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New York Review of Books and Blogs:

I'm pleased that this blog was noted in this article in the New York Review of Books:

At The Truth Laid Bear, a Web site that ranks political blogs according to their number of links with other sites, eight of the top ten blogs are conservative. The conservative sites include InstaPundit (University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds), Power Line (three lawyers), michellemalkin.com (a syndicated columnist whose recent book defends the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II), Free Republic (conservative activists), Captain's Quarters (run by a call-center manager), the Volokh Conspiracy (a UCLA law professor), and Little Green Footballs (commentary on foreign policy with a strong pro-Israel slant). Complementing them are a host of "milblogs," written by active-duty military personnel promoting vigorous pursuit of the GWOT (Global War on Terror). (By far the most-visited political blog is the left-of-center Daily Kos; its popularity is owing in part to its community-style approach, which allows registered readers to post their own comments as well as comment on the posts of others.) . . .

For these bloggers, the principal target is the mainstream media, or MSM. Every day, they scrutinize the top dailies, the three broadcast networks as well as CNN, and the newsweeklies for evidence of "liberal bias." Over the last year, they have demonstrated their influence. . . .

On the other hand, I couldn't help but notice that the blog wasn't quite accurately described -- the Volokh Conspiracy, as a quick visit to the site would show, is of course cowritten by many people (mostly law professors, but mostly not from UCLA). For instance, from Nov. 20 to Nov. 28 (just to choose the dates during which the Review of Books article was likely written), there were 49 posts, of which 12 were by me; I had a bare plurality, but Orin had 11, and Todd had 10. In all of November, Orin had 33% of the posts, and I had 20%. The author and his researchers didn't have access to these detailed reports, but they could easily have observed the general trend through a quick manual count of some sample of posts.

I say this not because it's a huge error -- it's not -- but because it inadvertently illustrates the limits of the mainstream media, and the value of blogs. The mainstream media make lots of mistakes, such as this one, and they also make a considerable number of significant omissions. For instance, the long New York Review of Books article not once mentions the word "libertarian," while at the same time treating libertarians, such as InstaPundit, as "conservatives." InstaPundit (the most widely read of the "conservative" blogs that the author mentions) does have seemingly "conservative" takes on many issues, but of course it's miles away from conservatives on many social policy issues. In a short op-ed, "conservative" as an umbrella term for conservatives and hawkish libertarians would be acceptable though not maximally enlightening. A longer piece, it seems to me, would have done better to acknowledge that while hawkish libertarians and conservatives agree on the free market and generally on foreign policy, they are allied rather than identical.

Likewise, while the article does acknowledge the popularity of Daily Kos, it doesn't mention that if one looks at Truth Laid Bear's traffic ranking rather than its link ranking, one sees that the aggregate traffic rankings of all the liberal blogs in the Top 20 (for instance) are substantially higher than the aggregate traffic rankings of all the "conservative" blogs in the Top 20. Wouldn't that have been more relevant than the link-count-based data -- or at least a useful counterpoint to the data?

And all this, it seems to me, helps show why "the conservative attack on the press" has been "particularly damaging." Whether blogs are trying to condemn "liberal bias" or simply point out mistakes, they -- much more than the media has been -- are media critics, who alert readers that they shouldn't believe everything they read. And this helps produce a healthy skepticism of the media, much as the media in past decades has produced a healthy skepticism of other institutions.

Anderson (mail) (www):
For instance, the long New York Review of Books article not once mentions the word "libertarian," while at the same time treating libertarians, such as InstaPundit, as "conservatives." InstaPundit (the most widely read of the "conservative" blogs that the author mentions) does have seemingly "conservative" takes on many issues, but of course it's miles away from conservatives on many social policy issues.
Right, but that doesn't make Reynolds any less a conservative. It just affects what kind of conservative he is.

If libertarians are surprised to be identified as "conservatives," they shouldn't be.
11.28.2005 1:14pm
Phillip Carter (mail) (www):
Quite right, Eugene.

