August 14, 2003

Blog Bias

The liberal blogger Kevin Drum has a list of who he thinks are interesting conservatives. And the conservative writer Daniel Drezner posts his pick of interesting liberals.

Matt Yglesias points out that the people on Kevinís list arenít really conservatives. Theyíre libertarians. Theyíre centrists, moderates, social liberals. And Matt notes that left-wing bloggers donít represent the left very well; they are more likely to be white and male.

Iíll add that bloggers are more likely to be well-educated on both sides of the political spectrum. At least weíre all news junkies, which is part of the reason we write about current events in the first place.

I find the right side of the blogosphere a lot more agreeable than conservatives generally. The Religious Right appears to be absent. If it has a blog presence, I havenít found it. Who in blogdom supports Pat Robertson? Are there any Jerry Falwell fans with Web sites that donít have yellow backgrounds and screaming exclamation points at the end of every sentence? A big chunk of right-wing America just hasnít discovered this yet. Maybe theyíre all still stuck in talk-radio land.

But left-wing America is all over the blogs. Maybe not demographically, as Matt Yglesias notes, but ideologically. The ultra-left is bogged down in the Indymedia quagmire, but it's a miniscule fraction of America, much smaller than the Christian Right. Maybe they do have blogs but no one links to them because they canít find Shift on the keyboard.

Libertarians are over-represented on the Internet. That's not a new observation. But we can make the same point in a different way: the blogosphere is more left-wing than America by an order of magnitude.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 14, 2003 10:34 PM

If you Google around for Christian blogs, you'll get around 293k hits. However, I doubt a lot of these folks would think of themselves as members of the Religious Right because Christian bloggers aren't just from the States - they're all over the world.

And for the record, I happen to be a Christian and I'm also a conservative, and yes, I do keep a blog and I live in the U.S. - but I'm not part of the Religious Right. I ain't a Falwell fan, I don't watch Pat Robertson's show (heck, I don't have an antennae, so it's not like I get good enough TV reception to watch anything decent), and I don't think gays are evil (that doesn't mean I'll support gay marriage, however).

There are some well-known Christian bloggers (Joshua Claybourn, Donald Sensing and Christopher Johnson) in the pundit corner of the blogosphere, but it seems to me that a majority of Christian bloggers tend to lean towards keeping personal journal-like blogs and don't get involved in the political discussions.

Posted by: Rhesa at August 14, 2003 11:13 PM

Since nobody mentioned the best political blog on the Web,the British,libertarian,I will.There you go.

Posted by: JH at August 14, 2003 11:52 PM

Warning:The link to Samizdata does not open in a new window,although I tried.I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

Posted by: JH at August 14, 2003 11:55 PM

To open links in a new window, just right-click the link and select "Open in New Window" from the list. I don't know if that works on Macs, but it works on PCs.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2003 12:06 AM

For Macs, it's click-and-hold the mouse button, then select "Open Link in New Window" from the menu that pops up.

Posted by: Peter at August 15, 2003 02:08 AM
But we can make the same point in a different way: the blogosphere is more left-wing than America by an order of magnitude
The nation as a whole is pretty middle of the road, seeing as independents swing most national elections. How do you define an order of magnitude? How do you define even where the center of gravity is? Don't you have to take page hits into account? Glenn Reynolds (i.e. Jupiter) certainly affects the balance all by himself.

Your conclusion is unsupported. Your thinking is fuzzy. You've been taking too many of those silly online polls. (I'm still bitter about being Lichtenstein).

Posted by: lewy14 at August 15, 2003 03:00 AM

If you think the blogosphere is more left-wing than America as a whole, then you must thing that the establishment media is a hell of a lot more left-wing than America as a whole, because it is surely more lefty than the blogosphere.

Posted by: R C Dean at August 15, 2003 04:19 AM

I think it's a matter of selectivity bias. The two groups you cited - the loony-left and the libertarians - are largely populated by people who don't feel they are well represented by the media (evil statist left-wing media, or evil corporate right-wing media). As a result, the open forum of the internet tends to be a big draw for them.

Posted by: George at August 15, 2003 05:57 AM

"Open in new window" on a PC with Internet Explorer is merely "shift-click." That's it. On a PC with Mozilla I think it's "control-click," and on Mac I think it's "command-click."

