September 03, 2004


[NOTE: I've updated, polished, and punched it up quite a bit, and include a lot of links]

"The Power and Politics of Blogs"

Of course, it would take a bunch of political scientists to host a panel on blogging in a room without wireless access, so this report is filed late. Hopefully it didn't jerk anybody around. Befitting the newfound prestige allotted to blogging, we are located on the back of the fifth floor of the Palmer House Hilton, right behind the catering kitchen but in front of the laundry. It's not that we're in an out of the way part of the hotel, but I'm pretty sure I just saw Harrison Ford go by being chased by Tommy Lee Jones, muttering something about a one-armed man killing his wife. Well now.

The room has the uncomfortable quiet muttering you get at academic conferences when everyone gets there early but it's not time to start. The crowd is actually quite large for the APSA, with about fifty people here.

Needless to say, I'm already feeling a bit, well, naughty. Was that really Wonkette who left the comments on our blog this morning? Only time will tell.

My cover was blown by a guy sitting a couple of rows in front of me who turned around, smirked, and said, "Hey, you're ace of spades' buddy--right?" Guilty. I mean, I was undercover and all in my political science professor BDUs--Blue blazer, light blue oxford shirt, maroon striped rep tie, khakis, brown suede oxfords, round frame glasses.

Fortunately I'm wearing my "Dr. Rusty Shackleford" forged name badge.

Wonkette is here, sitting on Drezner's right. If this were a cheezy Dan Brown novel, she'd be his Mary Magdelane in drag to his Jeebus. Sully's here too--I think. They haven't announced everyone yet, and if it is in fact him, he's sporting a different look---kind of a young James Coburn thing, with a big shock of white hair and slightly pudgy. Kind of like Andy Warhol after he'd been locked for the weekend in Ghirardellis, complete with the Beagle, the BF, and the exploding toilet.

The question that seems to be floating in the air is who is here for the serious academic discussion of blogging, and who's here to see Wonkette?

In other words, who is really in need of getting a life, and who should just save us all the trouble and go back to their parent's basement and their online Dungeons and Dragons game?

We'll find out soon enough. Of course, you know where I fit in on that taxonomy: after all, my wizard has a cloak of studliness, with 5+ hit points!

There are however, quite a number of guys here with barely contained smirky grins, so there is that.



Time to start, for chrissakes!

Drezner has a smirky grin, and is looking fabulous in a Brooks Brothers-type outfit---Navy Blue. Wonkette's wearing a grey sleeveless thing, with a black sweater draped around her shoulders.

It feels odd to be blogging in public, fully clothed. So not right.



First up is Henry Farrell (the guy I mistook for Sully), who did a paper together with Drezner. (follow the link to the paper archive, search by their names to download the papers)

Here's my attempt at the shorthand transcript:

"Blogs present an interesting puzzle..."

Blah blah. Get to Wonkette, already! Politics and porn, woo-hoo!

Blogs easier to recognize than define.
A certain Potter Stewart quote about "knowing it when you see it" comes to mind.

Minimal editing, hyperlinks, political commentary, reverse chronological order etc.

And what about the cheesy graphics? Attention to detail, man! No pshop, no blogosphere!

Overhead has picture of blogger home page.

I'm seriously wondering if I've fallen into some Protein Wisdom-esque delusionary state---in my best Bill Murray voice I mutter "It's not the speed, really, I just wish I hadn't drunk all that cough syrup this morning."

Trent Lott, Valerie Plame, blog triumphalism--these our are heads on the wall!

Christmas in Cambodia? Hmmmm.......

But what are the characteristics of blogs? What is their influence?

No resources, no investigative reporters, small pool of readers

Google me, baby!

no cohesion, highly ideological atmoshphere

Hey! He's describing us!

BTW, what is the technical Political Science definition of "hack"?

4:20 pm--"blogosphere" used at the 100th Meeting of the American Political Science Association

Woodrow Wilson, first president of the American Political Science Association, officially rolls over in his grave.

We need to pay attention to the structure of the blogosphere....

Some are more important than others (Duh!)

Focal point blogs. Secondary impact on mainstream media---frame events, stories.

