Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Maybe Blog Triumphalism Is Justified

I've never been impressed by claims about the power of blogs or the "new media" or whatever you want to call it, but this story is pretty impressive: Glenn Greenwald is a lawyer who started his blog late last year. Within weeks, his blog had become one of the most-read on the net; one of his posts was quoted in newspaper articles, and another of his posts was quoted on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Then he was tapped by a small publisher to write a book based on his arguments, "How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok." The book, which comes out in May, was ranked # 50,000 on Amazon yesterday morning. Then several leading blogs plugged the book -- and within 24 hours, the book's Amazon ranking had shot from #50,000 to #1.

I still have my doubts about how much power the blogosphere possesses, but that story is a pretty impressive display of the power it does possess -- and in a good cause, because Greenwald is an excellent writer who deserves the exposure that blogging has brought him.


Patrick Wahl said...

Dan Rather probably thinks blogs have a fair amount of power.

Paul Denton said...

It's interesting that you should finally consider blog triumphalism might be justified only at the point when a left-leaning blogger can claim some sort of victory, no?

It's not that Greenwald doesn't count. He certainly does, and kudos to him for however he's parlayed his blogging into a paid gig. But indeed, think back to l'Affaire Rather - wouldn't you have allowed for the plausibility of the triumphalist argument quite a bit earlier than now, if the pundits and candidates' affiliations therein had been reversed?

Jaime J. Weinman said...

I think L'Affaire Rather was something of a triumph for blogs, though really it was more of a triumph for the Free Republic message board (which is where the thing originated; the dolts at Power Line just picked it up from the Freepers and ran with it). But ultimately it was about bashing the mainstream media and getting them to correct stuff -- a worthy goal, perhaps, but one that reduces the blogosphere to the level of an ankle-biter at the heels of the "real" media. I don't think I would feel differently if the situation were reversed; the lefty bloggers brought down that conservative Washington Post blogger and I thought that was amusing (as well as another illustration of the conservative bias of the so-called mainstream media), but I didn't think it was any huge triumph.

What interests me about the blogosphere is whether it can introduce new stuff: new ideas, new storylines, that the "mainstream media" doesn't really want to cover or doesn't cover very often. And the other question is whether bloggers can actually do things professional journalists don't. Greenwald -- who wrote the book while he was blogging, got readers of his blog to help him with research for free, and used blogs to propel sales of the book -- is an example of that.

(And I'll throw in a gratuitous note of the irony that bloggers think it's bad for CBS to rely on forged documents for stuff but it's OK for the Bush administration to rely on forged documents for other stuff. I will never fully understand people who hold reporters to a higher standard than the government.)

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