This Is Cool In Several Ways

Here’s a picture of the political blogverse, from PresidentialWatch08:


PW08a.JPG

First just as a very nice bit of data visualization. I’ve been looking into that more than a little lately, and suggest the Flowing Data blog as a good gateway.

Now let’s see how we look in it:


PW08b.JPG

First, it’s neat that we made the cut at all; it’s nice to think that we’re part of the conversation. But it’s also kinda neat that we have a fairly extensive set of links over to the blue – liberal – blogs, as well as the red – conservative – ones. Again, it’s about the conversation.

Presidential Watch appears to be one of a crop of interesting blog aggregators springing up. I’ll do a piece on them in the near future.

20 thoughts on “This Is Cool In Several Ways”

  1. Definitely an interesting way to map out the blogosphere, as it were.

    A few things I found noteworthy…

    – Huckabee’s site is buried much further to the left than you’d expect, implying that it was linking to a lot of liberal sites (and being linked to from them), but being more-or-less ignored by most of the right-wing sites. That implies that he was basically outside the conversation on the right, but got a lot of the left worked up…

    – The left seems to have relatively few “infopit” sites, which is what I’m assuming they’re designating sites that mostly produce their own content rather than linking to other people’s and discussing that. Some of them are actual commercial news sites (LA Times, heh), and a few of them are right out of the fever swamp (DU). By contrast, there’s a relatively larger number of the same on the Republican side. Then again, if you look at it another way, an awful lot of the “non-aligned” infopit sites are not exactly bastions of nonpartisanship (hello, CBS, we’re looking at you!)

    – They tabulate the Corner separately from the main National Review site… makes sense, in a way, given that the one’s a link pit and the other one’s articles.

    – Instapundit’s much smaller on this thing than you’d expect. I guess it doesn’t get linked to on anything like the scale that it links to other things…

  2. I think a flaw in this is that by choosing who links to whom you really dont get a good representation of the sites content. How the the AP or Reuters or NPR get stuck right in the center, when clearly all 3 of those organizations are far left. Who is making the decision about left vs right?

  3. gabriel,

    _How the the AP or Reuters or NPR get stuck right in the center, when clearly all 3 of those organizations are far left._

    That depends upon one’s perspective, doesn’t it? While they may be to the left of you, they are to the right of me. Wouldn’t that put them in the center?

    I do agree with you that using linked sites could be a very misleading criterion for determining political positions, unless the context is considered. For example, much of the time when WoC links to a liberal site the purpose is merely to to disparage and mock the perceived outlandish opinions found there, a kind of “there they go again” attitude. While that’s perfectly all right, it’s hardly an indication of centrist positions or open-minded discussion but rather of selecting the weakest arguments on the other side in order to reinforce the belief in the superiority of one’s own. It would be nice someday to see the gang go after the stronger arguments of the other side.

  4. “That depends upon one’s perspective, doesn’t it? While they may be to the left of you, they are to the right of me. Wouldn’t that put them in the center?”

    Not necessarily. Depends where you and I are standing. That isn’t really a useful and concrete measurement though.

    Who links to NPR is no indication of where they stand, as you yourself admit. Linking in itself means nothing. I linked to NPR recently in a post attacking something I saw as a particularly egregious bias.

    Let’s talk about things that aren’t subjective. I would claim NPR is on the left based on the following facts and provable conjectures:

    a) The majority of its employees vote Democratic.
    b) Of donations made to political parties by employees of NPR, the majority goes to the Democratic party.
    c) Of the time spent serving as volunteers and staffers to campaigns by employees of NPR, the majority was spent serving Democratic candidates.
    d) The largest private donors to NPR are foundations which consistantly support left wing causes and endow left wing organizations – Pew Charitable Trust, MacArthur Foundation, George Soros foundation.
    e) The listenership to NPR is majority Democratic voters.
    f) On touchstone liberal policies – support for abortion, support for gay rights, etc. – the personal opinions of employees of NPR are to the left of the general American public.
    g) By self-identification, the majority of employees of NPR identify themselves as liberals.

    I don’t have anything at my finger tips right now, but surveys conducted of the political activities of journalists in the AP, Reuters and other large journalistic organizations reveal the same trends.

  5. Celebrim,

    _Not necessarily. Depends where you and I are standing._

    Hmmmm, now explain to me how “depends on where you and I are standing” is different from what I said: “depend’s upon one’s persepective.” (other than my use of an impersonal pronoun.)

    _Who links to NPR is no indication of where they stand, as you yourself admit._

    Odd that you would describe that as an “admission” on my part.