4:25 Still no Sully. I can hear Tommy Lee Jones out in the hallway:

Your fugitive's name is Dr. Andrew Sullivan: What I want out of everyone of you is a hard-target search, of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, doghouse and Pottery Barn in that area!

He's showing a graph representing a "power index"---ie the ranking system.

TLLB Ecosystem mentioned at APSA meeting. Woodrow Wilson rises from his grave in the National Cathedral, goes outside and wretches.

Small number of bloggers with big influence, whole bunch who don't.

Umm, I think he's talking about us, Robbo.

That's what political science does! Answer the hard hitting question. At least he didn't compare it to high school, except a weird Evil Spock Universe High School ruled by the geeks.

Shiver me timbers, but he's actually giving a formal empirical model of "link-whoring"---Woodrow Wilson's dead body gets in a cab, goes downtown to find INDC Bill, they go out and do tequila shots. The zombie Wilson body swallows the worm.

Link whoring is being presented as a filter---small blogs try to get big shots to pay attention---elite blogs have a filtering role to play.

This is the secret of the power of the blogosphere.

They find that media elites read the big blogs because
1. free expertise
2. most reporters are generalists--can rely on blogs for expertise----
read this as reporters are lazy and have never heard of Google.

Blogs as "early warning system" for stories.
Media types then don't need to do research themselves.

Another strength---immediacy---quick framing of debates which then "mainstream" media can use.

Conclusions are twofold (which sounds cool with a Trinity College Irish accent)

1. Salient blogs matter.......okay
2. Blogs role in framing events for mainstream media that the media then uses to present to wider audience.

Links of mainstream blogs to mainstream media the key.

Sarcasm aside, some interesting points. It's nice to know you can put methodological lipstick on the pig that is link-whoring.

Second paper is from Antoinette Pole & Laura McKenna, the only problem being that THEY ARE NOT WONKETTE! ON WITH THE SHOW, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!

Promise of weblogs for democratization.....okay, but I've got a bad feeling that "Bowling Alone" and "New England Town Meeting" are coming. If so, I'm going to have trouble keeping it down...

no/low cost, small group or individual, no editorial control

"Blogroll" is uttered at APSA---body of Woodrow Wilson and INDC Bill go and start shooting at "moonbats" from a bypass on the beltway

Blogs are increasingly influencing readers for participation, donation, etc.

2-5 million blogs.

Anyone can start one---you don't need a PHD!

For the love of the lahwd gawhd, if people start getting their een-pho-may-shun from something other than PhDs, how will the Republic survive? Isn't this what Plato warned about???!!!

The horror, the horror....(said, of course, with the appropriate Elmer Fudd accent)

Women's influence

Good lawd gawd, it's the New England Town Meeting analogy.

Blogs form a new basis of participation.

Bowling Alone, but Blogging Together.

Fortunately, I didn't eat lunch today, so no problem here. Anyone reserve

(Apparently yes)

Do blogs increase social isolation, or are they a new form of participation?

5 Questions:

1. Bring in the disenfranchised?
2. Is blogging a form of participation?
3. Do they encourage

rats, they pulled the overhead. Slow down, for chrissakes!

They surveyed a bunch of top political sites

Who writes, and do they spend a lot of time?

Didn't ask, how often are they written in your underwear sitting in the basement?

Audience---more educated than population.

Perhaps too much education....Hmmmmmm? (said in my best Ted Knight/Judge Smales voice)

Plurality--spend over 1-2 hours/per day, frequently updated (well sure, how do they get to the top 100?)

No A/C in the room, we're now up to 100 people, and they are getting ready for dinner next door.

There's en fuego, and then there's hot stinkin' stuffy. We're like a bunch of stuffed bell peppers in here.

The lengths I'm willing to go for you people!

Survey finds that people do believe blogging a form of participation.

How do blogs facilitate participation?

"track back" discussed empircally---Woodrow Wilson and INDC Bill round up Marion Barry, score some crack.

Comments section---modal value of #

Blogrolls- average 100 links.

I'm sitting here wondering when someone's going to bring up Laurence Simon's Dead Pool. Or trolls.

Wonkette UPDATE---she's scribbling furiously, hunched over. Roots appear to be red.

There are some things I just will not do for you!

"Blogads" mentionned. Marion Barry, by carried away by cops, screams "Bitch set me up!" at INDC Bill and dead zombie body of Woodrow Wilson.

