that focus is challenging.

    So when members of our group criticize the legislature without of specifics, it is hard to spend the limited supply of outrage and what to spend it on.

    I think that was intentional or it was a fortunate accident that so many bad things are discovered throughout this admin the media couldn't keep up even if they wanted to and the public can't focus either.



    As I said yesterday (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by andgarden on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 02:54:47 PM EST
    the problem for me has been that I was willing to give the House Democrats leeway in the first couple of months to figure out what their strategy. I think that's proven to be an error on our part, and the "go along to get along"ers have grabbed the wheel.

     We also failed to agitate effectively for Pelosi's Majority Leader choice last fall, and lost half of the battle then.

    A BIG error (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 03:08:25 PM EST
    on our part.

    And thre Left blogs seem unwilling to change their tactics.

    Failures all around.


    3 off-the-cuff . . . (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by walt on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 03:04:15 PM EST
    . . . & I'm not much willing to defend these as they're raw reactions by me from years ago when I first jumped on the www. phenomenon.
    1. The rightwingnutz & GOoPerz got on the internutz early & occupied a lot of space & drew some attention.
    2. Trained lawyers tend (repeat TEND) to be a little bit conservative as a group--even if in the overall Democratic Party fold--for reasons of education, a grounding in history or precedent & the general need to be deliberate rather than "rash" in style, comments & opinions.
    3. Conservatives often try to couch there insane opinions in a sort of asinine legalty-beaglety prose that implies they've read & understood the Constitution, the Magna Carta, the Ten Commandments, etc., when in fact they just blather around in some jargon that they don't even comprehend, but pick up sort of gratis from actual law-related websites.

    John W. Dean III & some other author have laid out the "authoritarian" father-figure needs of most conservatives.  Folks on the left side of the political centerline tend to be more likely anti-authoritarian, prone to civil disobedience, inclined to change the law, etc.

    These are just "proclivities," but they can make for wingnutz & actual law blogs feeling more nearly compatible than anarchists & any group of working attorneys.

    Heh (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 03:13:16 PM EST
    I cross-posted this at BHD.

    Thats funny... (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by sean mykael on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 03:16:10 PM EST
    I just got home from a class and came here first...hadn't even noticed it over there.



    I don't share your view (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Kevin Hayden on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 04:14:19 PM EST
    Indeed, many of the prominent political bloggers in the conservative blogosphere are academics; fewer of the liberals are. This strikes me as representative of a larger difference between the Left and Right. The Left must better connect its intellectual and activist sides.

    I'm struck by the elitism inherent in that. One neither has to be an academic nor an activist to think well, to propose effective solutions, or to advance them from theory to practice.

    All generalisms are wrong, including this one.

    But it points to a larger concern I am having, about the Left blogs and their unwillingess to disagree with other Lefties and the Dems in Congress.

    Studies of group dynamics and mob mentalities provide plenty of grist for this mill. Yet I see more than a few Lefties taking contrarian positions and refusing to be shouted down despite the heat they receive from peers.

    I regularly criticize Congressional members, with sincerity, yet I prioritize and pick the fights I consider to be most important. I see no purpose in chiding those who fail to put caps back on the toothpaste.

    Are blogs incapable of switching gears?

    As a group blog member, even the arguments that occur between members indicate to me that differences of opinion exist. If there's a degree of stubborness present, I'd say it has to do more with age than dishonesty. One does not always curtsey in the direction of well-crafted logic, when experience has already made off with one's skirt.

    Can you point me to the Left blogs (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 04:23:27 PM EST
    pushing back on the Dem inaction on Iraq? I want to give them props for that.

    BTW (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 04:24:04 PM EST
    The view you do not share belongs to Daniel Solove, not me.

    And before you ask (none / 0) (#25)
    by Kevin Hayden on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 04:16:22 PM EST
    I intentionally used 'generalisms' in place of 'generalizations', to make the statement true.

    As an aside (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by a gilas girl on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 07:48:59 PM EST
    The idea of any "conservative academic" discussing his or her actually existingleft/progressive colleagues in academia never happened during my years in academia.  Just as in the punditry and in the blogs, when conservatives set about discussing their colleagues on the left, they generally end up discussing figments of their own imagination rather than any actual positions or arguegments that the folks on the left actually make.  It has also been my experience that the conservative members of the academic community tend to avoid direct interactions with their colleagues on the right, refusing to meet in actual debates and proferring to argue with their own projections about the left.  

    But I don't know anything about how it works with attorneys.

    It Could Be You (none / 0) (#3)
    by anon55 on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 12:44:27 PM EST
    The idea that lefty blogs are unwilling to criticize Democrats is ludicrous on its face.  Any reader of the big or smaller blogs know that they take on the Dems when they think such an action has merit, and they support them when they think that action has merit.