I agree that the "conservative" blogs listed above are actually libertarian, or centrist, and all are quite good.

The exception to centrism is the Tacitus blog, which, while conservative, is very careful to never be overly ideological, and always a fantastic intellectual work-out. It's actually less a blog than a collection of thousands of individual comments, from leftists and rightists and everyone in between, each lauched off a scrap of red meat thrown into the pit by the pseudonymous moderator. (Just the other day, I engaged in a discussion with a highly caffeinated leftist who lives in Tokyo, until he said he was a "socialist libertarian," at which time I, uhh, "turned the channel.") Like I said, it's a real intellectual work-out. Take your sunblock and your Dew. The moderator is a bit of a fascist, in the sense that he controls the blog very tightly, and keeps watch over it at all times, but it's his blog, after all

I also greatly enjoy AtlanticBlog. Exactly the opposite of Tacitus, I seldom see any comments there. I attribute this to the fact that the posts are so perfect to begin with, all that remains is for the reader to silently nod their head in agreement.

But intolerant, ideological right-wing blogs are definitely out there. I won't say where. (And I don't mean freep, which is a whole other country.) I've engaged some of these blogs, and their readership, in arguments on subjects most recently like gay marriage, and found them excrutiatingly unable to argue without condescension and intolerance, in many cases despite their extreme intelligence. This was deeply disheartening to me, and I stopped reading each one, out of frustration, of course.

The "liberal" blog list was a great disappointment. The simple inclusion of Brad DeLong made me stop reading and ignore the rest. I find DeLong a knee-jerk partisan, and consider his opinions tainted and uninformed. If anyone here can defend him, or any of the others on that list, I'll be glad to reconsider my prejudice.

A good entry might have been normblog, by Norm Geras, a lecturer at the U of Manchester's Government Department, and a self-admitted "Trotskyist." (MJT links to it in his left-hand column here. Norm told me he prefers the term "Trotskyist" to "Trotskyite," which he thinks is used disparagingly.)

(FYI: Trotsky was the opposite of Stalin. One might even say "enemy." Trotsky believed socialism would not work until the entire world agreed to engage in it. Stalin believed an individual country could be socialist by itself. Stalin of course led his country straight into the jaws of Hell. Chris Hitchens is a Trotsky{ist,ite} too. When he gets a blog, please, someone call me at home, no matter what hour!)

But back to normblog, Many may have read his now-famous essay, The War in Iraq (Tue Jul 29). It's lengthy, but it's an outstanding condemnation of the leftists who failed to support Hussein's ouster. (Norm's site is prominently featured in MJT's left-hand column, BTW).

Ok, sorry. Monthly quota exceeded. I'll stop now. :-)

Posted by: Hovig John Heghinian at August 15, 2003 07:04 AM

It's a love-fest sure enough: "Love you Matty!" - "Love you too Dannee, kisses!"

They'll all be playing soccer christmas day - just watch - with "Stille Nacht" humming in the background.

Posted by: Hoodie Craw at August 15, 2003 08:20 AM

it [mainstream media] is surely more lefty than the blogosphere.

In some ways it is, and in some ways it isn't. In the non-blog media, Pat Robertson, Michael Savage, and Ann Coulter are all a lot more popular.

Conservatives on tv and especially radio are more right-wing than conservative bloggers. That shifts the center of the blogosphere, or so it seems to me.

It depends on how you look at it, I guess.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2003 08:55 AM

Literacy. I would argue stridently that intolerance thrives on illiteracy. Talk Radio is a viable media for the marginally literate. The absolute requirement for the blogsphere audience is literacy. To participate in the blogsphere, you must articulate in letters, not the spoken word. The blogsphere is not rewarding for the illiterate and unlettered.

Additionally, the immediacy of the medium must be a terror to those with inflexible world views. Earlier this week, I tore apart a "Marxist Buddhist" who was "bored with the United States" in a livejournal exchange. Although the small scope of the livejournal medium preserved his incoherent worldviews, the broader scope of a blog would have been like releasing a goldfish in the middle of the ocean. The blogsphere rewards bigger fish.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at August 15, 2003 11:47 AM

It depends on how you look at it, I guess.

