Circus Maximus

Last year, I criticized Matt Welch’s and Nick Gillespies’s book, The Declaration of Independents, as nothing more than journalistic wishful thinking and buzztalk that was completely irrelevant to the problem of political reform. Politics is not lifestyle consumerism. Political competition is not akin to competition in consumer electronics.

Gillespie only demonstrates the critique with this lionization of Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart clearly was Gillespie’s model entrepreneur regarding the “Declaration” thesis. Writes Gillespie:

t doesn’t matter who we is, kemo sabe. It’s the conservatives at Drudge, the liberals at HuffPo, the leftists at DailyKos, the libertarians at Reason. It’s all of us and Breitbart helped create and grow a series of do-it-yourself demonstration projects through which we can all speak more loudly and more fully.

Breitbart is dead, but the conversation pits he built will live on for a long, long time. A lot of people theorize about democratizing the public square and bringing new voices and sources into conversations about politics and culture. Breitbart actually did it. It wasn’t always perfect and it wasn’t always pretty (ask Shirley Sherrod, the former Department of Agriculture official who sued him for defamation), but he blazed a path that surely leads to a far richer and more interesting mediascape than the one we all grew up with.

I don’t really know what speaking “more loudly or fully means” nor do I quite get what is meant by “democratizing the public square” with “new voices and sources into conversations about politics and culture.” My take is that if you are interested in politicians’ crotch shots or Anthony Michael Hall look-a-likes dressed up as Superfly to dupe “liberal special interest groups,” then Breitbart was indeed your guy. However, I would point to Sacha Cohen as more of pioneer in this media space–and a much more of an entertaining one at that. If, however, you are interested in such mundane matters as secret US military operations in North Africa, the Middle East, Southern and Western Asia, then I would respectfully stick with that bastion of lifestyle consumerist mediascape, al-jazeera. Unfortunately, they ain’t available on my satellite TV, yet. And don’t hold your breath…

3 thoughts on “Circus Maximus

  1. So, it seems that Gillespie is focusing on Breitbart’s institutional innovations, and then lists the Drudge report and HuffPo among his achievements. They don’t seem like much of an achievement to me. This business model may provide more flexibility for reporters and would-be content distributors, but it really does nothing for bringing blogging to the masses. The DKos community blog was a serious contribution in that regard, and I don’t see how DKos has anything to do with Drudge or HuffPo.

    Breitbart’s contribution was to take smear campaigns to a new high (low). Blah. I won’t echo Yeglasia’s sentiment about the world being better without Breitbart (someone will fill his shoes), but I will give my standard response to the death of a politician (and anyone who makes their name in the politico-lobbying complex). Shrug.

  2. Thanx for the comments. The point I was making was that I usually have to resort to foreign sources for reliable news on matters that I consider news–what the State is actually doing. I don’t consider court machinations–who is up and who is down–news. Reporting on the subtext of court intrigue seems to be the primary function of most (US) news organizations.

    Breitbart provided entertainment–another cog in the “circus maximus.” Breitbart’s contextual arena was the cultural war. Disintermediation of agency in the circus maximus is a means of what political reform?

    Regarding Drudge. I’m a regular reader because he has shares an anti Big-Brother streak. I’ve been reading him since the 90s when was steadily “reporting” on the Clinton/Reno attempts to introduce/wrangle in organs/agency of what today we would call the Patriot Act/DHS. Drudge certainly gained a measure of notoriety and influence(of course, Big Brother was not the only thing he was reporting on–or a better term, “aggregating on). But guess what? We still ended up with these organs of the security state. So, “media disintermediation” is certainly not a sufficient condition for political reform.

    More ominous: Drudge often reports on “Big Sis.” But Napolitano has made it clear that she revels in the notoriety and the celebrity. What we find then is that mass culture simply replaces the traditional forms of State worship(with ubiquitous posters, murals, statues of political figures) with just another type of celebrity. The former form, of course, would be a joke an object of much contempt in our “sophisticated culture.” The latter form passes for a ” libertarian political thesis” from the good folks at Reason.

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