Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Internicene Fallout

Okay look, I was only half-joking about my jealousy over not being A-list enough to wrangle an invitation from Peter Daou to meet with Bill Clinton the other day, which I think readers figured out by the following day's Silly Site. But many bloggers took other aspects of that gathering quite seriously.

For instance, Liza Sabater didn't understand why she only saw white faces at that group picture, particularly considering the meeting was in Harlem. Peter wrote to her to explain why, but I should think if Oliver Willis sends his regrets (and then tells liberal bloggers to stop taking offense on behalf of others because he personally isn't upset) and Steve Gilliard doesn't want to attend because he'd consider it a conflict of interest (as opposed to running Blogads?) it might have behooved Daou to look a little harder, maybe go outside of his normal corner of the 'sphere to seek out active, connected political bloggers he didn't personally know about, maybe even to ask Oliver and/or Steve for their suggestions on whom else to invite to increase the meeting's diversity.

What I think is a bit beyond the pale, as it were, is David Ferguson's rude response (edit: apologies to Ken Quinnell, I didn't realize there were two "TRex" handles floating about) to Liza's critique of Jane Hamsher, who happened to be one of the invitees. Yes, he actually scolded Liza for sassing her "betters" - in essence, not knowing her place - before stooping in the same sentence to the usual refuge of trolls, a spelling/grammar flame. Maybe this post should have been vetted by Firedoglake's new press secretary? It's not a real leap to consider a blog that hires its own press secretary as elitist to begin with, but to then fall into that same mindset of "those [non-white] people are crude and don't know their place and can't even grasp basic grammar" is just... well, I'm shaking my head.

It's really weird reading the liberal blogosphere at times like this, not the least because I like all the people involved on either end of this particular argument. I've met Liza a couple times and she's intense and cool and super-nice, and I think my fellow Liberal Coalition member Jane is a terrific citizen journalist with a very vital weblog, and I just don't get where all this anger is suddenly coming from. I wonder if much of it isn't redirected frustration at our inability to do anything to stop the radical regressives in power from subverting all the wonderful things America used to stand for, which finds its expression as a kind of autocannibalism as we snipe at each other while the "other side" laps it up, pointing to us and snickering, "you see, that's why they can't win anything, they're too busy fighting amongst themselves" when, meanwhile, they pride themselves on their boy's ability to follow Gold Leader's order to "stay on message, stay on message..."

Neither do I mean to belittle the overall issue here. I think triangulation and the appearance of racism among Democratic bigwigs ought to be of concern to liberal bloggers, particularly those who tout the Democrats as a "big tent" party. And damned if an A-list blogger gathering doesn't make us (both NY-based liberals and bloggers) look about as diverse as a Daily Show writing staff. (And I use that analogy very purposefully - both the Daily Show and the liberal blogs serve a wonderful purpose and do a lot of good things, but we all do need to go that extra mile to be a bit more inclusive, particularly if we often chide the "other side" for their exclusionary practices.)

Pam adds that, to her, another issue has to do with "the difference between full-time and part-time bloggers and proximity to power centers," but to me that's more of the same old "blogging is just a goddamned hobby" versus "blogging is a way of life" mentality that's been in play since blogging became popular, and there will always be people who take hobbies way too seriously so I don't think one can do much about that beyond acknowledging it exists (although self-mockery is also highly recommended) and trying to keep a little perspective. After all, it's not a mass convention or even a campaign rally we're talking about here, it's just a meeting with a select bunch of bloggers; does one expect cultural diversity when arranging to meet a couple guys on the corner? Not every event in one's day can contain multitudes.

I mean, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, which I suppose sometimes has complicated consequences when you're talking about meeting with Bill Clinton. The final topic at hand here is a tricky one, so I'll try to break it down: Group photo is taken of Clinton and A-list bloggers. One of those bloggers is Jessica Valenti from Feministing. Ostensibly feminist blogger Ann Althouse, for reasons known only to her, takes a close look at Jessica's boobies as one of her commenters decides Jessica's stance is too Lewinsky for comfort. Here are some posts about this tempest-in-a-teapot from Echidne, from Jill and Zuzu at Feministe, and from Jessica herself. I found Zuzu's post particularly interesting (but then I'm really inclined to like her writing) because she ties it into previous discussions on "the generational divide in humor" where, as I've said before, I still tend to sit squarely in the section of second-wave feminists who believe it's extremely difficult to turn around or "deconstruct" certain exploitive images and make them empowering as long as we have a culture that still revels in perpetuating those images straight-up. On the other hand, sometimes there's nothing that needs deconstructing, like the way someone happens to stand when they pose for a group photo, and people who insist on analyzing photos with no context often get it completely wrong.