Thursday, December 18, 2003

Jeff Jarvis has an excellent essay in the old Buckleyite "Standing Athwart History" vein, arguing that political campaign blogs are not, and cannot be the two-way revolution of dialog that the advocates have been proclaiming. Now, if you haven't been reading BuzzMachine, you won't realize how unusual this is. Jeff is a big blog-revolution booster, and he's very enthusiastic about the potential and practice of community in journalism, the academy and so on. His favorite mantra is "news is a conversation". The fact that he's stepping forth and proclaiming that political campaign blogs are not, and cannot be conversational in a true sense is striking.

I happen to agree strongly with him on this, but I'm not as strong-blog enthusiast as he is to start with, so *that* isn't particularly impressive. He points out three claims by the conversational campaign blog advocates, and discounts the first two, while agreeing on the third point. That third point is the argument that political campaign blogging allows a democratizing of process, if not of policy. That is, the new blog-reliant party structure is more conductive to the democratic control of extension of message, if not the crafting of the message itself. I am not at all certain about this line of reasoning. It sounds an awful lot like the people-power enthusiasms of the primary-boosters of a generation ago, when the caucuses of Iowa and the town meetings of New Hampshire got the boomers all excited and idealistic. I haven't seen anything so far from the Dean phenomenon that doesn't strike me as a virtual Iowa, characterized by the same degree of relevance and the same sort of insularity that resulted in decades of nationally worthless ethanol subsidies. While the caucuses were physically unscalable, I am concerned that Dean-type virtual caucusing is functionally unscalable - you can't extend them past the very real, if less defined, virtual boundaries of online community.

I predict that we're going to be talking about the limitations of the virtual Iowa in ten years.

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