Dispatches > The Buzz


buzz from online journals of politics & culture

Issue: "Public-school reform," July 26, 2003

Al Gore didn't invent the Internet, but Howard Dean has found a way to make money off of it. When the former governor of Vermont raised $7 million from April through June, he leaped from a blip in the polls to a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Mr. Dean out-hustled John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, and Joe Lieberman largely because of his Internet advantage: He raised two-thirds of his money online, including over $800,000 on the final day of the quarter.

More than any previous candidate, Dr. Dean is taking advantage of blogs as a way to stir up grassroots support while keeping his base informed. The Dean campaign's official blog, Blog for America (deanforum.com), mixes fundraising cheerleading with pro-Dean articles and updates from the campaign trail. Campaign manager Joe Trippi is a regular fixture on the blog, but staffer Kate O'Connor's ditzy travelogues are among the most popular with readers. Here's an example: "I want to send out a special thank you to Chad, the very nice volunteer who drove us around all day. Chad told me that this has been the best day of his life! (I told Chad that I was sorry to hear that!! Of course, I was only kidding!)"

Dr. Dean is adding to the fervor of numerous unofficial blogs-Dean Nation (dean 2004.blogspot.com), MyDD (mydd.com), etc.-by guest blogging on Larry Lessig's influential blog (cyberlaw.stanford.edu/lessig/blog). Mr. Lessig, who has not endorsed any candidate, writes that Dr. Dean's move makes sense: "Campaigns are all about meeting different groups and talking about ideas. Where better than a blog?" Other bloggers suggest that Dr. Dean will merely provide more soundbites. "If he blogs about policy, it will be the first time," wrote Lessig reader Kevin Thurman. Neoconservative Eugene Volokh (volokh.com) wrote, "[It's a] sign of how important the Net-and, in some measure, blogging-has become."

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Bloggers who planned a July 9 Iranian Freedom Day were let down by a lack of new demonstrations in Iran marking the anniversary of anti-government protests four years ago. The Iranian dictatorship's brutal suppression of dissent led Michael Totten (michaeltotten.blogspot.com) to write an open letter to the Iranian people decrying "Islamofascism" as "reactionary, murderous, warmongering, and terrorist." Many bloggers chose to link to Iranian blogs such as Iranian Girl, who wrote, "I know that all people in the world support us spiritually & pray for all fighters of freedom.... I'm sure that bloggers & writers from other countries will not forget us." But with Iran's government blocking many Iranian blogs, many news-hungry bloggers are moving to a new cause: Hong Kong.

The former British colony is finally getting a taste of what the rest of China has experienced for over a half century: Chinese officials are pushing a bill that would enable them to suppress dissent. Three massive protests have forced the government into retreat, but not before Glenn Reynolds (instapundit.com) had his say, telling his 60,000 daily visitors that Fox News should be diving into the story: "Is there some rule in the Big Media Secret Book that says you have to suck up to some dictator in order to be a member of the club?"

These days, when Instapundit pundits, Big Media folks listen. Even though the website's traffic is small compared to traditional media-The Wall Street Journal has a daily paid circulation of 1,700,000-Mr. Reynolds is communicating with many elite readers who have come specifically to garner his perspective. Less popular bloggers are jealous, even though the Reynolds tide lifts all boats, sometimes too much: Sites on some smaller servers have been crippled by the waves of visitors after Instapundit linked to them.

The knives were out among bloggers irritated by Pat Robertson's recent comments in support of Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. Mr. Robertson, who acknowledged his $8 million stake in Liberian gold mining, criticized president Bush for asking another "duly elected president" to resign his post. Mr. Totten was typical: Charles Taylor of Liberia is a warmongering, mass-murdering, psychopathic dictator with ties to al-Qaeda. And Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson loves him." Christian blogger Joshua Claybourn argued, "My advice to media-types, non-Christians, and journalists: Ignore Robertson's opinions because that's what most evangelicals do anyway."

Many bloggers did take care not to generalize, even as they attacked Mr. Robertson. David Adesnik of Oxblog (oxblog.blogspot.com), who "admit[s] to being highly suspicious of faith-based politics," was among those to acknowledge that many "evangelicals have taken a firm stand against Taylor's brutality."


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