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Jun 12, 2006

YearlyKos: Susan, Mike And The Rest Of Us Oddballs


I can't say how many NYT articles fail to make it into the on-line edition.  One that didn't was Sunday's piece about YearlyKos by Adam Nagourney ("Politicians Embrace Bloggers, Not Personal Attacks").  Sort of strange, too, since the subject matter was of natural interest to an on-line readership.

The article focused on the participation of leading Democrats in the conference, and how they are learning to embrace the 'sphere.  I was interested, however, in the article's lead photo (covering a generous three columns).  The caption read: "Susan Miller and Mike Smith blogged after Howard Dean's speech yesterday at a Las Vegas hotel."

Giving The Times the benefit of the doubt, it's possible the analogy, and frame of reference here is the reporter on deadline, filing a story from whatever nook is available.  Although, it's just as easy to imagine more backhanded inferences.  (This is especially true if you examine another rinky-dink photo -- note the emphasis on the black socks and shorts --  from Nagourney's write-up on Saturday.)

Having spent the weekend joyfully celebrating my son's Bar Mitzvah, I was unable to attend -- or participate in a YK panel on art and politics.  Still, I have been reading and watching video of YearlyKos.  With the obvious excitement, energy and personal connection that characterized the event, this pic is just plain weird.

Playing the "first word that comes to your mind" game, The BAG finds the shot: dark, cheap, empty, lonely, anonymous, decrepit, alien and adolescent.  Above all, it convey the complete opposite of what the Vegas happening and the 'blogosphere richly offer.

That's not to say the photo isn't instructive, however.  To the extent the 'sphere is a particularly warm and creative place for us, this pic serves as a reminder that a whole lot more people out there don't understand it, are threatened and/or envious of it, and see us as oddballs.

(image: Rick Scibelli Jr. for The New York Times.  Las Vegas.  June 11, 2006.  p. A29)


This is just a very, very cheap shot. It doesn't relate to anything about YK, blogging or bloggers. Done on purpose.

First they ignore you
then they laugh at you
then they fight you
then you win

I believe Gandhi said that. I think we've entered the "laugh at you" stage. Get ready to fight.

Oh, look. It's the fat outcast nerds sitting by themselves at lunch because they're losers who don't get to sit at the cool table. They're distant, alone, isolated, small and insignificant outsiders.

It wouldn't have taken more than a few seconds to crop the photo so you didn't see more wall than person. How many photos of a crowded event did they pass up for this photo instead? This is so deliberate, it's not even funny.

It reminds me of a Coen Brothers film - was it "Barton Fink"? It's a far cry from the glamorous hotels and beautiful people we're supposed to associate with Las Vegas. Certainly done deliberately; it screams "Losers!"

(Great quote, itwasntme.)

First Word Associaton:

Shining (King Horror movie)

I didn't look at your list until after I made mine—as soon as I read the sentence lead in, I played, too.

Also, think of how close the photographer could have moved. Think of the many, many computers being used in all the different areas of this convention.

You could choose to shoot the side of someone's smiling face as they blogged into a sweet-looking laptop, blurry activity and warm faces in the BG. This would connect energy, action, people and computers. A more accurate synthesis, perhaps, of what makes this whole event exciting. But no. And this is what people have to think of when seeing these shots (aside from all of us who know already). What the choice that brought us this shot excluded or what feel was purposely not opted for. That is what media is about. Very consciously choosing one angle and naming it Reality.

This choice of shot brings us isolated loners sitting in strange hallway with machines on their laps and trash on the floor.

The New York Times thinks that real reporters are like Judy Miller: sitting at the St Regis with a perfect cup of coffee and a dishload of baloney served hot and steamy.

They fear the truth.

They can't control hordes of independent, intelligent, questioning writers, so the last thing they'll do is show them in a professional light.

There was a media room at YKos. There were panels and tables and spotlights and bloggers wearing jackets, in front of the microphones, getting attention as well as drawing it to the issues of the day. Very professional.

So, Ad Nags and his kept photographer show us an empty hallway with a couple of shut-out losers... looking like street beggers if it wasn't for the laptops. All it needs is a cardboard sign "will blog for food" to go with the paper cup.

Propaganda must be repeated to be effective. Look for more of this as the MSM realizes its irrelevancy.

How many people did they lay off, anyway?

Call a spade a spade! There are some geeks in the blogosphere.

Physically planted in an institutional corridor, obviously not Power's. Oblivious to their surroundings, obsessed.

Yeah, echos of Barton Fink in the hotel hallways and typing machines. Also David Lynch, David Byrne, Reefer Madness for a new century.

