Do Washington bloggers inevitably have mixed motives? That's the implication of a Politico profile
of liberal blogger-activist Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake. In it, she's praised by fellow blogger Glenn Greenwald for holding onto liberal beliefs against the White House:
Greenwald chalks up her willingness to defy the White House in part to
the fact that she--like he--doesn't hail from a particular Beltway
"I think Jane's success in a prior career has made
her immune to the rewards of access--and fear of punishment--which
keep most younger inside-the-Beltway progressives obediently in line,"
he said. "She's not 26 years old and desperate to work for a DC think
tank, a Democratic politician or a progressive institution. She doesn't
care in the slightest which powerful people dislike her, but rather
sees that reaction as vindication for what she's doing."
Liberal D.C. bloggers naturally took umbrage at the idea that their thinking is clouded by proximity to power, and that Hamsher's background is key to her success, but others thought Greenwald had a point.
- So Bloggers Can't Have Aspirations? Progressive blogger Matthew Yglesias takes exception to the Greenwald quote, which he at first thought was suggesting that "the only way
to be a true progressive activist is to be independently wealthy, and
thus able to thumb your nose at the powers that be." After discussing the matter with Greenwald Yglesias agrees that Hamsher's "unusual background" is a strength, but he still thinks the quote "reads ...
like Greenwald is saying that one of the main problems with the United
States of America is that we have too many idealistic twentysomethings
who want to move to DC and get jobs where they can make a difference on
issues they care about." He defends think tanks, and Greenwald later says he agrees with most of Yglesias's argument.
- A Question of Political Incentives or Personality? Mother Jones's Kevin Drum very reasonably points out that Yglesias may object to Greenwald's remark about young think tankers because he is one. But he's not at all sure that Jane Hamsher operates free of political incentives, and suggests that perhaps a blogger's personality is a bigger determinant of blogging style than is blogger integration in the DC system:
Implictly, the idea here is that Jane sits outside that structure
completely, but that's really not true. Just as beltway types have
incentives that generally lead them to compromise in a centrist
direction, base activists have incentives that push them in exactly the
opposite direction. They can get ostracized for being too accommodating
exactly the same way that think tank folks can get ostracized for being
- The Unique World of Progressive Blogging TechPresident's Nancy Scola
thinks the profile shows how the blog Firedoglake "serves as what might
be the highest-profile example of how
proto-blogging circa 2003 or so has evolved and found some
success--without simply becoming a 'new media' version of old media."
She is fascinated by how Hamsher's Firedoglake "blends original
reporting (with its coverage of the Scooter Libby trial being
where it really made its name) and direct political activism." In that
sense, the blog's style, "arguably, is more of a direct descendant of
on the left that grew out of resistance to the Iraq War than is the
large stable of of political 'blogs' that focus on advocacy journalism
presented in reverse chronological order."
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