Survey indicates that bloggers think that blogging more effective means of participating.

Allows for real ideological diversity and niches.

Blogosphere not conservative phenomena.

Conclusions---bloggers not a previously marginalized group.

Speaker spits out in sarcastically "most influential bloggers are white, well educated men, a socially advantaged group."

Well now. Socially-advantaged, yet almost all bloggers probably played Dungeons and Dragons in High School. Let's face it: the blogosphere is like the scene in Sixteen Candles, when Farmer Ted displays the trophy of Molly Ringwald's panties. Draw your own conclusions.

"Cross-linking" mentionned. Still no sign of Sully. Dogs are sent out to look for the Beagle. Tommy Lee Jones is yelling at the actor who played a good cop, but was also Guido the Killer Pimp and the psycho on the Sopranos. All the deputies blame Noah.

About 125 people now. Getting hot, and no, not the good kind of hot---rather, the stinky political science professor type of hot. Wonkette still staring at notes, no Sully. Perhaps is Andrew afraid of the Llamabutchers? I report, you decide!

Blogging provides outlet for political non-conformists

Now to the roundtable!!!


Drezner announces Mark Kleiman and Ana Marie Cox, of Wonkette (at the mention of "Wonkette" a snickering broke out in the audience)

Kleiman---freedom of press means only something to those with a press---blogger levels that playing field. anybody with access to a computer can do it.

BTW, Kleiman's site is pushing the meme that Bush has fallen off the wagon, and that Cheney's a drunk too. Hey Mark---don't forget Lynne Cheney drinking the blood of public school kids, too!

"Blogging like screaming at your tee-vee set, and people hear you"
(without being certifiably mentally ill)

Effect of Blogger---cost of producing info went WAY down.

All good points so far.

Blogging is solution to problem of UseNet discussion groups, flaming, and decline of value.

Idiots can do it, but nobody has to read it.

We're living proof of that!

Link structure is filter, the secret--helps the reader. (yep!)

Hope of blogging as a medium

Anybody can reach anybody via modem

Existing media market structure going to collapse

Blogging is self-publishing----information disintermediation (cutting out middle man, between writers/stories and readers)

What are the ethical issues in blogging?

No one knows. Clearly not fairness---ie no reason why it has to be impartial "one hand/other hand" nonsense.

Bloggers think you shouldn't outright lie.

Apparently this doesn't apply to his own blog pushing the "Bush off the wagon" meme, but let us not be picky...

Big thing---intellectual honesty.

Blogging as politcs

1. Cocooning---individuals pick info sources so that all their prejudices are confirmed.

He only gets 500-1000 hits in an Instalanche (We got 10K---woo hoo!)

Higher turnout in 19th century perhaps do to openly partisan media? Maybe more partisan cocooning--drive UP participation measured in voting.

Bogging might be much more cost-effective form of participation.

He's saying "you write a blog, talk about politics, talk about your grandchildren you're building community"

Wonkette rolls back her head, blushes, snickering from crowd. (or talk about porn and naughty bits, of course!).

He hasn't heard of Blogs for Bush---just said blogs not being used by campaigns. Sorry Matt.

Is this the new CB craze?

10-4, good buddy! We got us here a kahn-voy!

Problem of blogs is you have to "milk the cows"---fad, because it takes real work, blogging is just a fad.

I don't think so.



"I didn't realize I had to talk so this is going to be brief"

Said with her best "tee hee-aint I naughty!" voice.

"My blog's biggest power is free dinner and drinks."

combatting blogger triumphalism (like Sully!--everyone laughs; poor Sully, the Left isn't going to take him back)

For a Revolution you need to leave the house.
(and I would add, you need to be wearing pants)

Blogging a form of participation to the degree that having an opinion is like participating.

I don't want to interact with people (laughter) (for free, I guess)

Wonkette's Pet Peeves About Blogs:

1. Makes bad writing pretty.

when you don't have the aesthetic cues, people won't be able to get to know whether they'll get something

"Fact check your ass" mentioned, but no credit for Ken Layne.

Woodrow Wilson's dead body and INDC Bill go piss on the JFK Eternal Flame

2. Fact checking things you want to believe to be true.

3. No matter how pretty a site is, bad writing is still bad writing.

good blogs are professional knowledge workers.

