Friday, February 20, 2004

The trouble with the Dean blogs

Blogging may indeed be an important component of a political campaign. However, as Dean withdraws from the campaign it should be abundantly clear that the blogs were merely a component, and not a very important component as it turns out.

The new issue for the Deaniacs is what to do with the information base and structure that Dean accumulated during the campaign:

"Can the ardor of the Dean supporters and their online organization be harnessed for another purpose, including getting a Democratic presidential candidate elected? Is their devotion to Dean transferable to other causes? Can they overcome their clear antipathy to Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic front-runner, and help him if he's the nominee?" --NH Union Leader

There is a strong debate going on right now on that issue. "Let's stay together everyone." "Let's not mourn fellow Deanies, let's continue to organize!" Is there any point to keeping things going? Can it be successful without a presidential candidate to focus on?

I have my own theories as to why the Dean blogs had far less impact on the campaign than everyone thought. For one thing, most of the traffic was the Dean people talking to each other. Blogs linked to blogs linked to blogs. OK, fine. A large number of people who are already Dean supporters are talking, blogging, cross-posting, and linking with each other. To the outside world, it looks like an enormous amount of activity. I would guess it might appear something on the order of a million man march on Washington. However, the "million" were actually more like 1,000 hologram images of each actual Dean supporter. Looks impressive, but when you analyze what is actually happening it just ain't that big a deal.

And another thing: am I the only visitor to the Dean blogs who came away with a bad feeling? Did anyone else get the distinct impression of a certain smugness to the Dean blogs? If you asked questions, the response tended to be a harsh "you're not one of us" kind of thing. If you jumped from link to link to link on the "Dean Web" you immediately got the impression that these folks were only interested in talking to each other in some kind of tummy-rubbing "aren't we great" dialog. "Bob over at Dean Blog #232 said that Bill in Dean blog #432 said that we are going to win the primaries by the largest margin in history. Isn't that great? Aren't we all great?" In short, I started getting the same creepy feeling I get whenever I run into a Scientology Website.