Klein and the lefty blogs

What's with the confusion?

Here we go again. In what seems to be a recurring theme among opinion journalists, Time’s Joe Klein attacks the lefty blogosphere in his column this week, lamenting that they pick on him too much.

He says that there is plenty of “smart stuff” being written on liberal blogs, but that this 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 who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable.”

Sadly, Klein doesn’t bother to provide any examples of this “witless tone of intolerance” that he sees all over the liberal blogosphere, relying on the assumption that it’s self-evident. But it’s not. Some of the liberal bloggers he praises as smart are in fact some of the biggest names in liberal blogdom: Juan Cole, Josh Marshall and Ezra Klein. To this, he could also add the American Prospect’s group blog, Tapped, Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum. These are the bigwigs, and there’s nothing witless, or bullying, or intolerant about any one of them. He mentions Eschaton as one of the meanies, but even that site is more often predictable than intolerant.

There’s no doubt that there are plenty of liberal blogs that are downright stupid, or nasty. But they aren’t the big guns of the genre, so their shouting into the void actually does little more than satisfy the narcissism of their authors, rather than having a corrosive effect on the political life of the nation.

Given Klein’s piece and others like it—like the New Republic’s much-heralded fight with the liberal blogosphere last year, which made the same charges as Klein—the real question is: what’s with all the bile being tossed at liberal blogs? With plenty of stiff competition on the right, the angry left hardly has a lock on irrationality. This isn’t to say all conservative blogs are irrational, far from it, but it’s curious that only the liberal blogosphere comes under fire, while its counterpart on the right is spared the arrows of the pundit’s fury.

I think the answer lies in the fact that people like Klein have long since written off many of the angrier blogs on the right, cosigning them to the trash heap of reactionary, dark-age conservatism that has leaked from talk radio on to the Internet. As such, these liberal blog-bashers are stung by the left’s criticism more than by that of the right because they’re reading them.

Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.