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How clueless can you get?

Like a number of my blogging brethren and sistren, I received the following email from the Heritage Foundation:

Charles,

You’ve been discovered! Tim Rutten’s Media column in today’s edition of
The Los Angeles Times is the latest example of the traditional media’s
newfound appreciation of the growing influence of bloggers on America’s
public policy debates.

Our job at The Heritage Foundation is to provide useful resources –
objective data and conservative analysis and commentary – to journalists,
analysts and commentators of all stripes. But we aren’t quite sure how
to do this with the blogger community.

So this email is an invitation for you to participate in an experiment.
For the next month, we will periodically email to you short notices
about significant Heritage studies, publications and events. At the end of
the month, let us know if these notices were helpful. If not, tell us
at any time, and you won’t get any more. If you find you only want those
notices regarding specific issue areas – foreign policy, welfare
reform, etc. – we’ll limit our future emails to you thusly. If you want to
continue receiving all of the notices, let us know that, too.

Regardless of your perspective on the issues of the day, we are
confident you will find Heritage materials useful in your effort to provide
the kind of incisive, immediate and thoughtful commentary and analysis
made possible by blogging.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Laura Bodwell Mark Tapscott
Marketing Manager Director, Media Services
The Heritage Foundation The Heritage Foundation

My first reaction to this is to note that this email was sent to my Yahoo address instead of the one listed above. That address can only be found on my old site, which you may have noticed hasn’t been updated since July. Anyone can run a ‘bot to harvest addresses and send form-letter emails to them (some of us call them “spammers”), but a certain level of cluefulness is required to disguise that fact.

I don’t plan on replying to this email, which if I’m reading the text correctly means they assume I’ve opted in for their press releases. That’s fine – I’m actually moderately curious about this, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why they just didn’t set up their own blog instead. I can just about guarantee it would have gotten a better bang for their buck (and a lot less snarkiness) than scattershooting email to a bunch of people they know nothing about.

I’m willing to attribute Heritage’s ineptitude to inexperience, but what in the world is Doc Searls thinking?

Not too coincidentally, Heritage is a conservative think tank. On the whole, conservative thinkers are far more clueful about the Web and its authority structure than their liberal counterparts — as both the Rutten piece (which was almost entirely about warbloggers) and this emailing attest.

Liberalism may not be absent from the blogging world, but it’s certainly impotent. The only voices on the left with any firepower on Web are Michael Moore and Robert Byrd, and neither one of them blog (though Moore uses the Web quite intentionally, which Byrd does not).

Okay, there’s Eric Alterman.

Want to see how little peaceblogging actually counts? Wagging the Tale of War, which I wrote yesterday, got a whopping eight inbound links on Technorati. Total visits for the day were 1908, which is somewhere between half and a third of what I get on the average Wednesday. As a percentage of my Technorati Cosmos (all the inbound links in the last 24 hours or so), my peace post hardly did any better than two other posts — Sixth Column (about blogging itself) and RSS for Webcasts — and lost by one link to Book support.

My point isn’t about me. I’m just in a position to witness first-hand the complete absence of a peaceblogging movement. There’s no Glenn Reynolds on blogging’s left. No Andrew Sullivan or Charles Johnson. Even Brian Linse’s Lefty Blogroll is thick with bloggers who not only support the war, but are pro-war in general.

Where to begin? Doc’s ignorance about liberal voices on the web is so shocking it almost has to be willful. Have you really never heard of Atrios, Doc, who gets over 21,000 hits per day, who’s ranked ahead of everyone but Reynolds, who was cited by Paul Krugman in the New York Times for his blog’s role in the recent Trent Lott dustup? Have you never heard of The Daily Kos, which was just cited by Forbes as being the best war blog? Brad DeLong? Tom Tomorrow? Jeralyn Merritt? I could go on listing topnotch widely-read liberal blogs – they’re pretty much all on my own blogroll over there – but I’m just gobsmacked that someone who wrote something called The Cluetrain Manifesto was unwilling or unable to find out any of this on his own.

As for your claim that the lefty blog world is “thick” with folks who support this war, all I can say is that if you’d kept scrolling down, you could have clicked on any number of links to bloggers who have loudly condemned the invasion of Iraq. A little bit more of that “research” thing I mentioned in the previous paragraph might have led you to this collaborative effort, which is written and maintained by lefty and libertarian types.

Finally, you’re right when you say this “isn’t about me”. Perhaps one reason why your Wagging the Tale of War post got so few links on Technorati is because the majority of liberal bloggers don’t read you. (For all I know, this is true of libertarian bloggers as well. I’m not very familiar with that community, so I’d rather not make any sweeping statements about it.) I can’t say I’m surprised by that. Better luck next time.

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3 Comments

  1. David says:

    Regarding the Heritage Foundation, you ask:

    That’s fine – I’m actually moderately curious about this, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why they just didn’t set up their own blog instead. I can just about guarantee it would have gotten a better bang for their buck (and a lot less snarkiness) than scattershooting email to a bunch of people they know nothing about.
    I imagine that the resaon is that they are looking to create an astroturf campaign. If they do their own blog and publicize it as part of the Heritage foundation, it will be ignored or mocked by most of the left bloggers out there. But if they can do a GOPTeamLeader type thing and generate many similar but apparently unrelated posts on a particular topic, then they stand a better chance of inserting a viewpoint into the collective consciousness.
    the biggest question I have is why they didn’t trim their list to avoid sending the letter to people who are unlikely to agree with them. That seems to undermine their purpose.

  2. Hmm. I think I disagree with that. These guys have ready access to editorial pages across the country, a medium that’s still far more widely read than blogs are (and may ever be). They can already inject whatever memes and Conventional Wisdom they want into the daily discourse. Who cares if JoeWarBloggerPundit prints one of their press releases? I can’t see that having much of an effect.

    But even if they do think that blogs are, you know, the coming thing and all that, it still doesn’t make sense to me that they’d choose to enter the blog world this way. Having your own blog means having control over what you say. How can they be sure that their emailed press releases will be faithfully reproduced by their blogger audience? Heck, how do they know their releases will even get any exposure? I just don’t see the upside compared to having their own blog.

    And so what if a few snarky lefties make fun of them? If they’ve got something worthwhile to say, it’ll be clear that the sniping is just that.

    As for their choice of target audience, like I said: they simply ran a bot and harvested addresses. Telling an intern to spend a week studying blogs and recommending a few promising prospects would have been infinitely more productive.

  3. Blog Spam

    I’m not surprised that, unlike Chuck, I didn’t get the Heritage Foundation blog spam, since I’m light on politics these days. (What’s to say? If you’ve been reading my blog, you kno…