Sunday, May 28, 2006

Can Bloggers Get Real? - New York Times

"If you think you're too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito."
-Bette Reese
Can Bloggers Get Real? - New York Times
Published: May 28, 2006

Read the entire article at: 

Las Vegas, as the ad campaign likes to remind us, is a place people go to untether themselves from reality --- to become, if only for a weekend, anonymous and uncensored.

It's odd, then, that Vegas is about to play host to a gathering of ordinary Americans whose objective is precisely the reverse.

Next week, 1,000 devotees of the liberal blogging universe --- people who know one another only as pseudonyms on a screen, connected by only their running commentaries --- will descend on the Riviera Hotel in hopes of affixing names and faces to their online personas.

The event has been dubbed the YearlyKos convention, and it is the first-ever corporeal assemblage of the bloggers at the Web site

These are the people who are said to be changing the very nature of American politics, transforming the old smoke-filled room of insiders into an expansive chat room for anyone who wants in.

And so it's not surprising that Democratic luminaries like the party's chairman, Howard Dean, and its leaders in Congress, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, have arranged their schedules to address the convention, along with at least a few 2008 presidential contenders.

No small contingent of political professionals and journalists will show up as well.

Barely four years after Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, a former American soldier who grew up in El Salvador and Chicago, started Daily Kos from his home in Berkeley, Calif., the site is now less a blog than a civic phenomenon.

With some 600,000 visitors a day, Daily Kos reaches more Americans --- albeit like-minded Americans --- than all but a handful of the largest daily newspapers.

The Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly, recently profiled a 23-year-old law student who writes on Daily Kos's front page under the pseudonym Georgia10, positing that she may well be the most-read political writer in the city, even though few people know her real name.

(For the record, it's Georgia Logothetis, and she lives with her parents.)

In this way, Daily Kos and other blogs resemble a political version of those escapist online games where anyone with a modem can disappear into an alternate society, reinventing himself among neighbors and colleagues who exist only in a virtual realm.

It is not so much a blog as a travel destination, a place where what you have to say can be more important --- at least for a few hours each day --- than who you are or what you do.

It shouldn't be so surprising, then, that the lead architect of the YearlyKos convention is a married, 36-year-old Memphis native named Gina Cooper, who until recently taught high-school math and science.

Ever since Dean became the first candidate created by the Internet, Democratic candidates have struggled to understand and exploit this new online movement in their party --- as well as to raise funds through its channels.

For the politicians, YearlyKos would seem to put online activism into a familiar rubric.

Here, at last, is the impersonal ballroom with garish lighting and folding round tables, the throng of attendees whose hands can be shaken and shoulders gripped.

New technology may change the way partisans organize and debate, and it may even spawn an entirely new political culture.

All of this suggests that for all the philosophizing about the meaning of online campaigns and the passing of the 20th-century political model, this next iteration of American politics won't really look so dissimilar from the ones that came before.

Matt Bai, a contributing writer, last wrote for the magazine about Mark Warner, the former governor of Virginia and a potential presidential candidate.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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