Observations from the First 'BlogWorld & New Media Expo' in Las Vegas...
By Brad Friedman on 11/12/2007, 3:38am PT  

By Brad Friedman from somewhere in Nevada...

"The disconnect from reality was complete," writes Power Line's John Hindraker, in a post aptly headlined "In Another World."

That phrase, along with the headline of his post, featuring paranoid musings from his time on several panels in the "Political Track" at last week's BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Las Vegas, is perhaps the only point on which he and I can most certainly agree. That, and this phrase of his: "Disconnects this total can survive only inside an echo chamber."

Nailed it, John.

Perhaps out of necessity, perhaps out of desperation, perhaps out of the ample cowardice that seems at the core of their very political ideology these days, the wingnuts have created their very own version of reality, smack dab here in the middle of the United States of America. They couldn't take over the real America, at least not entirely, and at least not yet, so they've created their own country, replete with its own set of (ever-shifting) moral and ethical values, its own monetary system, its own set of political ideology, its own President, and its own media network including the crown jewel: its very own cable news channel.

In their Imaginary Land, a covert CIA agent who put her life at great risk for decades in service to her country, in hopes of keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iraq and Iran, is nothing more than "a glorified desk jockey."

The most massive government spending increases in the history of civilization, and the most severe violations of personal privacy in the history of our country, are neither "big government" nor "big brother," they're just the unfortunate necessities of "a post 9/11 world."

George W. Bush is not the irresponsible man who led the deception of the country into an optional and failed and corrupt (beyond all measure of any long-forgotten "outrage" of a UN Oil for Food "scandal") war in Iraq, he is a Churchillian Warrior set to take on the next great challenge in Iran, which threatens the very core of our existence.

These are not points of debate or disagreement. They are acknowledged facts. Those who believe otherwise, no matter the evidence, are little more than whacko moonbats from the lunatic leftie fringe. And George W. Bush's own father never said he has "nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our [CIA] sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors," no matter what the video which doesn't exist has to say about it.

But yet, when their well-constructed, insular world and alternative reality are forced to meet with the real world and real reality, heads begin to spin, self-delusions falter, and their scramble back to the Green Zone of their collective imaginations can't happen quickly enough.

Such was the case last week at BlogWorld, where I was honored to speak on a number of panels with several excellent bloggers from both the progressive and wingnut 'spheres. Most of the wingers with whom I met and/or traded barbs --- including Hugh Hewitt, Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), Jim Hoft (Gateway Pundit), Rob Nepell (NZ Bear of Truth Laid Bear), Mary Katharine Ham (of Townhall), and Dean Barnett (of The Weekly Standard) --- were genuinely polite, courteous, and cordial, at least in person.

Hinderaker was the exception, but perhaps that's to his credit. If his comments during the panel on which we spoke together ("Political Blogs and the Political Press: From Antagonists to Co-Players?"), along with his shamefully lazy blog coverage of same and his generally off-putting demeanor are any indication, Hinderaker has no interest whatsoever in anything or anyone that doesn't fit into his well-guarded perception of "reality." At least he makes few bones about it...

While most of the other wingers we met were generally warm and polite --- at least during face-to-face time, if not necessarily when they headed home to write on their blogs --- Hinderaker apparently had no time for such niceties. I might proffer, such behavior is an extension of his need to let nothing shatter his precariously insular world. Thus, Power Line, one of the right's most influential and well-read sites, only added the ability to comment on articles of late, and then, only on a forum that is separate from the actual articles themselves.

"Our readers don't want the main page cluttered up with comments," Hinderaker told me shortly before we began our panel, while correcting me after I'd asked why they don't offer the ability to comment on stories at his site. Comments following an article hardly seem to "clutter up" the page, and of course, it is a fact that Rightwing blogs are far less likely to offer the ability to leave comments at all. When they do, they are frequently highly moderated. Given the number of times over the years that I've noted out and out inaccuracies at Power Line, it's little surprise they'd prefer to avoid the instant self-correcting mechanism of an open comments system running side-by-side with their articles.