I'm a, uh, right-wing conservative. I vote a straight Republican ticket every time. I read mostly lefty blogs, and address a lot of my posts to a lefty audience. I would say the blogosphere is to the right of the American mainstream.

You're a "liberal" "Democrat", wrestling with disillusionment due to your party's weak stance on national security. And you say the blogosphere is left of the mainstream.

I haven't found anything on your website, the substance of which I disagree with (yet). We have mostly congruent ideas, and face a similar predicament at the voting booth. We just use opposite labels for everything.

This is hardly an original observation, but the labels are useless. If political values map to an N-dimensional space, with a label for each pole of each axis in that space, then each label has now been applied to multiple poles, including in some cases opposite poles of the same axis. What's a liberal? Someone who believes in a liberal society, or someone who believes government should be liberally applied to all society's problems? Of course those values are opposed to one another in practice, yet they use the same label. Only a sophisticated reading of the context will reveal the label's meaning.

My favorite discussion of the axis concept is here. I'd be pleased if Goodfellow was right about this "axis shift".

And no, I'm no libertarian, nor an objectivist or a dynamist. In private, I call myself a Modernist, and oppose political Postmodernism. Why? Because Modernism can be an effective answer to Sadism, and Postmodernism can't...

Posted by: dipnut at August 15, 2003 12:04 PM

Patrick Lasswell,

Funny you should mention literacy, particularly in the context of radio vs. weblogs. I caught a snippet of Savage on the radio, and "illiterate" was the first word that came to mind, right before "hideous insane hateful moron".

Oddly enough, he didn't say anything I disagreed with. It's just that he was correct in a stopped-clock way, not in any sense which might involve basic reasoning skills.

I'm not sure the blogosphere is any more ruthless with this kind of idiot than talk radio is. Hesiod has a large and loyal following. The main advantage of the blogosphere is, there are countless alternatives and many of them are very good.

Posted by: dipnut at August 15, 2003 12:33 PM


Funny that you say you vote straight-Republican and yet you usually agree with me. I vote straight-Democrat when I'm not rebelling by voting for Greens.

Ralph Nader was right. The two parties really aren't all that different. Hysterical partisans make it look like a civil war is brewing, but in order to justify this they have to exaggerate their opponent's perfidy to the point of idiocy. Bush=Hitler. Democrats=Traitors.

Look at the polarization in other parts of the world. Latin America is a close-to-home example. The choice there has been between Marxists and right-wing military dictators. Only now are they climbing out of this hole. Here we spend most of our time bitching about the size of the budget and tax cuts. Big deal.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2003 01:02 PM

For a superb christian-right blog, go to Lots of posts daily, very high intellectual content. Political focus, but not just horse-race stuff (although they have a half-serious running theory that GOP senate numbers are ever on the verge of going through the roof) -- lots of political theory and philosophy. I read brothersjudd daily (I don't read you daily yet, but Roger Simon got me interested and I think you've got an excellent site).

Posted by: rds at August 15, 2003 02:20 PM

Yes, the size of the budget and tax cuts are petty matters of degree. In principle, with regard to significant matters that are actually "in play", there's little difference between the parties. And I expect you feel as poorly represented as I do.

On the other hand, I'm a newcomer to your site, and just because I haven't found anything to disagree with yet, doesn't mean I won't, soon. The labels may have gone through a great deal of Orwellian corruption, but they still contain some meaning. The meaning has fled between the lines, as it were.

I can guess with 97% confidence at an axis of which we inhabit opposite poles (no, it's not the abortion "issue"). Some other time, perhaps.

Kevin Drum actually used the word "enemies" in his post with the list. I don't much care for Kevin, and that term is better reserved for people whom it's too late to talk to.

Posted by: dipnut at August 15, 2003 02:49 PM

"...left-wing bloggers don’t represent the left very well; they are more likely to be white and male..."

Are the majority of leftists non-white females?

(OK, I know, China. But still...)

Posted by: x at August 15, 2003 02:51 PM

Slightly off topic, but could someone define the "religious right" for me?

