"Fringe liberal bloggers"

A speech about the blogosphere by one of its most insightful members shines light on the defining beliefs of bloggers.

Published June 20, 2007 1:56PM (EDT)

When establishment journalists speak of the liberal blogosphere, it is virtually an article of faith that it represents the "far left," that it is composed of the radical and fringe elements of liberalism. This week, the increasingly dishonest Fred Thompson castigated Harry Reid for participating on a conference call with bloggers from some of the largest liberal blogs by describing the participants as "fringe elements of the blogosphere who think we're the bad guys. This is a place where even those who think the 9/11 attacks were an inside job find a home."

Before I began blogging in October, 2005, I was an avid reader of blogs. What motivated me to begin blogging was that the most insightful and informed political analysis was to be found, far and away, on blogs, and I wanted to be part of that discussion. And, as is true for thousands of people, I believed (and still do) that the most insightful political analysis of all came from the keyboard of Digby, who -- until now -- has shielded all parts of her identity, including her gender, behind her pseudonym.

Yesterday, Digby unmasked herself. Appearing at the Take Back America Conference in Washington, she accepted an award on behalf of all liberal bloggers and gave a truly superb speech about the blogosphere, which can be viewed here.

The speech in its entirety is worth watching, principally because it provides one of the most accurate portrayals of who bloggers are, what motivates them, their demographic diversity and the role they play -- certainly far more accurate than the trite caricatures which are typically embraced by media mavens, including (albeit to a lesser extent) Jonathan Chait in his much-discussed New Republic cover story on the "netroots."

But I want to focus on one part of Digby's speech, where she identifies what she contends (accurately, I think) are the core, commonly held views defining the "progressive blogosphere":

We may argue about tactics and strategies, or the extent to which we are partisans versus ideologues. And believe me, we do.

But there's no disagreement among us that the modern conservative movement of Newt and Grover and Karl and Rush has proven to be a dangerous cultural and political cancer on the body politic.

You will not find anyone amongst us who believes that the Bush administration's executive power grab and flagrant partisan use of the federal government is anything less than an assault on the Constitution.

We stand together against the dissolution of habeas corpus, and the atrocities of Abu Grahib and Guantanamo.

And we all agree that Islamic terrorism is a threat, but one that we cannot meet with military power alone.

And yes, a vast majority of us were against this mindless invasion of Iraq from the beginning, or at least saw the writing on the wall long before Peggy Noonan discovered that George W. Bush wasn't the second coming of Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we also all agree that the mainstream media is part of the problem. Democracy sufferes when not being held accountable by a vigorous press.

That is a rather comprehensive list of the defining views of what is commonly referred to as the "liberal blogosphere" or "the progressive blogosphere" or the "netroots." Is there a single one of those views which can remotely be described as fringe, radical, extreme, out of the mainstream, or even rigidly ideological?

Beyond that, are the views Digby described really accurately characterized as "liberal," at least in the sense that the term was understood prior to the advent of Bush radicalism? There are large numbers of individuals who have never considered themselves to be "liberal" in the past -- and certainly not anywhere near the "Far Left" -- who would vigorously embrace every one of these propositions. Indeed, large percentages of Americans -- if not clear majorities -- embrace each of these beliefs.

Only in the true fringe -- what Digby calls "the modern conservative movement of Newt and Grover and Karl and Rush," as well as their establishment media enablers -- does opposition to the Iraq War, or Guantanamo and torture, or the abolition of habeas corpus, or the grotesque deceit of the Limbaugh Right make one a "leftist" or fringe liberal, as those terms are used in their pejorative sense. The reality is that the views Digby identifies as the crux of the "progressive blogosphere" are entirely mainstream American views. "Extremism" is marked by those who reject those beliefs, not by those who embrace them.

Radicals and extremists are those who believe that we ought to invade and occupy foreign countries which have not attacked and cannot attack us, or that we ought to lock people away indefinitely with no process and/or torture them, or that the president has the power to ignore our duly enacted laws. As is true for any collection of large numbers of people, there surely are liberal bloggers who hold views that are shared only by a small minority. But objectively speaking, the defining views, the ones that its members hold almost unanimously in common, are anything but radical or "fringe."

It is not only our national character that has changed fundamentally over the last six years. So, too, has our political spectrum. As I've argued many times before, the term "liberal" or "the Left," as used most commonly, now denotes "opposition to Bush radicalism." Anyone who meaningfully deviates from the worldview of the Bush movement, who devotes themselves to opposing it, finds themselves -- for that reason alone -- described as "on the Left." Even the CIA, and Bush appointees such as Richard Armitage and James Comey, are so described that way. That is how profoundly these terms have been transformed.

Ideas that were always previously so radical as to be unthinkable are now routinely identified as "mainstream conservatism." Conversely, political principles that have been such an integral part of America's political identity as to be unquestionable are now the hallmarks of "fringe liberalism" (a "fringe" which, as our last election demonstrated, now includes an ever-growing majority of the population). Those whose views of "bloggers" are based upon the caricatures of Time Magazine and The Washington Post would undoubtedly be shocked to learn of just how unremarkable is the Platform of Beliefs of the "Progressive Blogosphere" as articulated by one of its leading and most admired commentators.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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