Eerily too much like "professional sex workers." Ewwwwww....

4. Wingnuts are disproportionately represented in blogging.

(Lt. Llamabutcher, reporting for duty!)

So how do we stack up on Wonkette's Pet Peeves o' Blogging(TM):
bad writing made pretty, check; wingnuts, check; selective bias; check!

6. Demands of blogging are high---I personally don't leave the house much, I just blog and drink--but that takes up a lot of time too!

So we've got THAT going for us!

I wouldn't be Wonkette if there was no sex reference:

In the end blogging is most like AOL Dirty chat rooms.

Community of people seeking to pleasure themselves, and leaving the house interferes with that.

(Crowd loses it. Men snickering, fair amount of eye rolling. Obviously has never met INDC Bill)

Cass Sunstein's speaking, and he's wondering what the hell he's doing following Wonkette.

He's making the point with jurors and judges that the more reinforcement they have with other like minded ideologically, more extreme they get---group effect.

Is there direct evidence of blogs getting stories covered? He's saying no.

Drezner is blushing bright red. This is turning out perhaps to be one of those ideas which sounded great six months ago....

Non-facts get spread by cascading effect---references anti-Kerry stuff.
I guess Glenn's dig pic of Kerry's "Seared" Testimony is one of those painful non-facts.

Talking about how white people with racial prejudice become more racist when talking to others who are similar. Oooooooooo-kay.

Wonkette's huched over, head down, looking like she wants to be somewhere else. (The bar?)

Something about blogs--the energy, lack of something, that makes them work.

It's got to be 90 degrees in here, and the laundry now is going strong.

Some pompous guy is going on and on....

Now, what you've been waiting for: the money shot!

The question from the Llamabutcher to Wonkette:

LB : "Do you feel at all guilty or responsible for the unholy convergence of amateur blogging and amateur porn?" (Gasp, as quite a number of jaws hit the floor)

WK: "I don't know what you mean---explain it as graphically as possible for me" (emphasis in the original)

LB: "Is this becoming more common--are you unleashing a scary phenomena on the world? I mean, you got Jessica Cutler onto the Washington Post Magazine and then Hustler..."

WK: "she did it herself. And, it's Playboy, not Hustler"

LB: "But still---will there be a convergence between amateur blogging and amateur porn?"

She fumbled around a bit, and then said, "Well, they are a lot alike. But only the best go pro..."

Well now.

Someone asked a question about blogging in more authoritarian states ( mentions China, but of course Iran is huge)

Kleiman---blogging is going to be incredibly destabilizing for authoritarian regimes.
Farrell---no it isn't at least yet. But Iran is interesting ---farsi is 4th most common language for blogging. (that's cool)

Difficult to stop and control---

Wonkette--anti-blogging point~ studying difference between top bloggers and everyone else

"super bloggers" versus Slimy Mollusks.

Cass Sunstein---blogs can undermine pluralistic ignorance---for people who don't realize how much everyone else hates the regime---radically destabilizing.

he's talking about South Africa, but I'm thinking of the NYT.

Farrell's going on power distribution curves, with a chart.....hehehehehehehehe, he said "log." (insert Beavis voice)

Someone from Crooked Timber is going on about mapping the blogosphere, cross-linking, data on who actually reads them (small size of pool as compared to all computer users).

Blah. Blah. Blah. Get in on the joke, son. (seriously, it's an interesting point.)

Someone asked about libel standards. Drezner---no real cases not between bloggers. Sunstein---same as for everyone else. Public figures, anything goes, private figures, be very careful.

Someone asks Wonkette---do public figures & families have private lives---are you basically a paparazzi?

Quip---I don't mind ruining someone's day, but not their lives.

Drug addict, alcoholic, love affairs---no. Because they're not funny.

"Affairs, drugs are sad.

S&M, gambling, mistresses---high-LARIOUS!"

"Not real journalism, therefore you don't have to follow rules."

Satire--leave it to the pros, kids!

So there you have it: quite possibly the first panel at the 100 year history of the American Political Science Assoication to feature two University of Chicago professors, and the subject of S&M, naughty bits, and power indexes all were discussed.

