Dizzy with success?

Last night I spent a bit of time browsing some of the popular American blogs and began to wonder if they aren’t losing the plot.

Having seen their audiences rise during the heated debates over Iraq they seem to have drawn the conclusion that they way to attract attention/links/readers is by competing with each other over who can be the most patriotic/anti-European/anti-liberal/anti-rest-of-world etc.

Take these two comments from Andrew Sullivan of late:

“There’s no real free speech in Britain” and “The Islamist-European alliance is absolutely predictable”

How does he expect to be taken seriously outside of wacko right-wing American circles with comments as stupid as those? But maybe that is the point, maybe Sullivan is perfectly happy with his audience and is content to feed it more of what it wants to hear.

Then there is the National Review, whose online blog talks about ‘Pakis’ and considers hackneyed racial stereotypes of Jews and Blacks to be an ideal vehicle for a bit of homophobic Democrat-bashing.

Jeff Jarvis describes an American Newsweek journalist in London who wrote this article for the Observer as a “cultural traitor” because he is mildly critical of US foreign policy.

These people are traitors to their people. I don’t mean political, legal, military traitors. I mean cultural traitors. They take sport in denying their own. They think it makes them cool. Self-hating Americans.

If that’s scary talk, how can you not wonder about the behaviour described in this New Yorker article of one libertarian blogger’s obsession with Paul Krugman?

And of course we recently had Mark Steyn’s Jean Marie Le Pen-style rant about the Muslim immigration threat to Europe, which was lapped up by the right-wing US bloggers.

In general there is very little consideration of the complexities of the relationship between Europe and America, an unwillingness to seriously engage in the arguments of critics or doubters. It’s all granstanding, point-scoring, playing to the gallery stuff. It is, on the whole, totally tedious.

But I’m not sure this is really a right/left thing. British right of centre blogs, such as Plastic Gangster and Free Democrat, manage to discuss political issues without the need for ludicrious exaggeration and hyperbole.

I think Dr.Frank hit the nail on the head recently:

The blogosphere rewards hyperbole. Strongly worded, over the top denunciations get far more attention (links, trackbacks, little digital pats on the head from celebribloggers, commenters saying “you go girl” or the like) than temperate criticism.

If you’re a blogger in search of more traffic, you know what you have to do. Even when you’re not really angling for attention, this dynamic is always in play in the blogospheric ecology: your over-the-top, hyperbolic posts will get linked a lot, while your measured, reasoned, temperate ones probably won’t.

There are so many right-wing American bloggers that they are shouting at the top of their voices to be heard over the rabble.

I hope Dr.Frank’s theory is right and this is just a blog problem. After all the alternative is that Republicans supporters really are as reactionary as they sound over the Internet.

(National Review links via Crooked Timber)