Institution Building

I think Matthew Yglesias is a bit off base here. I’m no fan of Michelle Malkin, but her comprehensive list of the conservative blogosphere’s original reporting contains a few impressive nuggets (see this article, for example). Cherry-picking the most outlandish conspiracy theorist doesn’t really disprove her broader point. A better objection would be to note how diffuse and disorganized these efforts are, particularly when compared to the institutional nature of liberal outlets like TPM or ThinkProgress. I’m not too familiar with the mainstream conservative blogosphere – to be perfectly honest, I prefer these guys – but most of Malkin’s examples come from amateur bloggers juggling other responsibilities. I think amateur contributions are an important element of any Internet discussion, but it’s nice to have a professionally-run site on hand to contribute original research and reporting. There are a few conservative sites that may be moving in this direction – Malkin’s Hot Air comes to mind; The Next Right can be interesting when they’re not arguing about Twitter – but so far, the Left has a pretty clear institutional advantage when it comes to Internet-based outreach.

UPDATE: At Edge of the American West, SEK does a more thorough job of fisking Malkin’s examples. It occurs to me that another benefit of institutional support is editorial oversight – journalistic institutions have a tendency to dictate story lines to downstream opinion bloggers by only reporting on “legitimate” news. A series of conservative TPMs may have quashed – or at least de-emphasized – the Obama birth certificate issue by defining the bounds of legitimate political discourse. Instead, you had a perverse outcome wherein crazy conspiracy theories migrated upwards through the conservative media, culminating in Andy McCarthy’s infamous “I am not a conspiracy theorist” post at National Review.

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2 Comments

Filed under Conservatism, Liberalism (Left), Technology

2 responses to “Institution Building

  1. Can you really consider Jane Novak to be a journalist? Looks like she runs a basically single-issue web site which is a clearing house for the journalism of others. An impressive effort in its own right, but not really a refutation of Matt’s claim.

  2. We can agree to disagree on the merits of Novak’s site – my point was that conspiratorial thinking isn’t the only thing emanating from the conservative blogosphere. Edge of the American West also highlights a few entries from Patterico that probably qualify as the sort of journalistic investigation you’re looking for.

    As to Yglesias’s point, I think he cherry-picked the most egregious example of right wing hackery from Malkin’s list, which isn’t really emblematic of the conservative blogosphere as a whole. Stupid conspiracy theories are obviously a problem for certain quarters of the right, but it’s not like every mainstream conservative blogger spends their time trolling Free Republic message boards for the latest on Michelle Obama’s “whitey” tape.

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