    But to get to the heart of your post, the association of NPR with the Democratic Party, I think you make my point for me quite well. The Democratic Party IS the center, politically. As a centrist party, they operate to the left of the Republican Party, but that doesn’t put them necessarily ON the left. After all, vastly more Americans voted in the Democratic primaries than in the Republican primaries. More American’s voted for Democratic senators than Republican senators in the last 4 or 5 elections (states with larger populations tend to vote Democrat). I would call that a mainstream, centrist party. Now, if you were arguing that NPR is on the left because it’s employees all voted for socialists candidates or green party candidates or even candidates on the extreme left wing of the Democratic party, you’d have made a stronger case.

    It seems that your gauge has only a right side and a left side, whereas I would say that the widest part of the range is correctly called the center.

  6. Hmmmm, now explain to me how “depends on where you and I are standing” is different from what I said: “depend’s upon one’s persepective.”

    Let’s say you are a neo-Trotskyite and I’m a hard core militant Marxist revolutionary that thinks Stalin and Che were right wing pansies. If you and me get together and say, “NPR holds positions which are between you and I, hense it must be centrist”, then you and I are engaging in a great deal of self-deception. They may be to the right of me and the left of you, but it doesn’t put them in the center. We are both (comicly in this example) on the far Left, and if we tend to agree with something most of the time its probably also on the far Left.

    If NPR is to the right of you and the left of me, it proves nothing unless we are both quite sure of where our beliefs place us with respect to the national average.

    But to get to the heart of your post, the association of NPR with the Democratic Party, I think you make my point for me quite well. The Democratic Party IS the center, politically.

    Now I think you are making my point for me quite well.

    For better or worse, the US is very nearly a two party system. In national elections, the candidates of the two parties split the votes in half to within a couple of percentage points – and sometimes not that. Majorities in in the national legislature are seldom held by more than a few percentage points. Third parties – the Green and Socialists on the left and the Constitutionalists and Libertarians on the right – make up an insignificant percentage of the votes. So its perfectly fair I think to claim that within a few percentage points the Democratic party represents ‘the Left’ in this country, and the Republican party represents ‘the Right’. Granted, within that spectrum on both sides there is a broad range of opinion, some of which is not easily squeezed into a single liberal to conservative continuum, but its still fairly safe to claim that the Democratic party draws support from a range that starts near the radical fringe Left and continues to the Center Left, while the GOP draws its support from a range that begins at the radical fringe Right and continues to the Center Right with the leadership of both parties gravitating toward the center except in highly partisan areas (Utah on the right, San Francisco on the left, for example.)

    The point being that if 97% of journalists survey identify themselves with the Democratic party, its pretty safe to assume that journalists are to the left of the national average. When say 75% of Americans oppose gay marriage, and 90% of journalists say that they support it, then it is fair to say that journalists as a whole don’t hold mainstream opinions on that subject. And so forth.

  7. Did anybody figure out how the site identified liberal versus conservative? The fact that Huckabee is conservative with primary links to the left suggest that linking is not the determinative factor. I don’t think I would consider this a conservative site, nor Andrew Sullivan a liberal. But it looks like an effort was made to avoid the independent label.

    When I tried to find out on the site, I noticed that the term “progressive” had been used initially instead of liberal. I can see Winds being considered less “progressive,” if that means anti-war and anti-guns.

  8. celebrim,

    well that’s one way of looking at it, I suppose, but it doesn’t seem very useful to me. In your taxonomy, the Democrats are on the left, which puts people like Jim Webb, Joe Bidden and Joel Lieberman, who are clearly mainstream centrists, on the left. You are basically just denying the existence of a center, which I believe most people inhabit. It seems much more useful to me to have a third broad category, than simply two. For example, to use your — very oddly chosen — example, some people (30%) favor gay marriage; some people are just outright opposed to any recognition of gays (perhaps 20 to 25%)….but most people are in the center: they believe gays should be able to form some sort of equivalent union, they just wouldn’t call it marriage. This is the position of most democrats; it is the position of the democratic candidate for president. He’s not on the left. He’s in the center. That’s just an example,however, it isn’t meant to be a defining feature. How you feel about gay marriage is more of an emotional and moral indication, I would argue, rather than a political one.

    I think most journalists’ own opinions fall comfortably within the broad center of american political ideologies. But individual opinions don’t necessarily reflect the general orientation of a blog, the subject under discussion. People who go into the news business generally are capable of trying to put out a product that appeals to the widest possible market and are capable of trying to present a reasonably neutral picture within the overall context of the US market place for news consumption. What I mean to say by that is while NPR to you is leftwing, and to me a centrist station, it would seem rather rightwing to many western europeans. So, I go back to my original statement. It all depends upon one’s perspective. If you want to establish an objective mean, and limit that to the US population, I suspect you would find that much of what you call the left, falls squarely on the mean.

  9. #4

    “I would claim NPR is on the left based on the following facts and provable conjectures.”