It's emblematic of the wingnut sphere in general, and is seemingly mandatory if their Parallel Universe is to survive right in the middle of the American "ghetto" (as they clearly seem to regard the rest of of the world, reality-based though it may be).

It is that well-guarded, Imaginary Reality World that allows them to persist in the notion that they are "conservative" to any degree any more; that they represent mainstream America; that those who disagree with them, despite numbering some 75% of America, are simply the "fringe"; that they are merely countering the overwhelmingly "liberal" media; that they have not propped themselves up via the well-funded echo-chamber of Fox and Drudge and Rush and Malkin and Coulter and Hewitt and Hannity and Townhall and Clear Channel and Weekly Standard and on and on. No, it is merely the power of their ideas that has captured the hearts and minds of America, as they see it. There is no fundamental, structural difference at all between the "conservative" sphere and all of the others.

It's also part and parcel of the same genetically-engineered defense that requires them to label anyone who (and anything which) disagrees with their worldview as "liberal," unless they can get away with calling them "terrorists."

To Hinderaker, as witnessed in his blog item ruminating on BlogWorld, whoever is not with him is a "liberal." Unnamed, dehumanized, devoid of legitimate point of view. The tactic worked well during WWII, the Cold War and many others, when dehumanizing the "Krauts" or the "Japs" or the "Commies" or the "Juden."

"About half the participants in both panels were liberals," Hinderaker, who clearly knows nothing about either my politics or those of The BRAD BLOG in general, wrote, along with "the dogmatic nature of the liberals' assertions"; "several of the liberal bloggers"; "several of the more popular liberal blogs"; and so on, all without bothering to name or link to a single one of them. Oh, yes, he's also rude, in that sense. But to do otherwise might mean that his world could dangerously collide with reality yet again --- and god forbid any of his faithful readers click on such links to find out what's really going on outside of Imaginary "Red" America World.

Laziness also helps the Hinderaker-model blogger a great deal. You'll find his quickie article to be filled with phrases like "Or something like that"; "I'm pretty sure" (twice); "appears to be"; and "I believe", as in "several of the more popular liberal blogs are, I believe, directly financed by leftists like George Soros."

Thus, no evidence or facts are needed; unnamed popular liberal blogs are directly financed by George Soros who is, because Hinderaker says so, a leftist. Well smeared, old boy! And without even breaking a sweat! Or Google!

The "facts," having now been well-established, are de rigeur in the powerhouse media outlets of Drudge, Fox "News," Rush Limbaugh, et al. They move every day --- and as easily as NewsMax's (or WorldNetDaily's or TownHall's or Cybercast News' etc.) purchase of thousands of Ann Coulter's latest book to give away for free to subscribers, thus propelling her to the top of the best seller lists, offering the ability to tout her ideas as "mainstream" --- across the well-financed network infrastructure in which these folks are so deeply embedded they don't even stop to realize that it exists. Or, at least, few of them have the courage to admit it.

"We must have heard the word 'infrastructure' fifty times," Hinderaker wrote about the panel we were on together, before following up with the old silly wingnut saw that charges journalists who identifying themselves as Democrats in larger number than Republicans, couldn't possibly be able to handle their jobs professionally and present facts objectively. Thus, Republicans have no choice but to create their own Republican "news" outlets which do away with all pretense of objectivity. NPR, more corporatist than not, is the "leftwing" equivalent to Fox "News" in Wingnut World.

Hence, two of the top sponsors for BlogWorld were Pajamas Media (funded with millions to prop up Rightie bloggers) and Townhall (funded with millions to prop up Rightie columnists). Soros, it seems, didn't come through with his sponsorship of the expo, or the resultant biggest booths right at the entrance, as did Pajamas and Townhall. But other than that, Soros --- not the scores of millionaires who pump money into Rightwing Media --- remains the puppet master, don't ya know.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I was one of the few non-rightie bloggers offered a respectable contract by Pajamas Media before they launched, but declined the offer.)

The "poor" beleaguered Right Blogosphere was at the show in spades. Hewitt and Michael Medved were broadcasting their daily Salem Radio Network syndicated shows directly from the floor, right out of the Townhall booth, just a few feet away from Pajamas Media.