I've got another correction to make to the NYRB essay. It describes military blogs ("milblogs") as:
a host of "milblogs," written by active-duty military personnel promoting vigorous pursuit of the GWOT (Global War on Terror).
As my own site makes clear, milblogs are anything but monolithic. Some promote vigorous pursuit of the war; others question it. The one common denominator of military blogs is our connection to the service. Aside from that, we're as diverse as the society we come from.
11.28.2005 1:44pm
Tom Anger (mail) (www):
Likewise, while the article does acknowledge the popularity of Daily Kos, it doesn't mention that if one looks at Truth Laid Bear's traffic ranking rather than its link ranking, one sees that the aggregate traffic rankings of all the liberal blogs in the Top 20 (for instance) are substantially higher than the aggregate traffic rankings of all the "conservative" blogs in the Top 20. Wouldn't that have been more relevant than the link-count-based data -- or at least a useful counterpoint to the data?

I noted the discrepancy between links and traffic in a post at my blog. My explanation:

Conservative-libertarian blogs get more links because they're considered more authoritative. Leftist blogs get more traffic because Lefties flock there, in search of reassurance for their views.

That hypothesis is consistent with the prevalance of vitriol-saturated posts and comments at Leftist blogs. Buzzards of a feather do flock together.
That ought to elicit some reaction.
11.28.2005 1:52pm
Justin (mail):
What blogs are TERRIBLE at is sorting "irrelevant mistakes" from "important mistakes" as Professor Volokh's post, looked in another light, also notes.

Thus, the blogosphere very efficiently destroyed the entire (very strong) case of Bush's failure to satisfy his TANG requirements because of an embarrasing, but hardly exculpatary, error made by CBS. The blogosphere also does a bad job at NOT labeling truths as a lie. Finally, the blogosphere does a HORRIBLE job (but so does the media) at determining errors/lies (even of empirical questions) that are complex or are open to a defense that exists in only an irrelevant, absurd, or wrong-but-complex way (much of the right/left blogosphere fight over the war, torture, budget questions are over empirical questions with often mindnumbingly obvious answers, but both the blogosphere and the media consistently fail to come to a consensus).
11.28.2005 2:22pm
Justin (mail):
PS, I should also point out that Conservative-libertarian blogs get more links because Conservatives and liberterians flock there, in search of reassurance for their views. (see, e.g., instapundit, redstate, little green footballs, powerline, free republic, captain's quarters)
Leftist blogs get more links because they're considered more authoritative. (see Crooked Timber, Publius, Kevin Drum, Daily Kos, Josh Marshall, Brad DeLong)

That hypothesis is consistent with the prevalance of vitriol-saturated posts and comments at conservative and liberterian blogs. Buzzards of a feather do flock together.
11.28.2005 2:27pm
Matt22191 (mail):
This is a bit off-topic, but does Free Republic even count as a blog? (I know TTLB lists it as one, but should it?)

In either event, I note that Free Republic is currently listed as #86 in the TTLB Ecosystem -- not in the top 10, as the NYTROB article implies. In fact, Free Republic has less than half the inbound links of the Conspiracy (currently #10), which suggests to me that Free Republic probably hasn't recently occupied a spot in the top ten. Am I missing something?
11.28.2005 2:50pm
Wintermute (www):
Eugene, your name is on it, so you get the lion's share of the fame, especially in a non-book length round-up.

I had to unsubscribe from Glenn Reynold's tip sheet (no comments allowed) when the tide of public opinion on Iraq drove him into repetitive hawkish posts.

I think this blog is fueled by the institutional memory of legal academics who do not rant, and this creates a niche, a fairly neutral resource.

Without a nation- or world-wide staff of reporters, or a club of professionals, a blog is usually just an opinion and reaction sheet, but even that can fill out thinking. If a blog is driven by a particular world view, especially a traditional left or right cluster of positions, it can attract more traffic; and flocking behavior is not all bad.

As a former card-carrying Libertarian Party contributor, I have to be gratified with the heightened mention of small-"l" libertarianism, but I don't see much more than the starting-point overlap with conservatism ... yet.

I find myself avoiding the right-rant boards while subscribing to RSS feeds for conservative columns, preferring to read George Will over dittoheads, and trying to stand against failed doctrines not yet abandoned at the left's gathering places, on the theory that regime change here will reduce interventionism.

