Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Alaska Political Bloggers Credited

Phil at Progressive Alaska just alerted me about this post at Media Matters by Erik Boehlert Saradise Lost: How Alaska bloggers dethroned Sarah Palin (another case where the title goes well beyond what the article actually says.)

I'm not suggesting that homegrown bloggers alone were responsible for Palin's "no más" moment, but there's no question that the online activists played a key role. That with their shit-kicking brand of frontier citizen journalism, they drove Palin to distraction and changed the way voters nationwide thought about the governor. So if conservative bloggers get credit for driving Dan Rather out of the anchor chair in 2004 following their Memogate campaign-season tale, then the band of scrappy liberal bloggers in Alaska ought to be allowed to bask in a bit of glory, because they made their own history when Palin announced her exit.
Now, Palin has already credited bloggers in her resignation speech. But I guess we saw that as being made scapegoats. Boehlert's comments feel different.

Even What Do I Know? is listed in the story (thanks to Phil's den mother-like devotion to his digital-campers.) While it's true I have written way more Palin posts than I think is good for my mental health, the real bulldogs in this story are (stand up and take a bow as your name is called):

Alaska Progressive
Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis
Just a Girl From Homer
Immoral Minority

along with


who's written some critical posts - such as the stuff on Troopergate which began before the VP nomination. (There are lots of other Alaska bloggers who regularly touch on matters political, but the listed blogs were almost all-Palin, all-the-time.)

I take some pride in being, I'm sure, the first website to link to Progressive Alaska, even before it actually went public, having met Phil at the Kohring (or maybe it was the Kott) trial. From the beginning he had ideas of finding a way organize bloggers into a force to post the important stories that the local newspapers were missing. But, as others have mentioned, the pivotal event for Alaska political bloggers was McCain's announcement of his VP running mate.

While some of this pack of self-taught journalists have been more shrill and less polite than is my preference, I have no doubt that those qualities were critical to their success. We get the vacuous news the MSM gives us because that's what most people want. I used to dispute that, but I can see how many hits I get for different posts, and Palin sells, big!

And this isn't good. Other difficult stories aren't being adequately covered - like what's happening in the fishing wars of the North Pacific. We should be unraveling of the complex legal and financial web, including Uncle Ted's role, of what some say is the North Pacific's version of the destruction of the North Atlantic fisheries.

Alaskan bloggers, though, have had a special duty to cover Palin, not simply as a local politician, but because of her national aspirations.

But I would like to debunk some of the conspiracy theories that had Alaskan bloggers as agents with direct links to the White House. While there is a loose email connection among the larger group, and individual bloggers see each other more or less frequently, this is a pretty rag-tag group, united in their dedication to be Alaska's crap detectors.

To give you a sense of how 'loose' this group is, I remember first meeting Linda of Celtic Diva at the Alaska Democratic Convention last May. Then again at a hastily arranged dinner last September out at Phil's place to meet with journalists from Outside who were here to find out about Palin. . That's when I also briefly met Mudflats and Gryphen (from Immoral Minority). And there was a barbecue at Phil's place too. And that's the last time I think I've seen most of them. I'd met Shannyn Moore already at one of the political trials. I've bumped into some of them at events we were all covering - like the Alaska women against Palin demonstration - but other than that, I've had no contact. When I was taking the computer art class last fall, I sometimes ran into Phil while I was locking my bike and he'd come out from his office (music is in the same building as art) for a cigarette break. (He's quit since then.) And the odd email now and then. I realize some of the others have gotten together more often, but this is not a highly polished get-Sarah machine. It is individuals with computers at home who get too little sleep and drink too much coffee, so they can share what they find out about what is behind the facade.

And there were others who offered us encouragement and inspiration along the way, like Matt Browner Hamlin who was in Alaska working on the Begich campaign and had done political blogging in the East (Massachusetts if I recall right[It's Connecticut.]) He raised our sights about what bloggers could do.

Eric Boehlert has already tipped his hat to this group of bloggers in a chapter in his recent book The Bloggers on the Bus.

So what has this group done?

Followed up on every rumor they heard. They didn't always post what they heard, but they looked through the evidence and
  • after getting it from several sources, but without confirmation, reported it as a rumor
  • got more information and confirmed or rejected it
  • analyzed the data available and offered possible explanations and their reasoning
  • sometimes taken too much glee in Palin missteps
  • kept a constant vigil on everything Palin said, giving her no lattitude when she stretched the truth, and she kept them very busy

They've (I'm not sure what it means that I'm using 'they' instead of 'we' but I'll not worry about it and go on that way) posted lots of videos and pictures, of varying levels of good taste, that related to Palin, and had links to local and national stories on Palin.

They've also been sources of information for Outside journalists. Overall, while some of the group have been louder than necessary and sometimes a little fast with declarative sentences, most of the bloggers have qualified their claims based on how much they actually knew or how solid the evidence was.

One critical contribution was the group's early awareness of what Don Mitchell said last week, that Palin is a celebrity, not a serious politician. But unlike Paris Hilton, Sarah Palin held an elected political office, so she was accountable in a way that celebrities aren't. Now that she's almost out of office, she can take advantage of that celebrity without getting flak for not doing a competent job as governor. However, if she plans to continue trying to influence public policy and democratic elections, there will continue to be an open season on Sarah Palin.

[Update July 20, 2009: As I've had time to think more about this, I believe the biggest contribution the so-called progressive blogs was to give Alaska liberals a media presence, a sense of identity and of political efficacy. I've posted an addition to this post today explaining why.]


  1. What she's doing, and has done, should be illegal. Why isn't it?? Her PAC has raised almost 1 million dollars, for what, a hundred thousand she needs to repay? And now she's printed in the Washington Post criticizing Obama? It's giving me a headache and my blood is boiling.
    She should be ashamed, instead she is brazenly flaunting her... what? I don't even know what to call it. Flaunting her SELF, I guess. Personally I need a "Problems with Palin Anonymous" group. Please let me know when you meet.

  2. I don't think so that bloggers or any blogger is/are able to put down the governor of a state. At least it wouldn't feel threathened by some blog posts. However if I become the governor, regent, President, Prime Minister, of whatever I will not step done as long as I am not done. I explain: let's say one day I am going to be Sarah Palin (governor not she personally :P). Let's assume that during my presence there I start liking the people and the place despite it is in the US and I want to do good for the state. I tell you I would be a leader of something if I want to improve it. So if I want to do good for Alaska, I have a package of plans what I want to fulfill and if I started working on it then I WOULD finish it and I WOULDN'T step down until I am done or until the next election. I have this kind of holy sense of duty. I guess it was confusing.

    By the way you forgot to attach photo in your email.


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