(Update: As Peter Daou, who organized the event, points out in the comments, invitations were issued to POC bloggers like Steve Gilliard and Oliver Willis, who were unable to attend. So the question of an oversight is settled. However, some earlier communication to that would have been helpful, as foresight might have suggested there might at least be some questions about appearances.)
Wow It looks like I started something. (Thanks to Pam and PageOneQ for the initial linkage, and to Liz for turning up the volume, BTW.) Well, good. I hope it at least facilitates discussion, and the posts I’ve seen thus far suggest that it has. And Micha is right, my “write your own caption” post was a gentle way of trying to goad folks to ask “What’s wrong with this picture?” and underscore that no one appeared to ask that question in the first place.
The approach was gentle because my experience is that when it comes to race, well, there are still some landmines one wants to avoid if possible. I don’t, for example, think any of the bloggers involved the meeting — many of whom I’ve met and spoken with previously — are racist or intended to exclude anyone on that basis. But the whole thing underscores something that I think progressives in general, and progressive bloggers in this case, need to keep in mind. It’s something I wrote last year on blogging while brown, and while I posted it as a comment in the previous post, I wanted to re-post it for consideration here in an extended form.
Of course, everyone’s talking about the “top level” of the lefty blogosphere (is there a better word we can use here?), and I’m far enough removed—a coupla solar systems over—from the center of that universe that much of that debate doesn’t really much apply to me. It may be one of the blessings of not being quite “top tier.” There are some conflicts that I don’t get drawn into, because the reverberations don’t quite filter down to my level. There are some things you can see and hear as an observer on the periphery that are much easier to miss when you’re near or in the eye of the storm.
How does race affect my blogging? Well, first of all, it’s not just race. It’s economics, gender, education, and a whole CutterWelderMaestro that come into play to even make it possible for me to “be bloggin’.” Technology isn’t necessarily the great equalizer. To use it it, you have to know about it, and understand enough about how it works. You have to be able to afford it. While computer price are going down, they aren’t in everyone’s reach. You have to have the leisure time to spend just reading blogs/news and writing blog posts. Unlikely if your one of millions working more than one job to stay afloat, etc. And it helps if cultural assumptions support the idea that (a) you have something to say, (b) that it’s worth saying, and (c) that people will listen if you say it.
I’ll say it again, when it comes to blogging, identity and everything that goes with it—race, gender, orientation, economics, education, etc.—affects what you look at and filters what you see. To extend what Stirling was getting at, how you identify not only affects how you see other people, but whether you see them at all. Chances are the first people you’ll “see”—those first blips on your radar, the people you’ll automatically pay attention to—will be those with whom you share some element of identity. It’s inevitable. That is, unless you make a conscious effort to do otherwise.
My hope is that pointing out the obvious questions that arise from the meeting will prompt people to do otherwise next time around. And it appears to have worked. Micha mentions an email from Peter Daou, who organized the meeting and works for Hillary, which says there will be more meetings and an opportunity to invite bloggers who didn’t attend the first one. If that’s true, it’s a step in the right direction, though it doesn’t answer why no one appears to have thought about the first time, and raises the question of whether another meeting was planned all along or is a response to the questions the first one raised. In the latter case, even if that’s true, it’s still a step in the right direction.
And, for the record, I’ll add again that I do not in the least expect to find myself lunching with either of the Clintons anytime soon. The initial snark of my first post aside, that wasn’t the point of the post that followed. Micha makes a good point that the bloggers at the initial meeting represent a lot of traffic. No matter how much anyone like to go on about the “democratizing” effect of blogging, it is — like any other form of media — a numbers game. Those with bigger numbers, in traffic and/or inbound links in this case, have more influence, if only because they can reach more people more immediately than others.
It’s pretty clear that the guest list was probably culled from the top 100 progressive bloggers; that is, those with the most traffic and/or inbound links, as indicated in the ecosystem or the progressive blog report. Perhaps with some decisions also made based on poltics. Thus, I don’t think my traffic or number of inbound links rate inclusion on that guest list. In the case of this meeting, it was the meeting of between the top tier of political blogging and the top tier of Democratic politics. Micha actually puts it better than I can.
The blogs represented at the meeting included DailyKos, MyDD, AmericaBlog , FireDogLake, Eschaton, Liberal Oasis, Seeing the Forest, the Carpetbagger Report, Mahablog, Feministing, and TalkLeft. That’s a pretty high-traffic list. As you can see from reading their posts, most of them were pretty awed by the event. Power is seductive.
… At the same time, the white political bloggers Clinton did meet with are much closer to the grass-roots than they are to America’s elite (and who can deny them their moment of feeling anointed, especially if they continue to be as independent and ornery as before?). The very fact that they have large and loyal readerships who they interact with on a daily basis keeps them plugged into the ideas and sentiments of ordinary folks far more than, say, some group of Beltway consultants.
Granted. On any given day, any one of those bloggers can reach more people with than any one blogger positioned further down the long tail. I’d just add that there are lot more perspectives further down the long tail of the blogosphere than are heard in the more highly-trafficked sphere; in places where deeper conversations are possible because the threads of discussion don’t get lost in hundreds of comments.
I will add one more caveat, though. Influence is power and, yes, power is seductive. But, and particularly in progressive circles, it ought to come with some responsibility. Perhaps one of those responsibilities is or should be to bring people to the table who might not otherwise be included based on sheer numbers in terms of traffic, links, etc., in order to make sure that other voices are a part of the conversation. I don’t know what was talked about during the meeting, but perhaps there were perspectives or entire issues that, say, a Steve Gilliard or Liz Sabater might have been able to offer based on their experiences that just couldn’t come from someone else.
Or, there’s Chris Rabb’s take.
There are the white liberals who tacitly believe that they can represent the set of wide-ranging diverse progressive constituencies all by themselves, and then there is the much smaller, far less visible and tragically less influential group of white progressives who are as critical of the white domination as those of us progressives of color who see that “there’s nothing new under the sun”.
… If there’s an organizational will AND intentionality to foster/create/grow into meaningfully diverse groups/coalitions/campaigns, then it will happen. If there’s not conscious, consistent and candid dialogue around issues of race, class, gender, etc. in the conceptual and planning stages and the resources and strategies to act on what comes out of such sensitive, but indispensible exchanges, then we will continue to see the all-too-preventable trainwrecks that conservatives love to smugly point out
If nothing else, perhaps it speaks to the need for a better metric on which to base success and inclusion than sheer numbers. But it definitely points out the need to, as I said above, making a conscious effort to look beyond the “usual suspects,” to be aware of an absence of diversity before it’s as obvious as a picture posted on a blog, and to make an effort to do it differently.