You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Bill Clinton Meets Top Bloggers: What's Wrong With This Picture?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Saturday, September 16 2006

That's the question some political bloggers who are African-American are asking about this photo of a meeting former President Bill Clinton had with fifteen political bloggers at his Harlem office this past Tuesday.


Terrance Heath, a blogger who works for EchoDitto, first raised the issue in a gentle way on his site, The Republic of T. Liza Sabater sharpens the questions on her site, Culture Kitchen. She writes:

What does it mean though that there are 20 bloggers invited to this lunch and not one is black or latino? What does it mean for this group of bloggers to be patting themselves on the backs for being with Clinton when they are all in Harlem and not one of them is a person of color? What does it mean for these people to be there and have not one of them raise this issue in their blogs?

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. (More pics from Matt Stoller here.)

I've asked Chris Rabb, who has written quite eloquently for PDF about race, politics and online relationships, if he'd wade into this discussion. (Stay tuned. UPDATE: He's waded in.) Last week, at a DC panel I moderated on blogging and the net-roots, he argued that some of the so-called "net-roots" was actually more like "net-tops," and suggested that there is a tendency among white-led online groups to not see what they're leaving out.

It will be interesting to see how the bloggers who met with Clinton respond to Sabater and Heath. According to Sabater, blogger Peter Dauo--who organized the Clinton meeting and now works for Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign--has sent her an email stating that he couldn't get any black people to come to the meeting. If so, that statement is bound to blow up in his face. (Sabater lists several prominent bloggers of color, including Steve Gilliard, who she says lives ten blocks away from Clinton's office.)

[UPDATE: Here's Dauo's email. He says more events with bloggers are planned and "there will be an opportunity to invite bloggers who didn't attend the first one."

SECOND UPDATE: I forgot to link to that email from Dauo. To save you time, here what he just wrote me: "I didn’t tell her that I 'couldn’t get any black people to come' – I simply noted that several bloggers were invited who couldn’t make it, including Oliver Willis, who is African-American. I was simply pointing out that her assertion that no minority bloggers were invited was incorrect. She posted my note, which reads as follows:

Hi Liza - several bloggers were invited who couldn't attend, including Oliver Willis (who you didn't mention in your post). Also, I was told that more events like that are planned, and there will be an opportunity to invite bloggers who didn't attend the first one. So respectfully, you may have reached a conclusion without all the facts. Best, Peter"]

My take? It's awfully hard to cross the race line in America, and if you're white you often don't realize it's there. Some bridges need more building. (We at PDF need to become more diverse, which several people pointed out to us after our May conference.)

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.