A Review of Jerome and Kos’ Book on the Netroots Revolution in Politics

In the NYRB, Bill McKibben reviews Jerome Armstrong and Markos (“kos”) Moulitsas Zúniga’s Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics:

When we consider Kos’s own Web site and its numerous links to other blogs, we see something like an expanding hive of communication, a collective intelligence. And the results can be impressive. A writer with the pen name (mouse name) Jerome à Paris, for instance, organized dozens of other Kossacks interested in energy policy to write an energy plan that I find far more comprehensive and thoughtful than anything the think tanks have produced. It’s been read and reshaped by thousands of readers; it will serve as a useful model should the Democrats retake Congress and have the ability to move legislation. The blogs began as purely reactive and bloggers still spend much of their energy responding to the “mainstream media.” But a kind of proto-journalism is emerging, and becoming steadily more sophisticated. If you want to understand (albeit with plenty of spin) the ins and outs of Scooter Libby’s defense in the Plamegate trial, for instance, the place to go is Firedoglake.

Some of the discourse is less edifying, of course. There is much familiar and ofte tiresome ranting at the Bush administration, at intelligent design advocates, at Fo News. But much of that disappears when there are specific factual issues to b addressed. For instance, the site’s commentators have become experts at monitorin the regular press and television for signs of rightward bias, and they respond en masse When The Washington Postkept repeating the GOP’s charge that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as to Republicans, on-line activists assembled data and organized an overwhelming response, showing that Abramoff mainly worked with Republicans. This finding was soon picked up by the press and television and much less was heard about Abramoff’s evenhandedness. Reporters long cowed by conservative charges of bias (as Michael Massing demonstrated in his recent essays on press coverage of Iraq[2] ) now find that they are getting closer scrutiny on the Internet. Since the liberals of the blogosphere are better organized, this is starting to have a balancing effect. Kos says he gets fifty times the number of visits received by the entire right-wing “blogosphere,” where his biggest competitor is probably a site called Instapundit.com.