Matt Stoller - BOP

Matt Stoller at Blogging of the President writes:

There is something going on here - it's like any trade show, with people plying their wares (in this case, themselves), scheming, mating, preening, and wandering around hoping to seem important. Experienced political operatives are running this show, and it's clearly an event organized around a strongly convenient series of tactical alliances, ruthlessly prioritized. Protesters is lower than German TV is lower than domestic college newspapers is lower than bloggers is lower than mid-size print newspapers is lower than delegates is lower than B-list politicos is lower than cable is lower than networks is lower than A-list politicos is lower than Kerry. And everyone's aware of how artificial is the edifice, because space, food, bathrooms, credentials, important people, and most of all, TV lens time is limited, with competition among all the crazies that come out to play.

And then there's the added element of TV and mega-intense security, and that imposes constraints that make the whole experience surreal. But as I listen to the roar of the crowd at a tottering Jimmy Carter, and a passionately angry and sexily kissy Al Gore, and as Johnny Be Good plays and everyone dances, it's clear that everyone's here to be part of a community. A screwed up community, with a thousand different interests and agendas, and one with rituals that are downright bizarre, but community bonds nonetheless. That's why Walter Mears, the legendary journalist tapped as the AP's first blogger who plays it totally straight, says that 15,000 media come to an event which he says has no news. It's a class reunion, and the Red Sox are here, he says, but what he really meant is that the craft of journalism isn't what this event is for.

This event is for the practitioning of community ritualizing, a sort of orgy of symbolism and bloviating, human excesses of communication in which everyone indulges, and everyone recognizes. Some are appalled by these rituals, some are enraged by them, but the notion that journalism is about petty 'scoops' and not about describing the workings of our political community and its consequences is absurd. This is largely a gossipfest, which focuses on the aesthetics of the political community, but not the consequences of its actions or structure. This is the essential failure of modern journalism, its inability to rise above gossip, which is one form of community description, to a description of democracy, which is a telling of both the aesthetics of the community and the consequences of those aesthetics. Talk that liberalism is boring, or that numbers are too hard for the public to get, or that Americans aren't interested in policy, or that the ubiquitous strategy piece is useful, is simply a refusal to rise above gossip to genuine journalism.

This is why journalists are obsessed with bloggers, because we can do stylistically what they can, but better. We can gossip with aplomb, which they do with attempted gravitas (which so often turns into pomposity). We can also talk of what we believe, which they cannot, because they assert that they do not believe, that they do not act, they merely report.

Matt Stoller

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