Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Instaman, Clueless, and various others are discussing Jim Cappazolla's decision not to link to any bloggers that link to Charles Johnson's controversial LGF blog.

Glenn's original item raised the issue in terms of internet 'cocoons', using the web to seek out only those opinions you agree with and filter out those you dislike. He thinks this doesn't happen generally in blogs, although by citing two examples of liberals engaging in it, he clearly implies that it is a leftist tendency.

Actually, I think that cocooning happens all the time in the blogosphere. To my knowledge, only 4 generally conservative sites blogroll me. Of those, one is defunct and one blogs almost exclusively about the Middle East, where there isn't much conflict between their strong pro-Zionist positions and my own. That leaves only two blogs, one of them more oriented to humor than to political writing, that write about US politics from a relatively conservative viewpoint and blogroll this site. Maybe the others just have better taste, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for liberal political blogs. At least 30 have blogrolled me.

This isn't universal, but it comes pretty close. Almost all left sites, mine included, blogroll quite a few liberals and fewer or no conservatives. Almost all right sites tilt their blogroll in the opposite direction. Without looking very hard, you can find popular sites on both left and right without a single contrarian position in their blogrolls.

There's nothing wrong with this, really. A blogroll is part of the blogger's content, and a blogger is no more obligated to put up a balanced list than to put up unopinionated commentary. But it is cocooning, it is very widespread, and it is pretty much equal on left and right. It really just reflects a natural tendency - reading opinions that confirm the rightness of our views tends to be more enjoyable than reading things which attack them, regardless of what those views are.

One of the important ways that the tendency to cocoon in blogs is counteracted is by linking. I sometimes read conservative blogs specifically to look for interesting articles that I can criticize or react to. I always link to bloggers and posts or articles that I'm criticizing. You don't have to take my word for what somebody says, you can check out the site yourself and see if I'm characterizing their positions fairly. That's a central part of blog debates, so I'm much more bothered by this post, which implicitly criticizes several bloggers without linking to them, than by Jim's boycott of LGF. Den Beste says:

When I took a look at what sites were actually listed there, most of the ones I recognized are best described as "the usual suspects", and there was a clear ideological similarity to them. Any site which links approvingly to Warblogger Watch, This Modern World, Ted Barlow, Tapped, Sullywatch, Shadow of the Hegemon, Smirking Chimp, Media Whores, Eschaton, and Counterspin Central is applying a distinct filter to the choices. (Which is RR's privilege, of course.) I also found links to Brian Linse, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (and Teresa), and Avedon Carol, none of which do I consider extremist voices.

Den Beste's phrasing implies, without quite saying, that the earlier group of blogs and sites he lists, are 'extremist voices'. Some of those sites are unabashed take-no-prisoners lefties, but that's a pretty strange characterization of Ted Barlow or Tapped. If Den Beste is going to make it or suggest it, he should provide the links so his readers (many of whom probably don't read a lot of liberal sites) can judge on their own.

Incidentally, with all this commentary on Rittenhouse Review's boycott, one site that may not be taking it seriously is RR. It took about two minutes going through links to find a blog still linked by RR which links over to LGF.