Others' strategies?
11.28.2005 3:07pm
Jay Louis (mail):
The article Prof. Volokh linked to is the first of two NYRB articles by Michael Massing -- the second can be found by clicking this link. The second article helps complete Massing's overall examination of the news media. As Massing notes in what amounts to his thesis statement:


In a previous article, I described many of the external pressures besetting journalists today, including a hostile White House, aggressive conservative critics, and greedy corporate owners. Here, I will concentrate on the press's internal problems—not on its many ethical and professional lapses, which have been extensively discussed elsewhere, but rather on the structural problems that keep the press from fulfilling its responsibilities to serve as a witness to injustice and a watchdog over the powerful.


I think ultimately Massing uses the moniker "conservative" simply to mean "that which is not doctrinaire liberal." While that certainly papers over the differences in conservatism, it suits the ideologically based analysis that Massing undertakes. For example, Massing castigates Wolf Blitzer for being soft on Administration officials, and only asking harder questions when Bush's popularity began to slide. It seems that what Massing is upset about fundamentally is the mainstream media not attempting to set the agenda by moving public discourse to the left. It would appear that Massing's wallpapering over ideological distinctions of those who are not of the left is concomitant with such a concern.
11.28.2005 4:04pm
Niels Jackson (mail):
Well, Daily Kos shouldn't count as a single "blog" anyway. That site has hundreds of "diarists" who have blogs and commenters of their own. And comments especially drive up the numbers, from the few obsessive people who check a thread 50 times a day. It would be as if Glenn Reynolds set up a group website for several hundred other bloggers, all with comments, and then bragged about the traffic on HIS "blog."
11.28.2005 4:06pm
Guest2 (mail):

If libertarians are surprised to be identified as "conservatives," they shouldn't be.


I honestly don't understand this sentiment. Libertarians -- being "socially liberal" and "fiscally conservative" -- seem have as much in common with liberals as they do with conservatives.
11.28.2005 4:33pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Anderson,

Libertarians are radicals. They frequently want to drive government out of spheres of endeavor in which it has been enmeshed since Gilgamesh was king.

This can be very endearing, but it isn't conservatism.

Yours,
Wince
11.28.2005 4:50pm
Charles Giacometti (mail):
Instapundit is nominally libertarian on certain issues, but his bias is clearly pro-Republican and anti-Democrat. Note, for example, that he has blogged about the Sandy Berger scandal a whopping 102 times, but has mentioned the Abramoff scandal exactly once. 101-1 is pretty telling, is it not?

So, I would suggest the (gasp!) (dreaded!) mainstream media is merely doing their job in accurately describing Instapundit as conservative. Indeed, a close examination of the posts show an overwhelming trend to portray the Democrats negatively and the Republicans positively, even while illustrating, here and there, that he agrees with selected Democratic positions (civil unions, for example).
11.28.2005 5:10pm
Fishbane:
I honestly don't understand this sentiment. Libertarians -- being "socially liberal" and "fiscally conservative" -- seem have as much in common with liberals as they do with conservatives.

Depends. That fits me quite well, for instance. But the obvious reality of libertarianism is that it is essentially impossible to get to of us to agree on what it means to be one. (If you disagree with this, please point to the astounding success our lockstep agreement has bought us.)

Reynolds, for instance, I would call fiscally moderate, socially moderate.
11.28.2005 5:12pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Libertarians are radicals. They frequently want to drive government out of spheres of endeavor in which it has been enmeshed since Gilgamesh was king.

This can be very endearing, but it isn't conservatism.
On any proper philosophical understanding of "conservatism"? Exactly right.

As the term is used today in American political discourse? Not so easy. The Republicans are identified as the conservative party, and they're in favor of driving out gov't from everywhere but the bedroom, at least in theory.

What Prof. Volokh's point shows, to me, is the intellectual incoherence of the Republicans. They're catching up to the Dems in that respect.
11.28.2005 5:41pm
timekeeper (mail) (www):
Instapundit is nominally libertarian on certain issues, but his bias is clearly pro-Republican and anti-Democrat. Note, for example, that he has blogged about the Sandy Berger scandal a whopping 102 times, but has mentioned the Abramoff scandal exactly once. 101-1 is pretty telling, is it not?


