Bloggers Double Down
By MAUREEN DOWD
If I had to be relegated to the Dustbin of History, I'm glad it was in Vegas.
I, Old Media, came here to attend a New Media convention of progressive political bloggers aiming for a technological revolution that would dispatch mainstream media to the tumbrels. It was the journalistic equivalent of mingling with your own pod replicant in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
"Bloggers, meet mainstream media," crowed one young man, as he had a friend take a picture of us together at the Riviera Hotel. His friend chimed in: "Where the rubber meets the road."
Old media and new circled each other "like kids at a seventh-grade dance," said Jennifer Palmieri, a Democratic operative.
Markos Moulitsas, the 34-year-old provocateur from Berkeley who runs America's most popular and influential political blog, Daily Kos, said in a keynote speech that "The old media are no longer the gatekeepers" and that "Republicans have failed us because they can't govern; Democrats have failed us because they can't get elected."
Despite being labeled failures, Democratic presidential hopefuls and lesser pols lined up to kiss the Polo-sneaker-clad feet of Mr. Moulitsas and his fellow Blogfather, Jerome Armstrong. Hillary was not there. Triangulation makes you a troll, in the argot of this crowd. "Oh my God," Mr. Moulitsas said when asked about her. "No way!"
But Mark Warner, Wes Clark and Jack Carter — Jimmy Carter's son, who is running for the Senate in Nevada — are holding blog bashes. Tom Vilsack, Barbara Boxer and Howard Dean were there. Bill Richardson, wearing a white T-shirt under a blue jacket, jeans and silver jewelry, flew in for a breakfast with the Kossacks in a Riviera skybox.
"We should be the party of space," the governor of New Mexico said, trying to sound futuristic. "I'm for space." Told that Mark Warner was there, Mr. Richardson said, smiling a bit. "Warner, is he here? I don't care."
John Laesch, who is running to unseat Denny Hastert in Illinois, was ubiquitous, even kneeling before one blogger in the hall seeking a "Netroots" endorsement.
Technology has enabled the not-meek to inherit the earth, and Democrats and others who refuse to drink the cyber-Kool-Aid will, Mr. Moulitsas said, go into the old "dustbin of history."
The fast-talking former Army artillery scout with the boyish demeanor and dark brown buggy eyes is no one to take lightly. Some may think the Internet messiah who put Mr. Dean on the map in 2003 is "a fame hound, a loudmouth nerd at the back of the room," as The Washington Monthly wrote. But others, including adoring conventioneers who called the scene at the debut YearlyKos gathering "magic" and "a rock concert," see him the way Ana Marie Cox, née Wonkette, described him this week in Time.com: "He's the left's own Kurt Cobain and Che Guevara rolled into one."
I tracked down the cult leader, wading through a sea of Kossacks, who were sitting on the floor in the hall with their laptops or at tables where they blogged, BlackBerried, texted and cellphoned — sometimes contacting someone only a few feet away. They were paler and more earnest than your typical Vegas visitors, but the mood was like a masquerade. This was the first time many of the bloggers had met, and they delighted in discovering whether their online companions were, as one woman told me, male, female, black, white, old, young or "in a wheelchair."
Mr. Moulitsas assured me he didn't see himself as a journalist, only a Democratic activist. "I don't plan on doing any original reporting — screw that. I need people like you," he said, agreeing that since he still often had to pivot off the reporting of the inadequate mainstream media to form his inflammatory opinions, our relationship was, by necessity, "symbiotic."
As I wandered around workshops, I began to wonder if the outsiders just wanted to get in. One was devoted to training bloggers, who had heretofore not given much thought to grooming and glossy presentation, on how to be TV pundits and avoid the stereotype of nutty radical kids.
Mr. Moulitsas said he had a media coach who taught him how to stand, dress, speak, breathe and even get up from his chair. Another workshop coached Kossacks on how to talk back to Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. "One of my favorite points," the workshop leader said, "is that the French were right."
Even as Old Media is cowed by New Media, New Media is trying to become, rather than upend, Old Media. Ms. Cox has left her Wonkette gig to be a novelist and Time essayist. Mr. Moulitsas and Mr. Armstrong wrote a book called "Crashing the Gate," and hit "Meet the Press" and the book tour circuit. Mr. Armstrong left his liberal blog to become a senior adviser to Mr. Warner. What could be more mainstream than that?
Were the revolutionaries simply eager to be co-opted? Mr. Moulitsas grinned. "Traditionally it was hard to get your job," he said. "Now regular people can score your job."
Fine. I'll be at the Cleopatra slot machine pondering a career in blogging, which will set me up to get back into mainstream media someday.