With all of the bloggers, from all sides of the spectrum available as guests to them those two days, it was a cavalcade of Righties on Hewitt's show. Why bother offering anything else to his millions of listeners who know what they want to hear, and aren't looking for anything that might challenge those ideas?

(Yeah, I know. The "Left" has the fledgling Air America with it's horrible, and likely doomed-from-the-start business model, along with, if you believe, as several wingnuts at the show argued, the "leftist" NPR and New York Times and Washington Post, which are all "Liberal" rags to hear them tell it, even if they won't bother to answer when you ask about Judith Miller's year of front page tripe that helped bang the drum directly into Iraq or the hard right WaPo editorial staff or the overwhelmingly, and empirically evidenced, right-leaning Sunday News Shows...or...don't get me started, since such facts have no place in Wingnut World anyway).

"Conservatives will not be moved from their wingnut talking points, which include the denial that conservatives have a much more coordinated machine than liberals," writes blogger/podcaster Taylor Marsh --- with whom I was delighted to appear on several panels --- in her own well-worth-the-read take on BlogWorld. "But the big meme from all the wingnuts was that the traditional media is all lefties," she adds, in her thoughts with which I agree.

Among those thoughts, it seems she was similarly, um, less than impressed by Hinderaker, as she notes about him: "I've never met a more clueless conservative with only one view out of his single-paned window."

Lest I disparage the entirety of the righties present, let me mention again that most were quite friendly, at least in person. Some, such as Truth Laid Bear's Neppell, were exceedingly so. He and I co-paneled a forum on "Blogging to Affect Non-Partisan Grass Roots Change," which we focused on ideas that work no matter what the political ideology. We found ourselves in agreement on a startling number of points.

For example, when I mentioned during the panel that I opposed to George W. Bush, not because he's a Republican, but because he's a criminal, Neppell acknowledged that perhaps our beliefs were uncomfortably similar. That's an intellectual honesty that I'd be stunned if someone like Hinderaker would even be able to fathom.

Given that Neppell and I were the only two panelists for that discussion, you may assume whatever you wish about the interests of other political bloggers in "Non-Partisanship" in general. Nonetheless, it was a rather productive and fascinating discussion, I thought, and I'm grateful for Neppell's leadership in making it happen.

It was nice to meet Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft, who blogs out of my old hometown of St. Louis. The local-boy kinship we shared was only interrupted much later by a quick, post-show visit to his site where the unfortunate and lazy use of phrases like "Democrats Vow to Lose Iraq War Now That We're Winning!" and pejoratives like "nutroots" reminded me how easy it is to use the "anonymity" of the blogosphere as a protective wall for one's own demons.

Hoft seems better than that, in person. His blogging, unfortunately, would indicate otherwise. I'm headed now towards St. Louis. I'd enjoy finding a forum, public or private, to learn more about what drives him along such a seemingly reckless route.

[Please note: As I use the phrase "wingnuts" myself in this article, it might seem hypocritical to call out those who would use "nutroots" to deride those in the Progressive Sphere. But since the Right has been taken over by folks who are neither conservative, nor particularly Republican --- in the intellectually honest sense of Barry Goldwater or John Dean or George Will or (usually) Pat Buchanan or even Ron Paul --- I can't seem to find a more accurate appellation for them. Though I'm open to ideas. Feel free to leave a comment, in our open comments section, which is a part of this page, not cluttering it up at all, if you have any better ideas.]

As several of the Wingnutters on one of the panels implied, and Hoft points out in a recent blog item, these guys even create their own unscientific (read: entirely un-fact based and whacked out) studies to support their absurd hypotheses. The "study" in question, on profanity in the political blogosphere, was used by the Righties at the conference as evidence for the need of "Raising the Level of Discourse."

Hoft himself points to the ridiculous study as evidence that "Rove was right on with this one... The next time you hear a nutty Lefty blogger compare the profanity or hate speech on the two sides of the blogosphere, just remember... 18 to 1!!"

