May 2, 2007

Jonathan Chait has a big article on netroots blogging in The New Republic.

I was going to blog about it yesterday, but it bored me too much. It's long. I read it. You might think I hate to waste the effort and not produce a post, but it's something I do a lot. Unless I find something interesting, I don't post.

You know, the first time I heard about blogs, I imagined there was some sort of requirement to note each article you happened to read, that "web log" was to be taken literally, and the idea was to keep a log on the web of everything you read on the web. I don't know what it is about me that I tend to perceive requirements, rules, and restrictions in activities where there is no governing body and no mechanism of enforcement.

So why am I posting? I'm seeing that a lot of people are talking about it and thought you might want to talk about it too.

Here's Chait's conclusion to get you started:
Conservatives have crowed for years that they have "won the war of ideas." More often than not, such boasts include a citation of Richard Weaver's famous dictum, "Ideas have consequences." A war of ideas, though, is not an intellectual process; it is a political process. As my colleague Leon Wieseltier has written, "[I]f you are chiefly interested in the consequences, then you are not chiefly interested in the ideas." The netroots, like most of the conservative movement, is interested in the consequences, not the ideas. The battle is being joined at last.

16 comments:

Palladian said...

So is "netroots" now the opposite of "conservative"?

I suppose I like it a bit better than when they call themselves "progressives", seeing as how, as opposed to "netroots", the word "progressive" actually means something. People who call themselves "progressives" are often not interested in progress at all, or at least advocate philosophies that are regressive rather than progressive when implemented. Call yourself a "netroot" and you have nothing to live up to.

I also like that Chait uses the word "battle" several times in the article, most probably without irony, to describe a group that wants to retreat from an actual battle.

"The battle is being joined at last." Would that were true. I've been waiting since 9/11/01 for my liberal fellow Americans to join the battle. Maybe someday they will realize who their enemies actually are, and join the battle on the correct side.

Anyway, I sincerely hope that wingnuts vs. netroots doesn't become the modern version of Cavaliers vs. Roundheads.

George said...

Love the illustration of the raised clenched fist.

How very Rage A. the Machine, and I mean like an "A" inside a circle, dude.

Joan said...

"If you are chiefly interested in the consequences, then you are not chiefly interested in the ideas."

This is the most non-sensical statement I've read in a while (and since I've been working a lot with first-graders recently, that's saying something.)

We debate the merits of ideas based on the expected consequences of their implementation. There is no way to evaluate "ideas" without considering these consequences. Anyone can talk about ideas in some free-flowing universe of never-do-anything: if it's all talk, why should we care? If you never have to do anything, if you never have to be responsible for the consequences of your "ideas" (like, say, how the contraceptive mentality has led to an increase in illegitimacy) what good are you? Why should anyone listen to your opinion if you won't follow through on what's so great about your idea, or you won't acknowledge how your idea can screw things up?

To be dismissive of those who "chiefly consider" the consequences is to admit that you're living in a dream world. As far as that goes, better for it to be happening on blogs than in Congress.

nick danger said...

Love the illustration of the raised clenched fist.

How very Rage A. the Machine, and I mean like an "A" inside a circle, dude.


Seriously. If you wanted to be taken seriously as a political movement, you might consider ditching the totalitarian ideography.

JSinger said...

The netroots, like most of the conservative movement, is interested in the consequences, not the ideas.

I'd say this is completely backwards.

As a former McCain campaign-reform enthusiast, I had bought into the idea that financially disinterested people would act more responsibly than "special interests". The reality is that people with a financial stake do care about consequences, and therefore can be reasoned and negotiated with. The people who have been most empowered by McCain-Feingold care only about ideas (using that word extremely loosely!) and are perfectly satisfied with lose-lose consequences.

Balfegor said...

As my colleague Leon Wieseltier has written, "[I]f you are chiefly interested in the consequences, then you are not chiefly interested in the ideas." The netroots, like most of the conservative movement, is interested in the consequences, not the ideas.

This is glib, but kind of stupid -- the reason it's important to point out that ideas have consequences is that it gives people some idea of the stakes. It's one thing to debate ideas in an academic vacuum, apart from the real world. It's something quite different when people will live or die by your choice.

What's more, the statement is not -- at least, as I've heard it used -- about pursuing consequences and picking ideas to go with them, as Chait insinuates. It's that if you attempt to implement ideas (theories) which happen to be false, like socialism, you end up with mass starvation and murder. It's a reminder that it's important to get it right, and that things can go awesomely badly if you get them wrong.

Mike said...

Ann's colleague said: If you are chiefly interested in the consequences, then you are not chiefly interested in the ideas.

Joan replied: This is the most non-sensical statement I've read in a while (and since I've been working a lot with first-graders recently, that's saying something.)

Thank you, Joan. I find the statement completely inane. I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't make sense of it.

SteveR said...

Yeah kind of boring. Good grief, ideas vs consequences, I can't think anymore..