Sure, I know all about the Christian Coalition that was active in politics about ten years ago - and of course Pat Robertson; but I think I would have to argue that any holdouts from the "religious right" have long since faded away into obscurity.

Is there a significant percentage of conservative voters who are Christian? Sure.

Is there some omnious organization called the "religious right" that has meetings? I haven't seen any evidence of that.

Feel free to correct me, but I think folks have gotten a bit lazy referring to the "religous right" when talking about conservatives. It is easy to have a boogie man to attack, but I think we need to hear what the boogie man actually is in a modern context.

Posted by: Roark at August 16, 2003 05:53 AM

I think there are a lot of Republicans who are actually Libertarians but don't know it. Lots of so-called "conservatives" don't really buy into the Religous Right, but because they don't have a major party alternative (we Libertarians just don't poll well), they identify themselves as "Republicans" or "conservatives." I was going to connect this to the over-representation of Libertarians in the blogosphere, but now I forget what my point was...oops.

Posted by: mike at August 16, 2003 11:51 AM

I think it's amusing to discredit a political grouping simply on skin color or sex...

QUOTE - And Matt notes that left-wing bloggers don’t represent the left very well; they are more likely to be white and male.

This is a liberal view and one I don't put much faith behind. I believe every person has a view. Has an opinion. Has a belief. So what if a majority of the people who actually VOICE these feelings are blue or purple or gray or black or yellow or white... You know?

...not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character...

I'm not going to worry about what color the person is who writes something I agree with. All that PC junk is for the birds. If I agree with something, I agree with it. Simple.

If I disagree, I disagree. Not as simple, but...

Posted by: Gaijin at August 16, 2003 06:27 PM

Hovig indulges in a tad bit of revisionism:

"Trotsky believed socialism would not work until the entire world agreed to engage in it. Stalin believed an individual country could be socialist by itself. Stalin of course led his country straight into the jaws of Hell."

Let us not forget that it was Trotsky who started his country down that road, paved it, and who had as his ambition the sweeping of the entire planet down that road. I have to admit, though, that when it comes to murdering collectivists, I don't much care about minor differences of degree.

Posted by: R C Dean at August 17, 2003 05:33 AM

First, there are thousands of Christian-right blogs that post on both religious and political subjects. The ones I visit most often are Mark Shea, Amy Welborn, and Eve Tushnet. There are many conservative political bloggers whose Christianity you may not have recognized. And secondly, most conservatives are libertarians as well - this is why the word "freedom" resonates so strongly with conservatives -- it's just that conservatives unlike Libertarian Party libertarians value moral issues as well as issues of justice, and are more inclined to build political coalitions, so that the libertarian thrust is a little obscured.

I think that in fact the right-blogosphere pretty accurately reflects the views of conservatives generally. There may be a slight libertarian bias, but not much.

Posted by: pj at August 17, 2003 12:57 PM

"Ralph Nader was right. The two parties really aren't all that different."

What constantly amazes me is that the fellow never seems to draw the obvious conclusion that this possibly, just possibly, might suggest that there's a general consensus about how to run this country, and that said consensus exists because it blipping well works...

...right, right, I'm being naive: of course Nader already knows this.


Posted by: Moe Lane at August 17, 2003 04:43 PM

I do not see how you can make the claim the blogosphere is an order of magnitude to the left of the population. What matters is who gets read the most and who has the most influence.

It seems to me that the balance of influence of the blogospher is a little right of the center.

Posted by: tallan at August 17, 2003 07:57 PM

Senator John Kerry defended a communist dictator in 1984 calling him a “misunderstood Democrat, not a Marxist autocrat”. This same dictator sent Saddam Hussein a letter in 2003 before the US attacked expressing solidarity with him and referring to him as “brother”. This story is only at the Political Times.

Also, I just updated my exclusive election 2004 odds. Dean didn't move up, but Kerry moved down, so Dean's lead over the pack increased. I now think that Dean has effectively "beaten" Kerry for now and that his main opponent is Lieberman now, who still leads national polls and in more state polls than any other candidate. To see the details and my complete election odds, visit the Political Times.

Joshua Ruszkiewicz
Chief Editor, The Political Times

Posted by: The Political Times at September 2, 2003 12:28 PM


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