    Is this supposed to count against them? In my book you’d have to be a bit off-balanced to want to support the Republicans after the last 8 years of havoc they’ve unleashed upon the world. After all, George W. Bush is a Republican and a rightie.

    If you’ve got a brain in your head by now you’ll have realized that most politicians, but especially Republicans, are only in it to help the rich get much richer while keeping the rest of us to fend for the meager morsels or suffer from the environmentally damaging and toxic crap they’ve been selling us all these years.

    And furthermore, if your implication is that this alleged bias is somehow damaging to the political process (and if so, it would be more damaging to Rightwing causes and Republicans of course) then how the hell do you explain the success of the Right in taking over the government and stocking the courts with their fringe ideological compatriots for the better part of the last decade?

    Real important observations, there, celebrim. Earth shattering really in their clarity.

  10. “In your taxonomy, the Democrats are on the left, which puts people like Jim Webb, Joe Bidden and Joel Lieberman, who are clearly mainstream centrists, on the left.”

    I very much deny that Joe Lieberman is a ‘mainstream centrist’. Lieberman is a reliably left wing vote, in fact considerably to the left of the majority of the Democratic party on most issues. Just check out his voting record on any website that tracks that sort of thing.

    No, Lieberman departs from the far left significantly only on one single devisive issue – support for the war in Iraq. Leiberman is a liberal hawk, but he’s no centrist. He’s an eclectic with position on both domestic policy and at least at present, the war in Iraq, which depart from the majority position.

    But I would accept calling Lieberman’s eclectic stance ‘moderate’ and centrist far sooner than I would calling Biden a particularly centrist candidate. Biden is a liberal. If you want to list moderates in the Senate, look for Dems in Red states and GOP in Blue states – names like Mark Pyror, Ken Salazar, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Max Baucus comes to mind. Holding a six year term tends to insulate you from the need to hold to a more centrist platform. You’d probably be better off culling your list of moderates from the House.

    I suggest you check out a site like “On The Issues”:http://senate.ontheissues.org/Senate/Senate.htm if you want a qualitative and quanitative break down of various politicians according to thier views.

    I don’t at all deny the existance of the center. I’m just saying that figuring out what the center is isn’t easy to do for an individual. The tendancy is to look left and see someone and look right and see someone and imagine yourself in the middle. And, I’m also saying that even the center can be split into slightly to the left and slightly to the right of center.

  11. The members and viewpoints of the two major parties create a sort of Venn diagram. By definition, the center is a region that will include members of both parties. If an organization is dominated by one party, it simply is not centrist. Not being centrist doesn’t mean that it is immoderate – they can be on the left without necessarily being leftist – but by not including the views of roughly half the population they simply can’t be considered at the center.

    And of course, all of the left/center/right labels imply a context. In this case the context is the American political spectrum.

  12. _If an organization is dominated by one party, it simply is not centrist. _

    That very much depends upon what you are calling an organization, and to what extent that organization is governed in a democratic fashion.
    I am arguing that the left wing and the right wing are both extensions of an integrated, functioning body called the center, and that, in this particular case, if the majority of Americans, or the majority of voters, chose a particular party, that party is in the center, not out on a wing.

    Celebrim has suggested that NPR is leftist because he identifies it with the democratic party. I’m saying that that doesn’t make it leftist, unless you consider that the majority of Americans are leftist. While they are to the left of him, I am arguing that doesn’t make them leftist. I am arguing that the because the center is to the left of him, he is mistaking the center for the left.

    There is a center and it encompasses the views of most people. How people vote is probably the best indication of the what is the political center, aka the mainstream. The democratic party is clearly a mainstream party and if NPR is associated with the democratic party to the extent that Celebrim claims, that is simply an indication that NPR is a part of the mainstream. NPR is under no obligation to promote Celebrim’s belief system and that it doesn’t shouldn’t be used as a critical mark against them, assuming that they do fall within the broad outlines of America’s mainstream. And I think Celeberim has amply demonstrated that they do fall within America’s mainstream.

    To put it another way, Obama and McCain’s views are much closer to each other than either’s are to the extreme wings of their respective parties’.
    In an honest taxonomy of ideology, they would belong in the same genera. Too often, in my opinion, they are incorrectly lumped in with whole different families or orders on the fringes of their party.

  13. mark: If you draw the circle big enough, everyone will fall in it.

    So what?

    The point is if you drew a circle big enough that NPR fell in it, would it be a representative sample of the circle? That is to say, does NPR politically ‘look like America’? No, it wouldn’t. No, it doesn’t.

    “I am arguing that the left wing and the right wing are both extensions of an integrated, functioning body called the center, and that, in this particular case, if the majority of Americans, or the majority of voters, chose a particular party, that party is in the center, not out on a wing.”

