This week I moderated a panel with Kevin Drum, Kevin Roderick and the original Wonkette, Ana Marie Cox. The topic – Have bloggers replaced newspapers, and should we care? – elicited a unanimous yawn from the panelists; without big city dailies, they agreed, there would be no political blogosphere.
One unexpected theme that emerged, though, got me wondering. It’s the idea that political blogs are a self-consciously theatrical space, where bloggers believe they must stylize themselves, exaggerate, play stock roles. Kind of like Kabuki, or the WWE.
In this formulation, bloggers take public positions more extreme, less nuanced, easier to stereotype, than they would over beer with friends (you know, in “real” life). It’s as though there’s something about the Web, and the attention economy, and maybe polarized contemporary politics, that requires bloggers to slip on these costumes before they enter the fray. Online is onstage.
Which of course runs counter to the prevailing sense that blogging is valuable because unlike other media it’s, well, unmediated, and therefore more “real.”