Jurassicpork runs a blog called Welcome to Pottersville, which is named after the character Henry Potter in Frank CapraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ItÃ¢â‚¬Ëœs a Wonderful Life. This is his second and by far most successful venture into political blogging. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an independent-minded liberal blogger shunned by the A-listers who nevertheless has, since PottersvilleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s founding late June Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ05, been linked to on almost 350 blogs and gets 5,000-18,000+ hits a day. He answers to JP or “the defendant.”
Simon Owens: To prepare for this interview, I combed extensively through your archives, and though you are a political blog, you tend to focus on more obscure issues than the ones highlighted by the bigger blogs. Do you think the B-list bloggers have to find new topics in order to be heard? What do you think of the hierarchy of the liberal blogosphere?
Jurassicpork: IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure I know what you mean by Ã¢â‚¬Å“obscure.Ã¢â‚¬Â I generally tend to stay on top of the bigger issues and stories, such as the ones regarding Iraq and Iran, the Walter Reed scandal, etc. The devilÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in the details, as they say, which is where finding and expounding on smaller or less publicized issues comes in. But I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be much of a political blogger if I studiously ignored the State of the Union Address or the elections for the sake of keeping my own scope unfettered.
Just because the likes of Aravosis, Amato, Eschaton, Kos and Hamsher offer excellent and astute political commentary on the hot button issues doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean that there arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, literally, tens of thousands of people out there who wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be interested in your take. I have readers who come in all the time and leave comments that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re disenfranchised by the A-list blogs and their Ã¢â‚¬Å“comment managementÃ¢â‚¬Â, the cliquey-ness, the swarm factor, even the development of a culture and a secret nomenclature that surrounds the webmaster(s). ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s none of that at my place. Aside from that, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already made my thoughts on A list hierarchies known and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wish to pull off scabs by naming names.
However, I see what you mean about B list blogs finding new and less-traveled roads. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m always up for finding the important but little publicized story, the odd, the arcane, the tragic and the simply ludicrous, like the Havidol hoax. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why I do a Ã¢â‚¬Å“Twenty Bucks, Same as in TownÃ¢â‚¬Â weekly feature. I highlight some of the better and most unusual blog postings by
other, usually smaller bloggers, partly to get their names and URLs out there.
ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also something to be said for scavenging the Internet for the little publicized that really deserves special attention, such as the deaths of soldiers and Marines of Iraqi veterans such as Jennifer Parcell and Gloria Davis. When Editor and PublisherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Greg Mitchell reported on ParcellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s death, only seven local press mentions were made of it. I thought that was horrible and that her ultimate sacrifice shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be overshadowed by the Anna Nicole Smith death circus. So I wrote about her. Then I wrote about her again when she wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let me alone.
Remember, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re thinking about Jennifer Parcell or Gloria Davis or any other soldier or Marine whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d perished overseas, then itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s guaranteed that more people than you think are also thinking of them and they will find you and be grateful for your attention. That alone is one of the greatest rewards of being a blogger. Connecting with people, making people happy, touching them more easily than, ironically, real life would ordinarily allow. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all about. Not scooping or flaming the deserving.
Simon Owens: You talk about Hilary Clinton in a few of your posts, and you’re highly critical of her–specifically her reluctance to admit her mistakes. Very few of the liberal blogs are endorsing her, do you think this could spell trouble for her campaign? Which candidate will receive the greatest benefit from the blogosphere now that Edwards has let his bloggers “resign”?
Jurassicpork: Well, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re asking me for an opinion of what will happen in the next year and a half, which would hardly invite a scientific analysis. Your guess is as good as mine. Hillary is looked askance by both sides of the blogosphere for both good and bad reasons (we tend to have the good reasons), which makes her being a front-runner over Obama that much more mysterious.
Her alliance with the DLC, which is what I call GOP-Lite, doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help her cause, as is her reluctance to admit her mistake in voting for the war. Then thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also the revived and not altogether unjustified backlash against Bill Clinton. No one, it seems, has forgotten Hillary sitting over her husbandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shoulder during the 90s and crafting with him that co-opted laughingstock of a health care bill, acting like a second Vice President.
Plus campaign fatigue is already setting in. Hillary spent many millions of dollars to beat someone who was never a serious contender with the intention of serving just the first third of her second term in the Senate. Think of it: She just got sworn in again and less than a month later she announced, surprise, surprise, her intention to seek a better job in the White House. SheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in perpetual campaign mode and people are getting tired of giving money to her. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s getting abandoned by the likes of Spielberg and big Democratic campaign donors. And, of course, getting embraced by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, of all people, gives people Lieberman-like PTSD.