    What a load of self-contridictory nonsense. So now you are arguing that the left wing is not out on a wing? This is a definition which is utterly useless. The left wing may well be an integrated function part of the body politic, but its still the left wing. Even if we make the definition of ‘mainstream’ so broad as to include both Jon Kyle and Bernie Sanders, that doesn’t mean an organization which heavily favors either one is somehow centrist. Before you could possibly claim NPR is centrist merely by the fact of being ‘mainstream’, it would have to be the sort of organization that is representative of all the disparate points of belief in that ‘mainstream’ rather than heavily biased to one side.

    The fact is that roughly half of all Americans – give or take a couple of percentage points in any year – choose to vote for the Democrats. That half that votes Democratic roughly corresponds to ‘the Left’. NPR is solidly in this half, as – if there staff follows the trends established by surveys of other journalists – it probably is roughly 97% Democratic.

  14. _So now you are arguing that the left wing is not out on a wing?_
    no, celebrim, you completely mistook my meaning. i am saying the opposite. i am saying that the wings are an extension of the body….not the body itself,, which is the bulk and is in the center, the main part. you only see left or right….black and white… all or nothing….to me there is a huge center that is neither one nor the other but a polyglot mixture that is not easily labeled or understood. i’m not in favor of simplifying things to a near-meaningless extent. the mainstream is, by definition, the huge middle, with all its contradictions, messiness and fluidity. I think most americans are comfortable with the idea that while we may have minor differences, most of us share pretty much the same values and ideas. I mean, for goodness sakes, we are down to arguing whether or not we should tax income over 200,000 a year at 31% or 38%. There’s not a lot of us suggesting it be 5% or 85%. Most of us are arguing over whether we should call a gay couple married or in a civil union, whether we should withdraw from Iraq over 18 months or 36 months. NPR falls squarely within the national dialogue on various political and social issues, it’s not _Liberation_ circa 1972. The democratic party represents about half the US voting public. you’re trying to make it out as some leftist organization and it just isn’t; it’s an _extremely_ popular party among Americans. Call it leftist and you are calling the US leftist, which is clearly absurd.

  15. mark:

    Do you consider Fox News to be centrist too? After all, the Republican party is also a mainstream party.

    If so, then I take your argument to be (roughly) anything within 1 std dev of the mean is in the center, and I would agree that NPR and Fox News qualify as centrist organizations, in that neither are outside of the mainstream of popular opinion, even though the two organizations clearly have different editorial viewpoints.

    But if your argument is that Democrats are the majority party so the mainstream of the Democratic part is equal to the center, with the corollary that all Republicans are outside of center to the right, well, that’s kind of a crazy argument.

  16. _”There’s not a lot of us suggesting it be 5% or 85%. “_

    MMMmmm, i think there is a presidential contender that is ready to push it up past 60% when you include dropping the social security top out.

    I agree with what mark is saying, generally, but i also think Obama is a great deal more extreme than he is portraying himself to be. His very limited portfolio of votes supports this, as do his campaign proposals if you tally them up. All of Obama’s tax hikes he supports would by far result in the largest increase in American history, and all of his spending would by far expand the government in the largest amount since the New Deal. And NPR et al _is_ likely to support all this rabidly.

    I think it might be more accurate to say that _politically_ we are arguing over a pretty small tract of policy. _Idealogically_ things are quite different. If each ‘side’ could have its druthers, the Left would change America quite a bit more radically than the Right.. which admittedly is fairly predictable when one side is called ‘Conservative’ to begin with. But i do think its important to make that distinction- if Dems control all branches of government in 3 or 4 years, it wont be nibbling around the edges in play by any means.

  17. SG, I’m not familiar enough with Fox news to make a judgement. But since it is the most widely viewed cable news network, I would have to assume it is pretty mainstream by definition. I don’t think most of the Republican party falls outside of the center. As with the Dems, the more extreme elements do, but not, I would think, the majority of it. The difference in views between a moderate democrat and a moderate republican are pretty slight, if you ask me, especially given the actual and possible range.

  18. mark: You wrote…

    “And of course, all of the left/center/right labels imply a context. In this case the context is the American political spectrum.”

    I see no reason to contridict that. You are quite right to assert that the American political spectrum is, on the whole, a fairly narrow place. Two party systems have many defects, but they do have the virtue of encouraging moderation.

    But, nonetheless, within that spectrum there is a left and a right, and they have some pretty clear differences.

  19. mark:

    Fair enough. I think you lose some useful precision by lumping center-left and center-right as both being the center, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to consider positions within some delta (in any direction) of the center as being centrist.

    Out of curiosity, where do you believe the center ends? Would you agree that Reply

  20. Hmm…I don’t know what happened there (perhaps the link got screwed up). The last paragraph should read:

    Out of curiosity, where do you believe the center ends? Would you agree that Radio Pacifica is leftist?

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