Re: Blogging Beyond the Men's Club by Steven Levy, Senior Editor, Newsweek. National Review Online has published commentary on Levy's article: Heather Mac Donald on Diversity & Blogosphere. A related discussion thread, Diversity Mongers Target the Web, on American Renaissance is also of interest.
Steven Levy is worried about the "blogoshpere" being "dominated by white males." He thinks it has a "diversity problem." I am a white male blogger and I want to comment on Levy's article, but I'll begin with a digression.
My experiences with alternative media go way back. The early '60s equivalent of a blog was a mimeograph machine. I and a few high school buddies bought one and for a year or two we published "The Intellectual Informer." We wrote about all kinds of things -- the John Birch Society, the Socialist Worker's Party (we did a phone interview with their presidential candidate Clifton DeBerry), Civil Rights, Ayn Rand.
A guy from Kansas named Laird M. Wilcox ran a subscription agency through which all kinds of political material could be ordered. I subscribed to The Militant, The Moscow News, The Weekly People, The Manchester Guardian Weekly, The New Republic and a few others while my friend read Human Events, Fact, National Review, Monocle, etc. You could get pro-Civil Rights publications from well-known groups like the NAACP or the ADL and you could also get obscure mimeographed publications. You could get racist or even Nazi material if you wanted.
The funny thing is, absolutely no one back then took the "extra care . . . required to make sure public discussion reflects the actual population." Really, no one! And still there was a Civil Rights movement in that decade as well as a powerful antiwar movement. If the U.S.A. had rescinded the First Amendment back then and enforced the proportionalist doctrines embraced by the likes of Steven Levy, I wonder how things would have turned out. Certainly, the "silent majority" would have been empowered. We would now be seeing TV ads for vacations in Lyndon Johnson City (formerly known as Hanoi), and people like me would look back with great nostalgia at the Disco years, when Humphrey was president. I'm not entirely kidding -- sometimes that sort of thing really works. There was no freedom of the press during the administration of Abraham Lincoln and he is still regarded by many people as one of the great American presidents.
The idea that anyone needs to "make sure public discussion reflects the actual population" is profoundly contrary to the concept of freedom of expression. In a free society, if you have something to say, then say it. If you can get people to listen, well, good for you. It is not anyone's job to regulate that process.
Levy's article begins with an account of "a recent Harvard conference on bloggers and the media." He quotes Keith Jenkins, the photo editor of The Washington Post Magazine: "My fear is that the overwhelmingly white and male American blogosphere ... will return us to a day where the dialogue about issues was a predominantly white-only one." (Pretty scary! ;) ) Jenkins is an African-American and also a blogger.
I doubt that the world of blogs is as white-male dominated as Levy would have us believe. He bases his conclusion on the "top 100" web logs as reported on the web site Technorati. But the Technorati list is based on links, not on readership. No doubt, there are numerous highly popular blogs that don't show up on that list. And, rather obviously, Levy has no way of knowing the precise racial or gender characteristics of all the participants in the top blogs.
One reason I blog is because I enjoy taking verbal potshots at stupid things said by people well ensconced in establishment media and academia. To explain the domination of white in blog land that makes Levy feel afraid, he quotes conference attendee Halley Suitt: "It's white people linking to other white people!" (Yikes, and on the Internet, too!!)
The funny thing is, the solution is right there on Levy's computer monitor. He mentions the blogs of Jenkins, Suitt and attendee Rebecca MacKinnon, but he does not link to them! I looked for the Jenkins one. I found some kind of Washington Post forum page where Jenkins is answering questions, but there was no e-mail address nor was there any link to a blog. Oh, well, if people do their darndest to be invisible, they can't complain when no one sees them!
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