More Cognitive Dissonance at MyDD

Chris Bowers – June 2006:

Stop thinking that the best way for progressive activists to help the progressive movement is for those activists to live in poverty. You can’t do your best work when you struggle to pay your bills. When it comes to blogging, you can’t do your best work on a dial-up modem in a studio apartment, a ten-year-old computer chair and a five-year-old cell phone. If you want to keep the best and most effective progressive activists in the field of activism rather than the private sector, don’t tell them they need to live like monks.

Chris Bowers – April 2007:

In one of my very first major posts on MyDD–a post which I paid $25 to write at a Kinkos in Modesto, California as there was no other way for me to get online–I posited the political blogosphere as the avant-garde of political and opinion journalism. Considering that it is now quite old in blogosphere terms, and the conditions under which I wrote it, I am surprised at how well it still stands up. Here is an excerpt (emphasis in original):

While the poetic and artistic avant-garde sought to relocate the primary purpose of art away from the aesthetic function, I had a very difficult time figuring out what the Blogosphere sought to do differently than the Political Opinion Complex. However, at long last I think I have it.

While the corporate funded Political Opinion Complex seeks to distribute information primarily for the purpose of consumption, the primary goal of the Blogosphere is to distribute political information for the purpose of agitation / direct action. The POC only wants you to consume what it produces. The Blogosphere seeks for its consumer to act after, or even as a result of, consumption of its product. To put it another way, The Blogosphere is a counter-institutional formation that seeks to relocate the primary purpose of political and opinion journalism in agitation toward action rather than in profit-based consumption.

Three years later, I no longer agree with some of the specifics of that formulation, but I still subscribe to the general sentiment (for example, I wrote something similar in an article for the BBC last October).

I’ll skip over the lame ‘vanguard’ trope, which was fresh back in 1902.

It reminds me of all my artist and writer friends who are frustrated that they can’t make a living doing their art. But they, at least, lack the arrogance to presume that they are owed a living.

And I’ll suggest to Chris that he flat misses the point of the modern political & advertising message machine – it is exactly to get people to act. What’s different about the Internet is that the space for action and nature of the action desired changes, and the expectation is that because you’re a customer, you’re also a part of my marketing team.

Now, one of the things I do is to help companies do this. It’s rapidly becoming a platitude among people who are knowledgeable in marketing.

The difference between Chris and I is that I acknowledge that it’s a living – an interesting and lucrative one – and he purports that what he’s doing is, in essence, art.

Bowers’ defense will doubtless be that his ’cause’ differentiates us.

Riiiiight.

I’ve got a ’cause’ for Chris. It’s defending the ideal of America against a faux political avant-garde that’s in it for the money. You’re no different than James Carville – except that he’s won some elections, he gets paid more, and he’s a better writer.

8 thoughts on “More Cognitive Dissonance at MyDD”

  1. I acknowledge that it’s a living – an interesting and lucrative one – and he purports that what he’s doing is, in essence, art.

    Perhaps he’s said that elsewhere, but it’s nowhere to be found in what you’ve cited. Rather, he argues that the blogosphere differs from MSM in the engagement of the viewer in the subject (or, rather, the elimination of that distinction between viewer and subject).

  2. jpe – with all respect, all modern interactive media does that. How is that news? And how does it contain the basis for a political avant-garde which purported to serve the same function as a cultural one(click through and read the whole piece)??

    A.L.

  3. Well, he’s like an avant garde artist to the extent he is enamored of his own flatulence. That and the fact that most of what he makes is ugly.

  4. Why does the left obsess so with kooky labels for things? “Political Opinion Complex” Who thinks/talks like that? It seems like there is a label for everything, and odly enough, that label can mean something different for each person who applies it.

    Is that what “Speaking Truth to Power” means?

  5. It’s not art, but it has a Rocky Horror kind of thing going.

    Pompous formulaic Leftist, please:

    The Blogosphere is a counter-institutional formation that seeks to relocate the primary purpose of political and opinion journalism in agitation toward action rather than in profit-based consumption.

    Thank you.

  6. So, I’m right. I’m used to that, boys. I’d appreciate a more forthright admission of error, but beggars etc.

  7. And how does it contain the basis for a political avant-garde which purported to serve the same function as a cultural one(click through and read the whole piece)??

    You’re kidding, right? Bowers’s point (and by the by: I don’t like MyDD, myself, for the same reasons the riff raff above don’t, it seems) is that the formal innovation of avant art is applied to politics via blogs and yields a similar structural change as what we saw as a result of avant art.

    Not. that. complicated.

  8. jpe – um, no – I don’t agree.

    Bower’s point is that avant art’s relationship to art (or culture more broadly) is conguent to the relationship between the blog and traditional politics. That’s factually wrong and fallacious, because it ignores the fact that politics is deeply embedded in the cultural norms of marketing – i.e. our politics is virtually indistinguishable from our commerce – and that commerce is actually leading the way in adopting blogs and the tools of interactivity.

    But it’s cooler to think of yourself as an avant-garde artist (or member of a vanguard political party) than to think of yourself as a marketeer, I guess.

    A.L.

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