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"Elite Bloggers" and the Read-Write Web

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, June 22 2006

Is there such a thing as an "elite blogger"? That's the question I'm mulling as I read through the storm of posts in the political blogs--right, left and center--that are discussing whether Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong have some kind of payola operation going (a charge I think no one should throw around lightly, and which I see no proof for).

Does the read-write web inherently defeat, or at least deflate, elitism? That certainly is one hope of mine, along with many others that go with being a devotee of the Cluetrain Manifesto. But humans love to make lists and rank each other, and come up with things like "A-lists" and velvet ropes and "elite bloggers." And, especially after the YearlyKos conference, which demonstrated that a lot of elite politicians and elite journalists think Kos and crew have some real power, we're hearing all about this cabal of "elite bloggers."

It seems to me that a lot of the noise being made over the Markos-Jerome relationship--they're friends, they're co-authors, and they used to have a consulting partnership--is based on the theory that Kos is an "elite" with some unaccountable level of power over the "netroots" and by hiring Jerome various candidates have "bought" Kos and his acolytes.

Now it's true that DailyKos has a huge readership--bigger than any other political blog today, by a factor of four probably--but it also has a huge writership of some 90,000 registered members. If Markos is an "elite" blogger, his kind of "elitism"--where he is in daily, almost naked, contact with his reader-writers, and everything he posts is not just devoured but also debated quite openly--is a far better kind than the old, unearned kind.

Yes, he ought to fully disclose any and all relationships, financial or otherwise, that he may have when he blogs about stuff. But if/when he doesn't, the people who will hold him accountable are his reader-writers, who are hardnly a herd of cattle. That's the blogger creed. It may not work perfectly, but compare that level of accountability to the sort of impunity assumed by elite politicians and elite journalists, and I'll take the blogger creed any day.

As for whether Markos and Jerome are that powerful, in fact...or if there is something that can monolithically be called a "netroots," let alone be commanded by people like Markos and Jerome, count me a huge skeptic. People espousing this theory are trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. Sure, some of the people harping on the "netroots" phenomenon would like the powers-that-be to believe that there is a "Netroots Central" and if you just talk to this handful of bloggers, you'll have unbelievable results. But the picture is far more complex...