Let's look at what Google news has to say on media coverage. The search string Sandy Berger scandal pulls up a total of 7 hits, while Jack Abramoff scandal pulls up 652 hits. Perhaps Instapundit's coverage is a reaction to the distinct lack of coverage in the traditional media. I certainly remember the saturation coverage of multiple GOP missteps, but noticed the Berger case was swept under the rug in a hurry by the local Seattle papers.


So, I would suggest the (gasp!) (dreaded!) mainstream media is merely doing their job in accurately describing Instapundit as conservative. Indeed, a close examination of the posts show an overwhelming trend to portray the Democrats negatively and the Republicans positively, even while illustrating, here and there, that he agrees with selected Democratic positions (civil unions, for example).


Reynolds voted for Gore in 2000. He's hardly conservative, although he is to the right of most of the current Democratic Party leadership. Micky Kaus (who voted for Kerry) is similarly hard on the Democrats (a kind of "tough love", perhaps); does that make him "conservative"? Reynolds falls into a group of socially liberal (pro-choice, pro-civil unions, anti-Patriot Act) yet fiscally conservative people who don't fit neatly into either of the major party profiles. If the GOP nominates someone like Frist or Allen in 2008, Reynolds will probably bolt for the Dems, like Andrew Sullivan did after the FMA fiasco.
11.28.2005 6:01pm
Gabriel Gonzalez (mail):
Two thoughts:

1. The attack on the mainstream media is just as aggressive if not more aggressive coming from the left as from the right. On the left (from Alterman to Chompsky), it takes the form of the theory of the "corporate controlled media" manipulating a supposedly stupid public with what is in essence a "false consciousness". In more extreme versions of this analysis, the media is not just a supposed reflection of the supposed power structure, it is an outright conspiracy. This is even suggested by the NY Review of Books article you link to: "conservative bloggers" tied to rabid talk radio hosts working with Christian fundamentalists, all sort of tied into the White House, in a gigantic semi-organized coalition (if not conspiracy) of Rove-Volokh-Swift Boats (and throw in Christian conservatives) against the embattled mainstream media. This tends to get coupled with paranoid fantasies of one's patriotism being repeatedly questioned and one's right to dissent being constantly stifled. This analysis suggests that the playing field ought to be "leveled" through controlling corporate and political speech: ie, the solution is almost necessarily authoritarian, collectivist and ultimately might even be totalitarian. The presumedly duped public must be "forced to be free".

In contrast, the criticism of the MSM from the right tends to be based on the idea that journalists are prejudiced because of temperament, urban location, baby boom narcissism, socio-cultural class, etc. The right also does not tend to view the public as stupid pawns, as does the left. The solution for the right is usually to expose and combat these perceived prejudices through the marketplace of ideas. There is no question of "restructuring" the marketplace or suppressing free speech. Michael Moore's inviting half of the Democratic members of the Senate to the opening of Fahrenheit 911 or sitting at the nominating convention with an ex-President should be condemned (in speech) as outrageous and offensive, but need not be characterized as a virtual criminal conspiracy as the left charged in the far less compelling example of political alliance shown in the case of the Swiftboat Veterans. The left's hysteria, paranoia and hypocrisy on issues relating to a free media and media control are hardly reassuring.

2. The political left and right are fairly balanced in the blogosphere. However, the right blogosphere has had relatively greater success in winning points against the MSM (Rathergate, Easongate, etc.). Rather than suggesting a better armed conspiracy on the right, doesn't this simply indicate that the MSM is in fact biased towards the left in such a way that there is in fact little for the left to expose in the way of "corporate media" bias?
11.28.2005 6:27pm
Marty Schwimmer (mail) (www):
"Whether blogs are trying to condemn "liberal bias" or simply point out mistakes, . . . this helps produce a healthy skepticism of the media"

As an ideal, sure they do, but in practice, political blogs have also injected a level of invective and misinformation (and bias) simply not present previously in MSM.

When Little Green Footballs and Michelle Malkin repeatedly reported that the American Friends Service (a Quaker organization) was holding parties to celebrate the 2000th death of American servicemen in Iraq (when in fact the Friends were holding memorial vigils), they were not producing a healthy skepticism of the media.
11.28.2005 6:50pm
Sebastianguy99 (mail):
"The right also does not tend to view the public as stupid pawns, as does the left. The solution for the right is usually to expose and combat these perceived prejudices through the marketplace of ideas."




