DECONSTRUCTING THE BLOGOSPHERE….Randy Barnett has ? what? Retracted? No. Clarified ? yes, that’s it ? clarified his suggestion that liberals live in a socially-constructed fantasy world. Today he admits that his examples of this weren’t too good, pleads time pressures, and promises to do better in the future. Oh, and the right does pretty much the same thing.
I’m glad we’ve got that squared away since I’m pretty sure the computer I’m typing on right now is, in fact, a product of consensus reality. But his piece reminded me of an observation about political blogging (and reading political blogs) that I’ve been meaning to make for a while: namely, that it can warp your view of the world.
On a broad scale, of course, there is the banal, but still true, observation that blogging is overwhelmingly dominated by educated white men and therefore not a very good reflection of society in general. But in addition, there are three very specific observations I’d like to add about political blogging:
The political center is barely represented at all in the blogosphere. In the real world, for example, I’m pretty solidly liberal, whereas in the lefty blogosphere I’m about as moderate as it gets. This is entirely understandable, of course, since people who don’t have strong opinions aren’t very likely to spend lots of their time spouting off those opinions on the internet, but it makes it all too easy to forget that these centrists nonetheless exist.
Libertarian views are wildly overrepresented. This is also not surprising since blogging by its nature appeals to technically savvy people, and it’s a truism that technophiles tend to be a pretty libertarian leaning bunch.
The Christian right is completely absent. I really don’t know why this is, but I can’t think of a single prominent political blog that represents the Christian right, and this means that the blogosphere is missing a pretty sizable segment of the political spectrum.
So what’s my point? Just this: reading lots of blogs can (a) convince you that your opposites are all absurd extremists, (b) give you the vague impression that libertarian views are the natural starting point of most political arguments, and (c) prevent you from really noticing that the Christian right is a major force in the political universe.
I’d argue that Randy let all these things affect his judgment. He has easy access to plenty of extremely liberal blogs, and therefore sees nutball opinions just often enough to convince him that they’re common. He has libertarian leanings, and therefore doesn’t notice that a lot of libertarian-oriented arguments sound pretty weird to ordinary people. And he never sees the Christian right on the blogosphere, and therefore doesn’t see the nutballs on that end of the spectrum on a daily basis.
Bottom line: don’t let this happen to you! Whenever you get depressed/depairing/royally pissed off from reading blogs, take a walk and have a chat with your neighbors. The comment threads of LGF and Atrios may not quite be solipsistic fantasies, but they’re a poor mirror to the real world.