A METAKOS MOMENT. Though part of me thinks Matt treated the outbreak of open war between TNR and Daily Kos with the appropriate level of seriousness (for now) below, there's still some actual points to be made, rather than scored, about what's been happening over the past few days as this flamewar writ large has escalated. Two analytic points made by other bloggers over the past few months come to mind. Chris Bowers of MyDD had a great insight into how poorly some online dynamics, such as the flamewar, translate into real life, which he talked about at the Yearly Kos conference in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, on a panel called "MetaKos." After the opening remarks, an audience member asked him if he thought that blogs served as models for offline communities. Bowers' reply:
I would say no. [audience laughter] That would be a very dark and disturbing place....where someone jumps into a room and says something that makes everyone mad, and then a mob starts chasing them...I can't imagine a community structured like the blogosphere. That would be really scary.
Bowers was absolutely correct that a progressive community where people treat each other the same way they do on blogs is a place that maintains very few of the characteristics we tend to think of as tying communities together. But the ferocity of this real-world fight is very reflective of an online style.
The other point about all of this is that it does nothing to answer what Grover Norquist told a group of reporters at the Prospect breakfast this morning in regard to successful electoral coalition building: "How do we make more of us and fewer of them" and "not chase anybody out"?
Norquist's question is going to be increasingly worth bearing in mind from now until November 2008, because of a dynamic that was predicted in the single most important blog item I've read in months, Atrios's "The Coming Blogwars":
Overall the lefty blogosphere managed to get through 2003 and early 2004 without too much rancor. I think I cried when The Editors got mad at me about something I said about Wes Clark because I was as big an Editors fanboy as he was a Clark fanboy, but aside from that it seemed blogland got through.
Still I worry that it's going to get a wee bit nasty this time. People are going to be understandably passionate about these things and there are certainly those out there who think it's unfair that the "big bloggers" have undue influence. I'm sure I'll be "on the take" of 5 different campaigns (I wish!) as will plenty of others. I'm sure various big bloggers will end up supporting different candidate, so we'll probably end up fighting with each other too. The various blog factions - wonks, netroots - will imagine the other faction is working out of ignorance and bad faith. And on and on.
I think this is clearly already happening. I just don't think any one expected it to start so early.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)