Blogosphere Alive During Elections
SCOTT SIMON, host:
When the liberal and conservative blogospheres convened blocks away from each other last week in Austin, Texas, Jose Antonio Vargas was there. Mr. Vargas covers the Internet and politics for The Washington Post. He's called the rise of the blogosphere, quote, "an irreversible and seismic shift for voters and for candidates." Mr. Vargas joins us now from the studios of member station WBEZ. Mr. Vargas, thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS (Reporter, Washington Post): Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
SIMON: Can you generalize about what the majority of bloggers are like, or at least give us some idea of the variety, maybe?
Mr. VARGAS: I would say that the average age of a blogger would be between 40 to 50. What's interesting, of course, is that - kind of the who's who of the blogosphere on the liberal side. You know, like Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, you have Matt Stoller of Open Left, Jerome Armstrong of MyDD. These are guys in their late 20s, early 30s, late 30s. But the bigger pool of people that are blogging or who have formed these online communities are 40 to 50.
What's interesting here to note, too, is the liberal blogosphere was born because of the Bush administration. They were out of power. They didn't have Congress until 2006, and they didn't have anybody in White House. What's going to happen? Now that they have Congress back and the possibility that Barack Obama might win come November, then what?
SIMON: Does Senator McCain suffer from what I'll refer to as a blogger's gap?
Mr. VARGAS: I wouldn't quite say that. I mean, the conservative blogosphere is also quite vibrant. On the other hand, it hasn't gotten a lot of buzz the same way that the liberal blogosphere has. Let me give you a pretty solid example of what I'm talking about here.
Netroots Nation was put together by a high school teacher named Gina Cooper, who started blogging on Daily Kos because she was not happy with the war in Iraq. She wanted to get involved, she started blogging, and then she helped out - organize this massive organization. Last year, eight out of the nine presidential Democratic candidates went to Netroots Nation, right?
On the other hand, the online conservative gathering in Austin, Right Online, was organized by Americans for Prosperity. So you kind of see that, you know, while the Netroots had been more driven by average, everyday people, the gathering on the right had been much more political operatives from Washington. I mean, of course, there are exceptions to this, like the guy who created Red State is in Georgia. But for the most part, the big thinkers in the right blogosphere are in Washington.
SIMON: Now, what I find interesting about that is that I think I can remember a time when it was perceived that talk radio had tapped into a large sentiment in the American people in places that were ignored by official Washington, D.C., and a lot of this was placed on the right.
Mr. VARGAS: Yes. What's interesting here is radio - when listening to Rush Limbaugh, for example, when I'm in the car, right? It's a top-down model. There is Rush Limbaugh, he's talking to his supporters, you know, maybe they'd go to his Web site. But it's built around Rush Limbaugh. On the blogosphere, on the Internet, the Democrats seem to have found a medium that suits them. Unions, gay rights groups, Hispanic groups, African-American groups. People are fighting amongst each other. Now they have this medium where they can literally do that.
I mean, when they go to Daily Kos every day, I feel like they're literally going to kill each other. But of course, they're on the same side, right? But they're arguing with each other. And you see this happening, too, on the right, but not to the same extent. So if the right owns talk radio, the left, right now, seem to dominate the Web.
SIMON: Jose Antonio Vargas covers the convergence of politics and the Internet for the Washington Post. Thanks so much.
Mr. VARGAS: Thank you for having me, sir.
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