So, yeah, I think the bigger blogs could make a dent in her campaign. But if anyone or anything will sink HillaryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s campaign, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to be done by Hillary.
EdwardsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ non-support of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, I fear, wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be remembered by the voters, so I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see Hillary or Obama or Richardson capitalizing from that. EdwardsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ biggest disadvantage in his campaign is not holding a national public office like Clinton or Obama. That in itself is worth about $25,000,000 of TV ads.
Simon Owens: Do you think that the political blogosphere will remain mostly a “commentary” type of media, or do you think they have the capacity to do some major investigative reporting? What kind of resources would they need to do this?
Jurassicpork: With very few exceptions, such as Media Matters and Newshounds, to name but two, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think one major blogger and not many B listers got into this game to act as a watchdog or minder of the watchdogs of democracy, as Helen Thomas calls the press. I believe that the political blogosphere originally started as a platform for commentary, which it still is essentially. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t forget the provenance of the word Ã¢â‚¬Å“blogÃ¢â‚¬Â: ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a contraction for Ã¢â‚¬Å“web logÃ¢â‚¬Â or an online diary. Diaries are typically journals of private thoughts.
However, for the first time in our nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s history, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in a position to judge the probity and efficacy of the mainstream media. Blogs have broken us out of the capricious and often exclusionary forum of letters to the editor or even emails to your favorite program. And the longer we do our thing, the more people discover us.
We now have a national convention in Yearly Kos, politicians are embracing both sides of the blogosphere, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re becoming columnists, authors, television and radio personalities and political blogs are exploding in popularity. Also, more professional journalists, such as Keith Olbermann, Charlie Ross and Craig Crawford are becoming bloggers.
All the same, the impression I get is that bloggers in general are not comfortable with having to be arbiters of whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s true or not true. And now IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m about to say something very surprising. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not our job to tell the truth. I can picture the expression on your face right now. But IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m right in that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not our job to tell the truth. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why we have a Fourth Estate. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s their job to tell the truth instead of being mere mediums and stenographers for the government. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only our job to seek the truth. And if the MSM doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do its job which it largely isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, then we will have to seek it out that much more diligently. And in some notorious cases, we have Ã¢â‚¬Å“scoopedÃ¢â‚¬Â the media.
Otherwise, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no blogger out there who can approach the likes of Ron Suskind, Seymour Hersh or David Brooks in terms of access or sources. And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the way it ought to be.
Still, the MSM largely disrespects us and even resents us for being so critical of the way they do their jobs, which is alarmingly similar to the arch, Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in charge and we know what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doingÃ¢â‚¬Â attitude of the government. And they forget that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re an increasingly large part of their customer base.
Simon Owens: You write extensively about how Republicans are becoming even more antagonistic. Is this a sign of an inner explosion of their political movement? Or is there another root cause for this?
Jurassicpork: I look at the recent Republican hysterics with a lot of amusement. The less power they can get their mitts on, the more Ã¢â‚¬Å“unhingedÃ¢â‚¬Â, to quote Michelle Malkin, they become. I think you can begin to explain this rage from GOP politicians as an addiction to incumbency and control. But I see more of an implosion in Republicans on the Hill, perhaps because the last election chastened them and some of them are finally beginning to see the importance and necessity of bipartisanship and compromise. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re clashing with the ones who still havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t learned, such as on the nonbinding resolution on BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s surge. The bobbleheads on TV, who still seem to be getting their marching orders from someone whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the love child of Frank Luntz and Joseph Goebbels, are a different story. So, the kind coming from the neocon punditocracy is more complex, I think.
In most cases, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re seeing people who actually thought that conservatism never goes out of style (Norman Bates assured us in Psycho II that it wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what you get when you place your trust in amateur taxidermists who wear cheap wigs and knife people in showers). WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re seeing people whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d been fooled into thinking by the likes of Karl Rove and others that the Republican Reich would last for 1000 years and the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, et. al. simply jumped on the wrong team.
So, as IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d said recently in Liberal Truth: ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s All the Rage, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of money, access and reputations at stake. Plus a lot of conservatives are genetically incapable of admitting when they or their icons are wrong. Just try telling someone like Ann Coulter that Ronald Reagan was an elitist, narcoleptic, jackbooted racist thug who cut and ran from Lebanon when the terrorists made things too hot for us and watch her head explode.
Simon Owens: Is it true what media analysts are saying that the liberal blogosphere is the new counter-force to the right-wing noise machine of talk radio and Fox News? How effectively are bloggers pushing against spin to make the media more objective?