I think former Delay staffer Michael Scanlon's memo read before Congress best sums up why this assertion is incorrect. In the memo to the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, he outlined the Republican strategy:

"...The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them."

Pawns indeed!
11.28.2005 7:13pm
Hueydini (mail):
"the blogosphere very efficiently destroyed the entire (very strong) case of Bush's failure to satisfy his TANG requirements because of an embarrasing, but hardly exculpatary, error made by CBS."

That's got to be the funniest thing I've read all day, if not all week. Is Justin actually Mary Mapes

And thanks Timekeeper for setting Giacometti straight and defending Reynolds (who, if you doubt he is a libertarian, should read some of things said about him on the types of conservative sites that beat the drum on Schiavo - remember that, when the difference between conservatives and libertarians could not be more clear). The fact that Giacometti thinks Reynolds should mimic the MSM and talk forever about an Indian gaming bribery scandal while totally ignoring a former head of National Security stuffing unique classified documents down his pants shows where leftist priorities fall and why so many former Democrats like me now read Instapundit, pardon the expression, religiously.
11.28.2005 7:24pm
Charles Giacometti (mail):
Timekeeper,

You make some good points, but the reason Google news search produces so many more results about Abramoff over Berger is that Abramoff is current news and Berger is not. Scanlan put in his guilty plea in the last week. When was the last newsworthy milestone in the Berger story? (Google news only goes back a certain time. If you wanted to get a more accurate sense of the focus of mainstream media sources on the two stories, try a historical Lexis Nexis search.)

Hueydini, I did not say Berger's crime was not important, but you are clearly saying the Abramoff story is not. Here is what one conservative said about the Abramoff story:

"I don't think we have had something of this scope, arrogance and sheer venality in our lifetimes," Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote recently. "It is building to an explosion, one that could create immense collateral damage within Congress and in coming elections."

So I think the Abramoff story, which is likely to lead to multiple indictments against sitting members of Congress, is at least a peer to the Berger story. But, sure, let's say the Berger story is twice as important, heck, ten times as important. But 102 times as important? I find the imbalance, 102-1, speaks for itself.

Feel free to comment more, but I read Instapundit closely, and his biases are crystal clear to me.
11.28.2005 10:11pm
submandave (mail) (www):
I have yet to see a high-profile piece on blogs where the author seems to know what they're talking about. That this author sees DKos' "allow[ing] registered readers to ... comment on the posts of others" as somehow unique.

As for Charles' concern for Glenn's preference for Berger over Abramoff, I ask him to simply compare the undelying facts sans party affiliation. One case is an example of a Washingtom Lobbyist accused of influence peddling with Congressional legislators while the other is a former high-ranking Administration official who steals and destroys relevent Top Secret documents on the eve of a Congressional investigation. In my book the latter sure makes the former look rather ho-hum and business as usual.
11.29.2005 11:06am
timekeeper (mail) (www):
If you wanted to get a more accurate sense of the focus of mainstream media sources on the two stories, try a historical Lexis Nexis search.)


I don't have a Lexis/Nexis account, and I'm not in a position to shell out the money necessary to prove my point. However, I will concede the point about the datestamps; I went through the Google news cache, and none of the cites were more than (exactly) one month old, which indicates that some type of filter is at work.
11.29.2005 1:09pm
Charles Giacometti (mail):
Hi Submandave,

You make a reasonable request of me, but in fact I already considered this. Just look at what the Republican said about his own party's scandal (repeating the same quote here):


"I don't think we have had something of this scope, arrogance and sheer venality in our lifetimes," Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote recently. "It is building to an explosion, one that could create immense collateral damage within Congress and in coming elections."


The quote speaks volumes to me. I think all politicians are scumbags, regardless of party affiliation, so the run-of-the-mill political scumbag (Duke Cunningham)doesn't shock me. But the Abramoff story is on a scale we may well have never seen before. That, to me, is news.

Is the Berger story news? Absolutely. Is it 102 times more important than the Abramoff story? Not in my book, and not in the above Republican's book.
11.30.2005 3:12pm