Interesting read on the politics of the blogosphere
But there's another a key difference between the effort against Gannon and conservative blog firestorms: The targets of the liberal blogosphere are conservative activists; the target of the conservative blogosphere is the free and independent press itself, just as it has been for conservative activists since the '60s. For the Republican Party, pseudo-journalism Internet sites and the blogosphere are just another way to get around "the filter," as Bush has dubbed the mainstream media. "One of the things that I think the blog world offers is an opportunity to provide another source of information," said Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman on CNN's Inside Politics in February. Blogs are "something we encourage supporters of the president and Republicans to be very much involved in."
Sounds similar the argument that Jay Rosen makes about the "decertification of the media" at his blog PressThink though more partisan in tone (Read here, here, and here about the "decertification of the media" and here for an excellent treatment of the Eason Jordan scandal) .
It's really interesting in that there seem to be two different views of bloggers. One school of thought says it is a "headless mob", while Franke-Ruta suggests that (on the conservative side of the blogosphere at least) it is directed by the same characters that have been out to get what they believe to be "the liberal media" for the last 40 years.
Maybe there's truth to both arguments. Political operatives with "by any means necessary" attitudes are only concerned with getting the outcomes they want and couldn't care less about the implications of their actions on the public sphere or the quality of journalism which is the low man on the totem pole of their causes. Pure ideologues will work with anyone in the media (whether it's TV, print, or the blogosphere) who will do their bidding. They will even try to be the media themselves in order to communicate their message in its purest, most potent form. They'll manufacture content that's to their liking if necessary or they'll harness the power of a blogswarm and try to use and direct it if they can. But it's important not to paint the blogosphere (or even its conservative and liberal factions) with a broadly negative brush. Maybe the "mobs" that took down Dan Rather and Eason Jordan reached a critical mass via the blogosphere, but it's also true that some of the most thoughtful critical analysis of both of those episodes could be found in the blogosphere as well and some pretty dumb stuff was written about it in the mainstream media
Maybe the standard for deciding whether a particular blog is good or bad for the public sphere should be this test: does the blogger (or group of bloggers) aim to expand or contract the field of public discourse? To the extent that blogs aim to destroy traditional journalism, they are bad because they subtract from public discourse, but to the extent that they challenge and question and hold the mainstream media accountable while offering a unique perspective of their own, they are good (the premise is stated better here and here). It is categorically unfair to imply that the conservative faction of the blogosphere is a monolithic force engaged in the former. To be fair, that kind of discursive nihilism is not limited to conservative bloggers or bloggers in general. Professional journalists in the mainstream media have engaged in a bit of that too in some of their calls for jihad against bloggers. What is scary is the prospect of mainstream journalists and bloggers being pulled into a stupid fight to take each other down by extremists in both groups. That's when the public loses. As a liberal, I'm not willing to throw out the baby (the promise of the blogosphere) with the dirty bathwater (conservative flak) just because some conservative activists got what they wanted when a CNN exec decided to crawl into the fetal position and quit instead of taking some heat.