Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Theories Of Conspirators

Peeve Farm:

Is there really something fundamentally different between the "right" and "left" sides of the blogosphere?

I like to think there isn't—that people who disagree on these matters do so as a result of rational reflection, personal experience, and numerous atmospheric influences great and small. My gut feeling is that we all believe the things we do for reasons that seem perfectly good to us all individually, even if we admit they're not wholly rational—like backing the Giants instead of the Dodgers. Get two die-hard fans of opposite teams in the room with each other, and they can have a great old time being human beings together; just don't bring up baseball.

But then I read something like this, and my mind spins.

For years now I've heard people bleating about the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and the "Rovian marching orders" and "cogs in the machine" and so on, and I've sort of instinctively assumed that it was at least partially meant tongue-in-cheek, like the way people on the right side repeat the same terms mockingly. I mean, nobody can actually believe this stuff, can they? If people like Kos are getting taken seriously by Newsweek and the DNC, all this obvious hyperbole must just be a winking indulgence that they abandon once they sit down to actually think about strategy?

I mean, they do all have real ideas that they understand vividly enough in their own minds that they can articulate them on their own, right? That's how things are on this side of the blogosphere, see. I'm a pretty small bit player, but I don't think it's out of the ordinary that I don't get any "marching orders". I don't receive stipends from some shadowy pseudonymous figure with a redacted return address. My thoughts aren't consumed with political action committees and fundraising and back-room deals—I don't care. What matters to me are ideals and who's willing to adhere to them and to what degree. Nobody's ever pressured me to stay "on message" or to write about some subject and not another. About the closest thing that comes to it is when some of my regular readers send me links to interesting Apple news. Is that it? Is that what "marching orders" are?

I honestly am feeling a little bit creeped out here: if the implications of these developments are to be believed, the reason why the Left side of the blogosphere—or at least the part that gets all the press—talks so fervently about conspiracies and shadowy message machines controlling the Right side is that they—on the Left—are the ones with exactly that kind of power structure. And they apparently can't believe that the "other side" can possibly exist without something similar and analogous. I don't give a crap what Karl Rove thinks; but these guys sure seem to think highly of Joe Trippi.

They're projecting. They proudly talk about the "netroots" in their message-controlled missives from the top, while their opponents just write about what they read and how they feel about it. There is no conspiracy on this side of the aisle, not that they'd ever believe me saying so—but there is one on their side, and they know it, and they're proud of having figured out how it all works—and so I must be lying. I and every other "right-wing" blogger: we must be getting our marching orders from somewhere. We must be getting mysterious evil funding. We must be getting paid and ordered to say what we say, because obviously nobody would do so otherwise.

It seems to me that the definition of "netroots" (a term I'm not going to bother using, because it's functionally the same damn thing as "grassroots") is people individually and independently feeling moved to speak out on subjects that matter to them, whether they agree with anybody important or not—and a significant enough number of them happening to speak to the same themes as to constitute a spontaneous and self-motivated movement. It does not mean a "noise machine". A "grassroots" movement does not need direction or message control or organizers or superstars. Such things are antithetical to the very concept. You can't summon a cargo plane by building a bamboo control tower and clearing a dirt runway in the jungle. And you can't create a grassroots movement by command.

The "netroots" wouldn't know a real grassroots society if it bit them in the ass. Which it keeps doing.

No comments: