Still waiting for the Rightroots movement, cont'd

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Actually, it may be time to give up the Godot-style wait. It's kaput.

Here's the latest proof as to why the right-wing blogosphere is likely never to compete with its more successful and influential liberal counterpart. The proof comes courtesy of a recent article from the Washington Independent, headlined:

"Examiner Leads Conservative Response to Liberal Blogosphere"

The piece is a profile of the the Beltway newspaper's editorial director Mark Tapscott, who's a movement conservative and been active in the inside-baseball game of politics and messaging. With money from billionaire owner Phillip Anschutz, Tapscott is assembling a stable of writers to fight back against the dominant liberal blogosphere, the Independent reports.

So who'd the Examiner hire to answer the netroots muscle? Certainly not bloggers. Instead, the Examiner hired Byron York, formerly of the National Review, David Freddoso (National Review), Michael Barone (US News & World Report), and Newt Gingrich.

Boy, can't you just feel the grassroots movement growing?

What the liberal blogosphere has been able to do is tap into the extraordinary talents of everyday Americans who live far beyond the Beltway and who pledge no allegiance to a political party. The conservative answer? They hire more well-paid professional insiders who rarely, if ever stray, from RNC talking points and who pretty much repeat what every other Beltway movement conservative says.

Good luck with that.

As I noted in Bloggers on the Bus:

In truth, the two blogospheres had distinctly different DNA because they were born in different political environments. In the late 1990s and early 2000s conservatives had already established their own alternative, movement-based media: the Republican Noise Machine. Built around talk radio, Fox News, and partisan print outlets, they were part of a political movement first and part of the media landscape second. They had a clear allegiance to the GOP and they eagerly embraced propaganda, endlessly repeating ideas, phrases, and images.

So when the Internet began to emerge as a political force at the turn of the decade, it wasn't as if a vacuum existed among conservatives when it came to political discourse. They already had an abundance of established outlets where their voices could be heard and promoted. That's one reason they were slower to embrace the Internet.

Consequently, when the conservative blogosphere matured, it did so within the framework of the established, GOP-friendly alternative media system. Right-wing bloggers such as Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt simply joined in the same conversations that were already being heard on talk radio and Fox News and in the pages of the Weekly Standard. Bloggers brought another microphone to an already crowded GOP media table and became an appendage of talk radio. They also adopted the same deficient editorial standards in the style of Rush Limbaugh. They embraced the old-fashioned model of experts dispensing wisdom to their loyal readers.

For years, many of the major conservative blogs didn't even allow readers to post comments, which meant that the conversation flowed from the blogger, that is, the pundit, to the reader. Interaction was limited, as was the sense of a shared community. Consequently, because lots of prominent conservative bloggers showed no interest in leading a larger movement, comparatively little organizing, fund-raising, or policymaking sprang from the conservative blogs. After all, that's what well-funded conservative think tanks were for.

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