THE BLOG
01/23/2008 11:52 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

"Experts" on the Blogosphere: Ditch Bai, Give Us Boehlert

Eric Boehlert has a fantastic, carefully researched piece up at Media Matters documenting how a comment made by Rachel Maddow on the night of the New Hampshire primary made its way through the blogosphere and ended with Chris Matthews apologizing for the strange sexist ramblings about Hillary Clinton, which may in fact have contributed to her victory there.

It's characteristic of Boehlert's work, as Eric has taken years to really try and understand the blogospheric counter-narrative, how it gets constructed and how it travels. His book Lapdogs is indispensable to anyone trying to puzzle their way through the blogs.

So why oh why do people keep asking Matt Bai to speak about the blogosphere? His truly awful book was a sales disaster... and deservedly so. It was written to appeal to mainstream media types, and anyone predisposed to like its smug, condescending tone and superficial analysis, who no doubt got their copy for free. Matt Bai doesn't actually do research, Matt Bai just finds opportunities to talk about his preconceived notions of a blogosphere that don't exist.

Take, for instance, the recent PBS documentary on the Lieberman/Lamont and Donna Edwards races (timestamp 11:00):

Hinajosa: [Al] Wynn actually has gotten very high approval ratings from some kind of grass roots organizations. NARAL for example, civil rights... So people would say well "he looks like a good Democrat."

I thought my head was going to explode. Surely anyone who has spent even a day in the blogs knows what a battle we wage against groups like NARAL who rubber stamp establishment people like Joe "Short Ride" Lieberman, and how they told their members to thank him for his vote that put Samuel Alito on the bench. Good lord, there have to be a gazillion blog posts about how these interest organizations have long ago forgotten what they were there for and are a huge part of the problem progressives face in Washington DC, sucking up all the money and enabling establishment hacks like Wynn against people like Donna who would actually fight for their cause.

Hell, I wouldn't even expect Bai to know about the vote Wynn took with Republicans to allow people who blow up abortion clinics to escape legal judgments by declaring bankruptcy, something Donna Edwards would never have done. (Though it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that someone passing themselves off as an "expert" might.)

Instead, this is Bai's answer:

Bai: Well ideology here is very hard to parse out.

Check the look on his face. He has absolutely no idea what to say, so he reaches for his trusty axe and starts grinding:

Bai: These progressives are focused on a method of governing, that is, are you working with Republicans or are you voting the party line every time are you stopping everything Republicans tried to do or are you making compromises and if you tried to work out an agreement, or if you voted outside the party ranks they consider that a betrayal.

Because that's Bai's personal thesis, which has absolutely nothing to do with the question he's been asked.

His tired mantra doesn't even make any sense on the face of it. Progressives in the blogosphere battle the Democrats all the time, encouraging legislators to break away from what the party brahmins are trying to enforce. We have values, things that are important to us, strong ideologies that we fight for. What we get pissed off about is when the party doesn't hold its ranks together to support those values, and that usually starts with leadership. But Bai is always peddling this stupid assertion that things would just get better if only we'd let Democrats be free to "work out an agreement." Who exactly does he suppose is going to work with you toward children's health care or ending the war? The Republicans?

Bai's narcissistic attempts to circle the conversation back around to his favorite subject, "and now a little more about Matt Bai," are always tedious and guaranteed to be insight-free.

When Eric Boehlert is available, who truly does know what he's talking about, why would anybody bother?

Jane Hamsher blogs at firedoglake.com