His "facts" for this claim? The study compared the number of times that one of George Carlin's "Seven Words" was found used in the "two" (remember, this is Righty World, so there are only two, them and us, red and blue, Left and Right) sides of the blogosphere. Hoft's presented evidence from the study compares the number of pages, including articles and comments sections, on which one of those words are found. The "left" out-curses the "right" 18 to 1 in this study, when comparing, like apples to oranges, the pages of "the 18 biggest Lefty blogs, and 22 biggest Righty blogs."

DailyKos, says Hoft, comes out on top with some 146,000 such pages. The closest on the "right" would be Ace of Spades with just 9,730 such pages.

Of course, Hoft doesn't bother to point out --- (nor does the actual "study"?) --- that DailyKos and many of the other "biggest Lefty blogs" dwarf the "biggest Righty blogs" in number of pages period. DailyKos, for example, is a community blogsite with thousands and thousands of users and diarists. There are more cursewords on those pages, no doubt, in no small part because there are simply more pages on those sites. And, of course, most of the sites mentioned on the left also offer comments pages which are also largely unmoderated.

Never mind the silly notion that the use of curse words is somehow indicative of the "level of discourse" to start with. Some might suggest that dehumanizing one's political opposition in one fell swoop as "liberals" or "cut and runners" lacks in discourse. Or that supporting unprovoked wars to the tune of hundreds of thousands of deaths, or supporting the use of torture, or smearing lifelong covert CIA assets as "little more than desk jock[ies]" is actually the sort of thing that lowers the "level of discourse."

But what do we know? We're in "a sort of bubble inhabited only by leftists" as Hinderaker --- who apparently hasn't met many folks who disagree with him, or bothered to read the ideas of anybody but those who agree with his --- informs us.

This piece has gotten long enough, and we've got about 8 hours of road ahead of us in the morning, so we'll cut it off here, but for a quick word on Hewitt, who told the audience at the panel on "The Power of the Political Blogosphere" that "Joe Wilson is a serial liar." His evidence: the "bi-partisan Senate Intelligence Report" of which, he confirmed to me after the panel, he did not read the appendix, which shows otherwise.

Hewitt at least had the courtesy to have recognized some of The BRAD BLOG's work on election issues, though he "was not convinced by it." Whatever that means. We didn't get time to discuss it in any detail to find out, though I challenged him to debate the issues, on air, any time on his show, if he was interested. He has, after all, written a book that deals with "voter fraud," so hopefully he'd be willing to debate the matter publicly. We'll see if he calls. He now has my number.

I'll be surprised if he does, though. Such a debate risks crumbling the world where legitimate debate has no part. Only swiftboating, name-calling, phony strawman arguments (easily destroyed) are welcome.

In addition to Marsh, I also got to hang a bit with some of the folks from the not-right who were there. Including the great Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend, who blogged a bit about BlogWorld here, in a post which includes the audio from the panel we were on together with Hewitt and others. As well, I got to chat a bit Markos Moulitsas, whom I'd never previously met or spoken with, and so enjoyed sharing some personal thoughts on the exceedingly unfortunate chilling effect --- especially in the corporate mainstream media --- of his having purged DailyKos of diarists who wrote about fraud in the 2004 Election debacle in Ohio in the months following the election.

More on that perhaps at another time, as it's late, and I'd hate to further discombobulate the Worldview of any wingnuts reading along this far, since they believe "liberals" agree on everything (and, of course to the laziest of them, I'm a "liberal"). For the record, not only do I disagree with what Markos did, I continue, to this date, my own personal quiet boycott of his site and his yearly gathering in hopes that some day he'll apologize for the inestimable damage done by his actions to the cause of Electoral Integrity.

Next year's BlogWorld Expo will be in September. The show's producer, Rick Calvert, has already extended an invitation for me to return. I look forward to trying to do so. I hope the wingers will return as well, but that next time they will reach out a bit more from their cocoon. They may find, as those of us in the Progressive Sphere, who virulently disagree on many things, have found, that honest debate can be useful and make all of us the better. They may find that it's okay to disagree, and that it doesn't make anyone an "enemy of America."

If not, then fuck 'em if they're too cowardly to raise the level of discourse enough to find that out.