Outraged At Being Portrayed As Outraged
There’s been quite the controversy over the Washington Post article “The Left, Online and Outraged”. My first reading of it certainly didn’t elicit the same response that it has from other lefty bloggers, many are pissed at the suggestion that we are all angry, raging, venom spewing, foul mouthed hate mongers. What do you expect, it’s the Washington Post? I usually try to refrain from blogging about blogging, but with all of the hoopla, I figured I might as well throw in my two cents. It’s Easter, who’ll actually read it, right?
So the Washington Post chose Mary Scott O’Connor and My Left Wing to profile instead of the myriad of left leaning blogs that are rational critiques of policy and meticulous accounts of scandal, crime and incompetence. And sure, by doing so the WaPo focuses their readers’ attention on only a small part of the blogisphere, one they frame as the radical extreme, but that makes for a much better story than wonky political analysis (a practice given up long ago at WaPo). It’s not as if the Washington Post is a bastion of real and reliable news, isn’t that why we make fun of them on a daily basis?
This was a personal profile and I think that the portrayal was an honest one. From what I can tell, Mary Scott doesn't appear to have the huge problems with it that others seem to. I also think that what she has to say, where she comes from, the honesty with which she puts forth her ideas, her history and herself, will be appealing to many WaPo readers and might even drive them to blogs for something more real, the news from the other side, if you will.
While I understand the frustration of many bloggers, who toil away each day doing serious and well put together work, I’m just not able to get all worked up about this one. Maybe the purpose of the story was to marginalize us, to make us seem unhinged and irrational, but beyond the fact that it won’t work long-term, why do we really care? Do we need or want the Washington Post to validate the work we do? And why take that frustration out on Mary Scott O’Connor? You may not like what she writes, you may even think that her rants reflect badly on your more tempered approach to blogging, but the great thing about the internet is that there’s room for all voices and there is no denying that My Left Wing appeals to a growing audience and perhaps anger is the first step in getting those readers activated.
The Smirking Chimp, also mentioned in the article, has many angry readers as well, this I have deduced from experience. I regularly get beat up by commenters there if I dare write an article suggesting that we are not doing enough to counter, in an effective way, the onslaught of bad legislation and bad policy coming out of DC, or that we must do a better job in framing our values for easy digestion by Middle America. I’ve decided that many of them are just looking for red meat to chew on. People are angry, and moving them to action is a challenge that MSOC has taken on with gusto, how dare we fault her for that?
There also seems to be this “well, who is she to be blogging?” mentality. Yes, there are many lawyers and policy analysts blogging for the left, but does that mean that the everyman(woman) has nothing to contribute to the dialogue? I, after all, am just the (liberal)girl next door, but I have an informed opinion and I like to think that I’m giving voice to others just like me, the same thing that Ms. O’Connor does. The “professionals” out there may not appreciate our views, but they certainly must deal with them. We may not be the ones that ultimately come up with the answers, but we can at least articulate the problems as we see them, a valuable service for those blowing in the wind trying to find direction.
And while I disagree with the Washington Post’s framing of My Left Wing as the radical extreme as well as their attempt to paint us all with the same brush, I am much more bothered by other lefty bloggers continuing the meme. Don’t we have every reason to be angry? And if we express that anger does that automatically mean we must be relegated to the fringe? There is a place for both, venting of the anger and a positive agenda that will help us move past it. If the Washington Post chooses to focus on the anger, that’s because focusing on the other creates an immediate problem for them. The “angry left” is easy to write off, they’ve been doing it for years, but the serious policy blogs create direct competition for them, is anyone surprised that they didn’t select one of those to profile? If you are, you’re just being silly and looking for validation from the one place you’ll never get it.
The Washington Post is no longer the paper of Woodward and Bernstein, it is the propaganda arm of the Bush administration. Of course they want to make us seem crazy, and I say, let ‘em, would they be going to all the trouble if they weren’t concerned? We all know how blogs work, increased readership comes from clicking around, and by directing their audience to My Left Wing, the other blogs will be found. If they want to help boost our readership, fine by me. I've received a nice bump on my site meter as a result, and I doubt that all of them are coming to laugh at the angry liberals. I think they're coming because they're curious, and that's a good thing.