The frequency with which journalists poke fun at bloggers is a measure of journalists’ insecurity about their own skills and/or industrial future. Recall Boston Globe columnist Hiawatha Bray, who had the temerity in early 2002 to declare that “blogging is an ephemeral fad, destined to burn itself out in a year or two.” Bray later became a blogger and, in 2004, was shredded by not-yet-extinct bloggers for his perceived abuses of blogging culture.
The days of blogger-bashing are on the wane, though, as the publishing industry’s plummeting ad sales prompt many journalists to consider hanging out their own blog-shingles.
So it was a bracing splash of deja vu to find Washington Post’s Richard Cohen taking a potshot at bloggers. In his post Labor Day “list of major news events that you might have missed,” Cohen wrote that “a survey of political bloggers showed that 94 percent of them had never been out of the country or read anything other than a Harry Potter book.”
Bloggers took the bait. Writing in the Atlantic, Matthew Yglesias called the column “totally unfunny” and Cohen “weird.”
Markos Moulitsas went ballistically anecdotal, detailing both his own and his son’s numerous passport stamps.
Duncan Black matched Cohen’s attempted satire with the real thing, leding with “TEH BLOGGURZ ARE TEH STUPIDDDDDZZZZ!!!!!!” (You have to visit Icanhascheezburger to understand the weird vein of pure i-silliness Duncan’s tapping.) Duncan then proceeded, as always, to shred the underlying logic:
The idea that beltway journalists are uniquely experienced or informed about anything other than what it’s like to be a beltway journalist is absurd, and of course says quite a bit about what beltway journalists actually know about the world.
He could, of course, have added:
So what’s is the real data? First, the Blog Reader Project (surveying 180,000 readers of more than 1400 blogs at last count) found that 60-70% of blog readers have passports, versus just 25% of all Americans. Here’s the graphic indicating that nearly 70% of DailyKos readers have passports. (Last I saw, roughly 40% of the Washington Post’s reader have passports, though I can no longer find this figure sourced online.)
Who has the highest brow? In other words, “who reads Dave Eggers and Malcolm Gladwell versus JK Rowling?” Well, 79% of DailyKos readers are college graduates, versus just 72% of Washington Post readers.
But Cohen’s article was satire sprinkled with irony, and some of his jibes skated beyond being humorously absurd to being wishfully constructed inversions of reality. (”People magazine admitted that there is no such person as Lindsay Lohan.”) So, if Cohen’s true intention was, in fact, to celebrate blogging’s intellectual ascendence, maybe the joke is on us dumb bloggers after all.