Friday, July 27, 2007

Option Space Expansion

Andrew Sullivan is making a basic mistake on the intent of Glenn Greenwald's focus on Joe Klein and other journalists, pundits and experts who are employed by the national press, elite think tanks, and other opinion making and shaping bottlenecks. This is an understandable mistake but one that has a profound shape on how one reads the political environment of the blogging activist left. Let's start with Andrew's quote that I think is wrong. I'll be adding emphasis to the paragraph:

He may have centrist biases, but if Joe Klein is what is wrong with Washington journalism, we're in not so bad a state.

On the deeper point, however, I think Glenn is right. One of my own errors before the war was a function of being steeped in Washington policy debates - and neo-conservative arguments - for years..... Worse, we were unspeakably condescending to those on the outside who were right. We trusted far too much, and people much further away from the levers of power saw more clearly than we did. I don't think Joe was the worst offender in this camp, which is why I find the focus on him strange.

When I wrote my post concerning the lower level of candidate endorsements in the lefty blogosphere last week, I engaged in a good deal of group psycoanalysis in an attempt to divine motivations for participation in a very time consuming and at that point, minimally influential hobby. This analysis is quite important as I believe some of the key points are still very relevant to this question.

As I see it, in 2003, there were two major issues going through the Democratic campaign universe. The first was electability.... The second was an actual issue --- IRAQ --- that also stood as a symbolic chasm of disagreement of worldview, values and actions between significant factions of the Democratic Party.

The blogging population, myself included, tended to be fairly narrowly focused and massively overrepresented of the excluded and frustrated outsiders....

The frustrated faction saw two groups of candidates --- marginal status quoers who in my eyes were a good guarantee of business as usual --- and potential change candidates

Glenn is definately a member of the frustrated factions of the Democratic Party. His rise to prominence was on the basis of his absolutely amazing work on the NSA warrantless domestic spying. This was a program that contempt and connected insiders like Joe Klein yawned at and handwaved its significance away. Klein is a liberalish insider who has been exposed to the Beltway culture for a while, but this still does not answer Andrew's question as to why there has been so much focus on Joe Klein versus numerous other Washington pundits and journalists and pundonalists.

The problem is a gatekeeper problem. There are plenty of worse 'journalists' working on political stories in Washington D.C., however they have already either self-identified or have seen a group designation of 'non-liberal.' They are known constants that do little to either help or hurt the framing of issue space. A center-right or a far right journalist does not define what the acceptable leftwards edge of discourse.

However Joe Klein, Ken Pollack and Michael Hanlon are currently considered the acceptable leftwards edge of the political discourse on national security matters. This is a highly valued piece of intellectual and political real-estate that walls off an enormous discussion space that the frustrated factions of the Democratic Party and the left moved into between 2002 and 2005, and most of the country has since followed us over here. That is why Joe Klein is a target of Glenn Greenwald and others.

He is the 'serious' edge of left-wing elite opinion shaping for the Washington D.C. based media and receives a massive amount of journalistic rent for that privilege. Either knocking him out of that spot, or forcing him to respond to the very legitimate criticisms that have been levied against him and his previously held assumptions in order to open up a much broader area of ideologically and politically 'acceptable' discussion space will be a significant achievement.

No comments: