Mary Mapes, the woman who brought you RatherGate, wrote yesterday at the Huffington Post:
Americans aren’t responding to the old plays — the fake fears, the faux outrage, the conservatives who yell “Communist” at the news cameras, the pompous right-wing bloggers who once held such sway. I know all too well how scary and effective these old tactics were in 2004. Today, they are toothless. Ha, ha. Nothing makes me happier than seeing once swaggering players like Powerline, Free Republic and Little Green Footballs forced onto the sidelines, left to limply watch this campaign pass by like a parade in which they play no meaningful part. They just don’t matter anymore.
Mapes’ post is titled, “The Monster is Dying”–so “conservatives who yell ‘Communist’ at the news cameras” are declasse, but attacking conservatives as a monolithic “monster” on a Weblog is reasoned nuance journalism. Charles Krauthammer, call your office!
But behind each of those “monsters” was at least one person who in one form another said, “I don’t know how many people will actually listen, but why shouldn’t my voice be heard as well?” (Just as the founder of the Huffington Post presumably said as well at some point.) Much like a certain Ohio tradesman with entrepreneurial dreams who is now called “the now infamous Joe the plumber,” on over 500 Webpages. Or as another journalist with the same initials as Mary Mapes wrote today:
So much for the Standing Up for the Little Man, so much for Speaking Truth to Power, so much for Comforting the Afflicting and Afflicting the Comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.
And calling one half of the Blogosphere “toothless” because their presidential candidate isn’t an effective purveyor of the same message as they are seems awfully disingenuous to the other side–I don’t think the bloggers at, say, the Daily Kos would take kindly at being called, by extension, toothless in 2004 because John Kerry was such a feckless candidate. It also fails to take into consideration that pundits supporting the out-of-party are able to go on the rhetorical offense, something that the right-hand of the Blogosphere will likely have ample opportunity to do so over the next four years.
But if indeed “The Monster is Dying”, what a run! In September of 2005, a year after RatherGate broke, Mapes admitted that she had never heard of any of the blogs that she quotes above, even as she was a working TV producer at a corporation which billed itself at the time as “America’s Most Watched Network”, and hence, presumably, had her pulse on the nation’s political scene:
Within a few minutes, I was online visiting Web sites I had never heard of before: Free Republic, Little Green Footballs, Power Line. They were hard-core, politically angry, hyperconservative sites loaded with vitriol about Dan Rather and CBS. Our work was being compared to that of Jayson Blair, the discredited New York Times reporter who had fabricated and plagiarized stories.
And accurately so, of course.
But hey, from cat food eating pajama-wearing navel gazers to a journalistic “monster” in the space of seven years after 9/11 is a pretty amazing growth cycle–and something tells me that the starboard side of the Blogosphere isn’t going away anytime soon, no matter how much Mary wishes it were so, and no matter what the outcome on November 4th.