Beware the Bloggers' Bile
by Joe Klein
I posted something a politician said on Swampland, the political blog at Time.com, along with my opinion about presidential politics.
The next day, I was blasted by a number of left-wing bloggers: Klein screwed up! On Eschaton, a blog that specializes in media bashing, I was given the coveted "Wanker of the Day" award. I got hammered by bloggers and Swampland commenters for "stalking" a politician into an apology and for being a "water boy for the right wing" and many other riffs unfit to print.
This is not the first time this kind of free-range lunacy has been visited upon me. Indeed, it happens, oh, once a week to each of us who post on Swampland. A reasonable reader might ask, "Why are the left-wing bloggers attacking you? Aren't you a pretty successful journalist and author with considerable access to the political elite?"
First, let me say that I really enjoy blogging. It's a brilliant format for keeping readers up to date on the things I care about -- the things that matter to me, Joe Klein.
I recently asked Swampland readers with military experience to comment on what General David Petraeus could learn from me about the unvarnished truth about Iraq when he testifies on Capitol Hill in September. About a dozen readers responded with links to my blog posts on the subject.
Furthermore, I've found that some great reporting takes place in the blogosphere: I have written most of it, and I love linking to smart work by others, if it mentions me in a flattering light.
But my smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed -- especially people like me, Joe Klein, who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable, even though I'm right.
Some of this is understandable: the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful -- and politically successful -- tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered. They are also justifiably furious at a Bush White House that has specialized in big lies and smear tactics. But they make a grave mistake when they are furious at me. They are supposed to listen to me, respectfully.
The spitballs aimed at me don't matter much; I'm Joe Klein, and I have taken down entire presidential administrations.
But other, weaker individuals such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have allowed themselves to be bullied into more simplistic, more extreme positions. Why? Partly because they fear the power of the bloggers to set the debate and raise money against them.
In the long term, however, kowtowing to anti-Joe Klein extremists is exactly the opposite of what this country is looking for after the lethal radicalism of the Bush Administration.
Beware the Bloggers' Bile [TIME]