04 August 2007

the kos phenomenon

It's Monday, so I must be hungover from markos madness. the mainstream media that all but ignored BlogHer can't seem to get enough of Yearly Kos, with everything from Washington Post Op-ed's to Bill O'Reilly battle cries.

It's fascinating to watch professional pundits try to explain why Markos Moulitsas has built so much power in politics. They point to his partisanship, his snark, his to his ability to raise money for candidates, and so on. I think they leave out the most important point - and oddly enough, it's the point that I think Moulitsas makes most.

Daily Kos is successful because it's a community. It's not just Markos Moulitsas telling people what he thinks on the front page. Moulitsas was one of the first politically-oriented bloggers to build a platform on which other bloggers write about whatever they want.

There's a conservative version of Kos - Town Hall. But Town Hall is subtly different -it's more of echo chamber. Sure, people can join Town Hall and start their own blogs there, just like Kos. But Town Hall also asks members to sign up for email updates from the site's leaders, which no doubt prompts members to write about the topic of the day. Town Hall is a cog in a wheel of a larger communications machine. I don't have a problem with that at all, I'm just noting the difference.

I actually like Town Hall. I think it's an efficient way to distribute messaging, but it's still top-down. Kos really is more of a discussion.

Here's an admittedly partisan but I think fair point - and I hope some R's out there will feel comfortable weighing in here. When conservatives are asked why they're supposedly "behind" in online communications, many of them acknowledge they're "losing" (though I'm not sure how that's defined) to democrats but quickly note that they completely dominate talk radio. But political talk radio, despite appearances, really isn't a conversation. Political talk radio is a lecture with a 7-second tape delay where dissenting voices are typically filtered out. It's one of the reasons that women have largely stopped listening to talk radio.

I'm not saying that talk radio lacks value or inspiration. I do, however, note that American political conservatives seem to do better when the message is controlled by a centralized voice and readily admit they're doing worse when the conversation has more participants.

I'm really quite surprised that this is the case. Conservatism isn't, in my opinion, inherently hostile to dissent or diversity. It just seems that right now some of the strongest conservative voices in the media are. I think that's what keeps smart, tech-savvy conservatives like David All or The Irritable Elephant up at night.

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