Monday, April 30, 2007

At the Blog Summit

If I had some fear and trepidation about the Blog Summit at Marquette this past weekend, it was amplified when I got there and figured out it was being held in a law school lecture hall. It has been some 21 years since I had the pleasure of these kind of surroundings (albeit at UW) and, somehow, you never shake the feeling of dread and sheer tedium that comes with certain environments, even if there are now electrical outlets for your laptop and wireless in the air (although not really working). Regardless, I enjoyed the program more than I thought I would, thanks to the smooth efforts of Wispolitics’ Jeff Myers, Mike Gousha, the energy in the air and the contributions of several of the panelists.

The more entertaining and enlightening panel by far was the "diversity panel", featuring Eugene Kane, Jennifer Morales and – the pleasant surprise of the day – Dasha Kelly. A writer and poet, Dasha was smart, funny and delightful. She is a great example of the kind of bright light that shouldn’t have to fight through editors and space limitations to be heard. She sort of made us political back-and-forthers look silly with our sometimes-petty gamesmanship, as she cut straight to heart of her very personal life and observations. She said she wasn’t political, saying that it was so obvious that good schools are important, what more is there to say? But that in itself is a political statement, especially when many of the right-wingers in attendance are actively trying to undermine public education. [Aside: the mention of school "choice" industry shill George Mitchell’s name during another panel properly got one of the biggest laughs of the day.]

The conundrum posed by the diversity panel was an appropriate one: What’s with all the white guys in the room? Indeed, most of those in attendance at the Summit were as white as the guys in the portraits of legal luminaries plastered all over the walls of the lecture hall. If blogging is to ever become a truly democratic revolution, more and different people need to come to the party. Morales and Kelly attributed the lack of minority and working-class participation to the fact that the poor don’t have time for this sort of relative nonsense, unless it is putting food on the table. Kane suggested African-American media outlets like the black radio stations and newspapers should develop more of a blog presence, which they should, since they have the resources and the audience that needs to get its voice heard.

I asked Eugene Kane what it felt like to be regularly called a racist by a variety of radio and blogging wing-nuts who were at the Summit. (Making my point for me after the fact, right-wing golden-boy and Sykes TV panel lackey Owen Robinson rudely accuses fellow panelist Kane of "racism" for his remarks at this very Summit.) Kane let those in attendance off the hook a little too easily, I think. If I were him, I would have called out a few. Instead, he said that kind of nonsense has rolled off his back since he began at the Journal Sentinel and he left it at that.

In the first panel, Ed Garvey successfully baited Charlie Sykes into making a fool of himself. You can see why Sykes seldom exposes himself in a public forum. After I asked Garvey and Dem consultant John Kraus what progressives could do to get the kind of megaphone the right has with their talk radio echo chamber, Sykes smugly produced "the world’s tiniest violin" for us to play – in other words, he has the talk show distributing his tripe on the 50,000-watt station and the rest of us can go stuff it. He then mentioned Air America (big laugh from the wing-nuts on that one), NPR, NBC, CBS, ABC, New York know the drill. It’s a lie and he knows it – the only thing progressive about the MSM outlets is that they are reality-based, as opposed to the wing-nut fantasy world Sykes lives in.

I made a comment before that particular question that I think bears some repeating and some thought. The question being discussed was what impact blogs have had on elections. My comment was that the lefty blogs have had little, because we are somewhat diverse and come from different perspectives and interests. The right-wing blogs, on the other hand, are always on the same talking points as wing-nut radio, be it talking about Pelosi’s scarf or Sheryl Crow’s single-square of toilet paper. My point was that the right-wing blogs provide much more political cover for the radio squawkers and their politicians than left-wing blogs do for whatever is going on on our side and therefore have more effect.

This was apparently "whining", according to GOP flack and panelist Brian Fraley. For one thing, unlike the characterization of my comment by another right-winger, I did not say it was "unfair" that the left didn’t have the same sort of vehicle (although, in terms of use of public airwaves, it is). I think it was a fair description of the relative playing fields. But, even if we had a chance, progressives would never use their message power to pound lies the way the right does. For one thing, we don’t have to – the truth is always on our side.

Anyway, nobody whines louder or more pathetically than a bunch right-wingers trying to convince you that the MSM has all this supposed liberal bias. Some of that very whining was done by Sykes himself, as he complained – no, whined – at the panel about the Journal Sentinel ignoring a non-story about some comment by Michael McGee, Jr "spontaneously" discovered by a fellow-traveler’s blog (nothing happens by accident in wing-nut-land). It seems to me McGee saying something incendiary is like Junior Bush saying something stupid – it’s just not news anymore.

As for the rest of it:
  • Jessica McBride disappointed by coming in with notes and a fairly subdued attitude, except when she explained why her "blog" doesn’t have comments (supposedly libel concerns and, really, she just doesn’t want to hear it). At least she hung around most of the day, unlike Sykes who bolted after his session, lest he be exposed to more of the real world.
  • What I’m sure was an excellent presentation by Madison attorney Jennifer Peterson was unfairly affected by my flashbacks to the legal classroom and the many legal education classes I have taken through the years. No matter how interesting, one case citation and I’m down for the count. I talked to the very friendly Rick Esenberg about it, and I think we are both putting in for 30 minutes of CLE credits.
  • Rick and I both said we read each other’s blog, both agreed each other was wrong about everything, and continued a very nice conversation. That’s what I like about being around most lawyers – disagreeing without being disagreeable (are you listening, Owen?). The only thing I could think that might lead to fisticuffs (well, more likely, armwrestling) is Bush v. Gore. Now them’s fightin’ words!


will andrew said...

Having read a few different accounts of the Summit (I wasn't present), I've noticed a trend in the Left thought process about the range of voices that don't seem to coalesce into one.

I think you nail it though. We suffer by comparison to the right because they all seem to spout everything verbatim. We, on the other hand, have too much of a prism effect, so a lot can get lost across the ranges.

Outside of something like leftyblog or word of mouth, what's out there to bring some form of organization into things?

Anonymous said...

"It seems to me McGee saying something incendiary is like Junior Bush saying something stupid – it’s just not news anymore." Fine. Why then was it news when Don Imus said something offensive?

Mike Plaisted said...

Man, Anony, you are busy today!

Imus didn't say something offensive -- He said something racist about innocent women he knew nothing about. There's a difference.

It's amazing to me the number of right-wingers who want to defend what Imus said. What is the point? Do they want to say the same things with impugnity? Is racism not so bad? I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected. Suggesting that people throw bricks at cars pales by comparison.

Other Side said...

Anonymous still doesn't get it. I wasn't aware that cars were considered a minority group.