Thorley Winston said...

Yeah kind of boring. Good grief, ideas vs consequences, I can't think anymore..

It’s even more inane than that – it’s an entire article written by a hack pundit devoted to discussing other hack pundits as “the next new thing.” Sort of like the blurbs written on the back of the crappy partisan political books that infest the current events section of B&N.

stoqboy said...

What is an idea without consequences? Worthless. (Also, boring, so don't read about it.)

Methadras said...

You can't have just simply throw out ideas and hope they stick. You also can't have consequences without expressing ideas that matter either. Unfortunately, we've all seen the consequences of the leftist ideology, yet the left neither cares about the consequences, because the 'ideas' of the left are paramount regardless. I've long ago abandoned the idea that I naively held that even if leftists are Americans, that they will stand up for the U.S., it's ideals, it's citizens, and fight against it's enemies.

You may picture it as a dysfunctional family that fights amongst itself, but if any outsider(s) dares attack it, it will rally and band together to fight that common foe. Not the case with the left. They see the enemy and then seek to commune with it. They see the enemy and then seek to aid it. They hear what the enemy says against it's own country and agree with it. They cowardly abet the enemy.

They confuse black and white for neanderthalic, red-state simpletonism. They parse their utterances and call it nuance. They obfuscate their true intentions and call it fighting for everyones liberties. They smarmily uphold themselves as the paragons and keepers of all things intellectual while deriding anyone that questions their ideological validity.

Consequences are an irrelevant happenstance to a leftist because they've always know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

johnstodder said...

This story is the ultimate "beat sweetener," also known in the journalism biz as a blow-job.

The New Republic is on the same "netroots" enemies list as Joe Lieberman, David Broder, Christopher Hitchens, and...well, Ann Althouse. For this crowd, enemies = people who disrupt "the narrative" they see as crucial to winning. The highest crime of narrative disruption is to be a liberal or Democrat who was for the Iraq war, to have failed to apologize for it, and/or to have failed to say "I was lied to" as an explanation for your mistaken past support.

Unlike the people I mentioned, the New Republic wants off the enemies list. Its circulation is down -- a fact the netroots take credit for, and crow about as if Martin Peretz was Zarqawi. This story, this insanely dull puff piece is meant to appease the netroots, to make the New Republic seem "cool," and to inflate the netroots already inflated sense of importance and influence.

I predict the tactic will backfire and the strategy will fail, but watching them try is fun sport.

Liza said...

You said, "I don't know what it is about me that I tend to perceive requirements, rules, and restrictions in activities where there is no governing body and no mechanism of enforcement."

Although I never took a course from you, that does match my recollection of you from law school. Back in the early early days of online education, I asked for your assistance in participating in a course being taught at William & Mary, in which the professor there was willing to allow me to participate if I could find an academic sponsor at UW.

My recollection is that you took our entire email correspondence to the dean's office for a ruling on whether or not I could do it, and came back recommending that I register as a visiting student at William & Mary. (Not something my Wisconsin in-state-tuition budget supported!)

But it does seem to be an appropriate mindset for a proceduralist, doesn't it?.

LoafingOaf said...

I didn't feel like reading this article. But if it's about the rise of the netroots, I think it's written a year too late. My feeling is that someone ought to write an article about what an extreme failure the political blogosphere is turning out to be and how in desperate need it is for a revolution from further down in the roots to knock these bastards off their perches.

I can no longer stand to read most of the partisan blogs, outside of InstaPundit. The Michelle Malkins of the right and the Glenn Greenwalds of the left just leave me wondering how these characters were allowed to take over the blogosphere. They are just a bunch of hyper-partisan smear-artists who routinely and shamelessly lie.

I wouldn't be too concerned about such characters if the blogospehere worked the way it once promised it would. But partisan bloggers rarely face any penalties when they lie or engage in other shady or unethical practices unless, and it's very difficult for new blood to rise up without being in complete conformity since the most powerful blogs control who gets links and political blog readers tend to be cult-like.

How anyone can still read the hyper-partisan political blogosphere and be left feeling anything except wanting to tune out politics is beyond me. We'll see what influence the netroots has on the primary process. I suspect any influence they have will turn off voters in the general election.

Well, I guess I'm ranting. But yeah, I think the political blogosphere is a huge failure and is dominated with a tight grip by sickening scoundrels.

zzRon said...

Mike said...."Thank you, Joan. I find the statement completely inane. I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't make sense of it."


It would make sense to you if you were a "progressive" thinker ;-). Obviously you are not. Hmmmmm....ideas vs. consequences. Sounds like something the pot heads in "Animal House" would contemplate.

Simon said...

Palladian:
"Anyway, I sincerely hope that wingnuts vs. netroots doesn't become the modern version of Cavaliers vs. Roundheads."

As another commenter here is fond of pointing out, they're more copperheads than roundheads.