Jurassicpork: Thanks to excellent watchdog sites such as Media Matters and Newshounds, who make it their business to keep these right wing pundits honest, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re gaining ground. Unfortunately, our efficacy is directly proportionate to the volume of our readership, which still numbers, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d estimate, less than 1% of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s population. If the ’08 general elections were held today and Fox Ã¢â‚¬Å“NewsÃ¢â‚¬Â were to suddenly declare John McCain the next president instead of, say, Sen. Obama, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t completely trust that the dinosaur networks wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fall in line instead of risking being scooped by Fox, of all networks. We saw that exact same scenario happen in 2000 and it could happen again because of the persistent right wing bias in the news.
Several bloggers like John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, John Amato, Firedoglake and many many B-list bloggers and a loyal army of readers have proven to be excellent investigative journalists when called upon when they smell a rat. Whether itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pushing back against a blatant lie (think Swiftboat Veterans for Truth) or outing a hypocrite (Jeff Gannon), weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve often upstaged the lazy and biased media to their rage and rue.
Unfortunately, the numbers that we command (Superblog Crooks and Liars, even on their best day, can generate just over a half a million unique hits a day, which is a sixth of one percent of the national population) doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean that we can sway public opinion on a national level. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a neverending tide of crap and falsehoods that come cascading from the Far Right but our only other option besides slugging it out is to give up. And if we give up, then the conservative terrorists will have won. And people who threaten to take lives and wish attacks on liberal cities like San Francisco are terrorists and ought to be prosecuted as such.
Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?
Jurassicpork: Five blogs. Jeez, there are so many fine blogs out there by compassionate, intelligent, talented people. I hope the 99.9999999% of the guys I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t end up mentioning don’t feel slighted. How about ten or fifteen? No? Five?
Well, if you want an education in how to sling words like brickbats, you could do a lot worse than a pal of mine out of Chicago named D r i f t g l a s s. There was a legendary Greek satirist in the days of the ancients whose words made his enemies commit suicide and this guy D r i f t g l a s s may be his reincarnated spirit. Using words like a skilled warrior uses a cudgel, employing a hefty dose of common sense and sometimes surprising compassion, this guy is a must-read for people who love to see the English language used to its highest potential. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve said it before and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll gladly say it again: This guy makes me want to be a better blogger and writer.
Firestarter5, who runs a blog called Playing With Fire, is another good but overlooked liberal blogger who has my weakness for soft core porn and sense of irony with an occasional O Henry twist (such as this post on Britney SpearsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Sinead OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Connor moment). HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty good, considering that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Canadian, which isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t saying much (Oh, come on, FS5. I kid, I kid!). As with D r i f t g l a s s, I have him in my special Must See Blogging list on my sidebar.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be an ungrateful bastard if I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mention Alicia Morgan at Last Left Turn Before Hooterville. As much as the Dood Abides, AliciaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a magician with Photoshop and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve collaborated many times on some of my posts (most notably on my Christmas post, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a Blunderful LifeÃ¢â‚¬Â). ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not at all unusual to see her work kicking off an Assclowns of the Week (my big weekly feature) with a custom-made lead picture. SheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my political soulmate and her hubby and their kids are lucky, lucky people. Now, if only we can get her to post more oftenÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The folks who make up the Unruly Mob, or Les Enrages, have been very kind to me over the last several months. It started out as the brainchild of Sans Culottes, a frequent commenter at AmericaBlog who mysteriously disappeared last spring. The Unruly Mob is now led by another Canadian blogger named SadButTrue and, with oldtimers Revphat, Ice Station Tango and sexy ladies JumptotheLeft and KayinMaine, this group blog gives some interesting perspectives with some talented writers. They treat me like a king and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an honor to graduate from erstwhile guest blogger to regular contributor.
Lastly, if you want to see how good blogging can be, go to Baghdad Burning by Riverbend. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve somehow never heard of her, sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a 27 year-old Iraqi blogger whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s our eyes and ears at Ground Zero in the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Global War on Terror.Ã¢â‚¬Â Her English is so accomplished, so eloquent, that her blog postings have been collected in two books. If there was ever a Nobel prize for blogging, sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d certainly be a consideration. Because Iraq dominates the political blogging landscape, her blog assumes that much more importance. She also gives us an almost unique perspective from her vantage point 6000 miles, in translating Arabic into flawless English and not allowing us to forget that the carnage in this war not only works both ways but that over 100 of her people are killed each day.
(Related posts: Andy Griffith hates our freedom, Interview with Kevin Holtsberry from Collected Miscellany, Ann Coulter loses another column: Thank God, When service workers pee on your food, Interview with Patricia Storms from BookLust)