    It's entirely possible that the issue is your arguments and writing are not persuasive or interesting enough to merit a response.  People read them and are just not terribly engaged by them.  

    I find much of what you write to be either obvious or about minutiae, yet you seem to be gasping in the effort to demonstrate the brilliance of your arguments.  In the lawyerly world you occupy such minute and exact arguments over small points is often seen as having great merit, but in the political world it smacks of pedantic sophistry.

    To sum up: get more interesting and more people will respond.  

    Do you write anywhere? (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 12:55:44 PM EST
    To be honest, in terms of readership, your argument does not hold up and has not over time. Even at this blog, my uninteresting work has drawn a goodly amount of attention.

    The fact that my arguments are not drawing posts ism more likely a function of some other factors.

    As to THE issue I am referencing, your explanation rings false.

    It sounds to me that you are viewing this through the prism of the personal, to wit, your personal dislikes, rather than the issue I am referencing.

    I do wish you would identify where you write, or iof you write, for that matter. For if you are not one of the persons referred to, you seem hardly in a position to speak intelligently to the point.


    You are always interesting (none / 0) (#35)
    by vcmvo2 on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 11:03:09 PM EST
    You're an excellent and prolific writer. The Dems seem to be less sure-footed about how to end the Iraq War than I would have guessed.

    Too bad that the Iraq War is not Henry Waxman's territory- then we might see some fireworks. However, it suprises me that Sen. Leahy isn't more vocal about it. Where's Ben Cardin on the issue or Mikulski? I voted for these people. Heck I even worked phone-banking for Cardin this past November. He voted against the war when he was in Congress but I haven't heard a peep out of him. It looks like it's time to contact my Senators by calling. I email them all the time. Obviously it's not good enough. Keep pushing BTD because you are right.

    I can't explain this paralysis on the Dems part on the War. There are many issues with this Bush administration. Very serious ones but I have always (since summer of 2005) been a get out of Iraq now person. I thought the way to do it was to get Dems in the majority. And then I must have stopped thinking because I assumed from a lot of their statements that that's what they would go for first. I was wrong. It's feet to the fire time! No excuses!

    Don't give up!


    Suppressed discourse along another dimension.... (none / 0) (#7)
    by jerry on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:04:45 PM EST
    Are there ... relationships, existing or potential, that stand in the way of honest critiques of Democrats?

    I removed professional, as I am not sure what you mean by that, and I think your sentence still stands.

    For personal reasons, I have found there is another dimension along which I believe left blogs and left bloggers have suppressed what would seem to be a natural discussion.  And that is to discuss the current state of divorce in america, women's rights,  father's rights, the "psychological-legal complex", and the test "the best interest of the child."

    There is a blogger named Glenn Sacks who is shunned by the left.  I believe you would find him very much aligned with liberal progressivism.  

    But he has been described by certain feminist bloggers as hateful, and a conservative wingnut.  The same feminist bloggers have also shunned a great deal of other female bloggers that have issued various critiques of feminism and how women's studies are taught.

    I believe this leads to a big gap between what progressive bloggers normally claim they believe in, and their behavior, and leads to a big gap amongst the real people (non-bloggers, non-activists) in what they perceive as a hypocrisy and victim mentology on the part of the left.

    And it does cause the left problems, as in, the enormous Edwards' gaffe in hiring Amanda Marcotte and the response to that that was predicted by many.  Many on the left.

    It leads to missed opportunities between the left and voters, and also missed opportunities between the left and moderate/right bloggers.

    BTD, have you read Eugene Volokh's paper on Parent-Child Speech and Child Custody Speech Restrictions?  I think you would find a lot to agree with in there.

    Why is Amanda Marcotte's pretty well documented (by left, right, and even libertarian) atrocious behavior supported?

    Why is Sacks shunned?  Why is there no prominent left wing blogger that is able to critique feminism in general, or certain feminists in particular?

    Are feminist bloggers the third rail?

    I don't know much about the issue (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 01:08:45 PM EST
    or the writer you reference.

    On Amanda, speaking for me only, I am not a fan.

    But full disclosure, she is not a fan of me either.


    Since ... (none / 0) (#28)
    by jerry on Sat Mar 17, 2007 at 05:15:30 PM EST
    Since (with due respect) you are pretty much a focused, "one track" blogger (not a whole lot of tracks anyway), I am not actually speaking about you,

    I am more addressing the "any topic goes" sort of progressive/liberal bloggers.

    Still, you might wish to take a look at the Volokh pdf, it's an interesting take on an aspect of the court system that runs wild.