I'm so glad I didn't become a historian......

I went up afterwards and asked if I could get a picture---she gave me this look that was quite understandably determined by her fumbling for her mace in her purse---and I said, it was for my blog---and she asked what one?---and I said, The Llamabutchers. Drezner is looking at me as if I'm from Mars. And she laughs and says, "I thought that was you." (Her comments answers are legit, folks!) We posed for the pic, but she was still holding the mace, just to be careful.

I'm willing to do many things in the pursuit of science, but getting maced by Wonkette is not one of them.

The things I'm willing to do to bring real political science to the people.

!. Zombie Woodrow Wilson and INDC Bill? Last seen heading to Bolivia, with a plan to start over and rob some banks.

2. BTW, Wonkette was an incredibly good sport about the whole thing, and was quite gracious and in on the joke. I sense a spot in the blogroll being re-opened. Her point was perhaps the most important one, but lost on most folks: in the immortal words of Sgt. Hulka,
"lighten up, Francis."
Bloggers need to take the whole enterprise a whole lot less seriously.

2. Richard Skinner of Polysigh was there too and has some observations....

Thanks for the links for Rusty, Jeff, the Commissar, Ace of Spades, and Outside the Beltway.

FURTHER UPDATE: Daniel Drezner was also a good sport about all this too.

Posted by Steve at September 3, 2004 07:11 PM | TrackBack

Everyone here got tired of waiting. Some stepped outside for a smoke. But I waited, tirelessly pressing the refresh button.

Bravo Steve! It was worth the wait.

So she had the heads-up that you were planning an ambush?

Posted by: Gordon at September 3, 2004 08:01 PM

completely unrelated, yet entirely related, the best professor I ever had once announced, apropos of nothing, "Once ever year, on Woodrow Wilson's birthday, I make a pilgramage down to the national cathedral where he's enshrined. I put one hand on one side of the coffin, and the other hand on the other side. And then I SHAKE IT AND MAKE SURE THE FUCKER'S STILL IN THERE."

I can't really see straight right now, but for some reason, that seemed relevant.

Posted by: Beck at September 4, 2004 12:37 AM

Was Sully there? Did I miss something?

I wanted u to ask Miss W why she didn't link to my post where I only published about 5 gazillion pix of her. That's a lot of bandwidth for a Molly Ringwald wannabe

Posted by: jeff at September 4, 2004 01:23 AM

Are you from Mars, Steve? Just wondering if we've met...

Posted by: Pixy Misa at September 4, 2004 01:25 AM

East Lyme, CT, which might as well be Mars....

Posted by: Steve the Llamabutcher at September 4, 2004 01:51 AM

Triumph!!! The best post ever. Seriously.

Posted by: RS at September 4, 2004 08:48 PM

What? I e-mailed evil Glenn Reynolds about this asking him to promote it and I get nothing. NOTHING!! You bastards!! I'll tell you what, I'll gladly trade your Sitemeter today for my TTLB rating next Tuesday? I'll even better you--I'll take half the hits and you can have my twice my links!!!!!


Posted by: RS at September 7, 2004 09:11 PM


Posted by: Pixy Misa at September 7, 2004 09:44 PM

I'm gonna be an uber-nerd, and point out that Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones discovered the secret of Provasic and solved the case at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, not the Palmer House Hilton. I know, I suck.

Posted by: Patrick at September 8, 2004 09:46 AM

You can't really blame Reynolds for not linking to this account--it's long-winded, unclear and nearly impossible to finish. There is one emotionally compelling part: the cringe when the author finally spurts out his question in full view of Ana Marie Cox (who one wrote under the nom de porn Ana Marie Dix) and dozens of fully-dressed men. One wants those thousands of hours surfing the net with one's pants around one's ankles to pay off, and then--OUCH! PORN ERROR (calling Playboy "amateur porn" and "Hustler"). The one mistake you wouldn't expect from a right-wing blogger? Disappointing like coitus interruptus.

Posted by: Adjarian at September 8, 2004 01:58 PM

My apologies, that should be "*once* wrote under the nom de porn."

Posted by: Adjarian at September 8, 2004 01:59 PM

Yo Adrian!


Posted by: Steve the Llamabutcher at September 8, 2004 04:11 PM
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