Is it, as the Boston Globe puts it, a battle for political clout? Is it the end of the innocence for the blogosphere? Is it old media dissing the idea of new media?
Or it is just pure entertainment?
WASHINGTON — When a writer for The New Republic, the 92-year-old doyen of elite Washington opinion journals, accused the nation's most prominent political blogger of using his online clout to hush up a potential scandal involving a former business partner, he knew there might be some backlash from the so-called “new media."
But he didn't expect death threats.
“This wasn't meant to be a big fight," a tired-sounding Jason Zengerle, senior editor for The New Republic, said in a telephone interview last week.
Nonetheless, Zengerle's posting has sparked a steadily escalating uproar among scores of liberal bloggers who rushed to their keyboards in defense of Markos “Kos" Moulitsas Zúniga , the founder of the popular blog Daily Kos. But the posting has also prompted “old media" outlets — like the conservative National Review and New York Times columnist David Brooks — to pick up on what some insist is the first scandal to hit the political blogosphere.
Now, as readers of political blogs await the next chapter in an increasingly vituperative online battle — Moulitsas has called The New Republic “Lieberman- worshiping" neocons ' while Zengerle says Moulitsas operates “the digital equivalent of a smoke-filled backroom" — some outside observers believe the dust-up may be a benchmark in the blogosphere's entrance into mainstream politics, as blogs begin to face the same level of scrutiny as traditional media outlets.
“The blogosphere has always been mainly about scrutinizing everybody else and expressing violent opinions about them," said Alex S. Jones , director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. “Kos is a very powerful blog, so in that sense it's taken on the vulnerability of one of the [political] leaders."
I've posted several times about this ruckus (here, here, here, here and got some ring girls here) and then about the first round of escalation when Newsweek weighed in. Then posted again! So I guess I fall into the category of treating this as pure entertainment. Or at least good blogging fodder.
But really, there are elements of all of the questions I asked at the start of this post in this dust-up. Zuniga makes no secret of his goal to become a power-broker. He plays to his netroots supporter's fear and loathing and expects that to translate into political clout for himself. With money the innocence is somewhat lost, at least to some degree. And Lord knows the old media detests the blogosphere for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that blogs defeat the old gatekeeper model the media operated on for so long. Oh, and we keep screaming at them when they distort or falsify things (*cough* Dan Rather).
It is entertaining, though, isn't it?