Nagourney has a dog or two in this fight already. His name dot com loads a highly unflattering spoof "Personal Diary". He was a principal in an act of public retaliation by the NY Times toward a private individual because of an email.

The two people pictured in that hallway have a direct, personal, two-way connection to their news source in that captured moment. Messrs Nagourney and Scibelli can only connect to their audience after submitting their contributions for review, processing the results with millions of $$ of capital equipment (a factory that mass produces inked paper), and employing an army of low wage night workers to hand deliver the finished product. One-way.

As mentioned above, they could have seen Sharper Image™, chose to see Bedlam.

Please give me your thoughts on this photo from this morning of Bartlett and Tony Snow flying in helicopter in Iraq for Bush visit.....

The picture has me ROTFLMAO

"Awkward" is what this picture says. Outside the door, where presumably a room full of vibrant and talkative people are schmoozing and dancing, are these two thinkers on their computers.

Or maybe it's just a stairwell.

In any case, while blogs may be rightuflly claiming some ground in the publications wars they are still "outside" the mainstream. Regardless of whether a blogger's ideology is mainstream or not, blogs themselves are still less popular than frivolities like MySpace and the like. I do think the editors could have sought pictures that do more to "mainstream" the convention, like Neza suggested. Who knows: maybe shorts and black socks will be all the rage with the next generation of young radicals?

There is also an aspect of "outsiderness" about how these two people are sitting on a floor outside a door that leads to...maybe, a meeting they weren't signed up for? It projects the propaganda of the MSM that bloggers are "outside" the mainstream. Judging by the language found on many blogs from Posts and responses, I would say that bogging is very much a common, and I mean that in the most basic sense of the word, activity performed by very common people....very democratic, as a matter of fact...a microcosm of the entire country, for better, or for worse.

And, by the way, some folks are overweight, and some aren't. Can we just stop picking on plump folks for their body type, or others for their taste in clothing? It seems so bigoted to me.

No, I think they are passed, just passed, but passed, the "laugh" stage. I seem them at the beginning of the "fight" stage. The coverage has gone from "hey look at this dumb new thing" to a more sarcastic tone. They are getting concerned. And mostly, I suspect, because for all their sniping at 'new media types' the marketing and corp bigshots in the MSM's HQs are sending all kinds of alarms regarding 'old media' type business models.

You may eventually be able to get video of the panel you missed from Link TV. They got a lot of video at YearlyKos that isn't online yet.

Link TV clips are here:

Longer segments with better video controls are posted here:

Last I checked, CIA Leak panel and Barbara Boxer were on the front page at Fora TV.

Sorry, itwasntme, but it looks like we are in the fight mode already, and I have my doubts that we will win. There is already a legislative process going on to 'decide' who will own the internet, and it looks like the sale has been made. When the big corporations take over, the black-sox bloggers will be standing in line helplessly trying to get their message across.

Remember when the right-wing press thought the internet was just too cute? Back when drudge was feeding them all that juicy gossip? Then Dr. Dean showed them what the bloggers could do. They stopped laughing then. And now that the left is learning how to use it, well, the left might actually be effective. They gotta control that! That's what the fight is all about. Congress will put us in our place, and the right-wing press will ridicule us until then.

Would they be Susan Miller, the gay rights activist, and Michael Smith, UK defense writer? Or just some fat losers sitting on the floor? And which makes a better story?

When I saw the infamous black sox photo my first thought was "of course -- the NYTimes has used the least fashion-conscious photo it could find to typify bloggers." My second thought was: And I've just bought into the whole awfulness of this meme, lock, stock and barrel.

What is all this "loser" and "fat" and "loner" commentary we here, us, ourselves, are tossing around in these comments? Susan and Mike are us, and my stomach turns at the notion of our turning on ourselves so easily.

We need to make a genuine effort to be the change we wish to see in the world. And the change in the world I don't wish to see is everybody looking and acting like Paris Hilton.

Call a spade a spade! There are some geeks in the blogosphere.
Posted by: Chris | Jun 13, 2006 at 07:49 AM

Agreed, Chris, and how would we ever be using the internet without all those "geeks" who know how to make it work? But, if you look at most of the commenters/readers/bloggers currently espressing themselves on the internet, there are far more who are not geeks.

Plus, I do not look to the NYT, the "paper of record," to be the "paper of stereotypes." I used to look to the NYT for news, fact-based and focused. Now, it's part of some giant MCM* story-line processing. Al Gore a serial exaggerator? NYT can do that, even lead the way on some of the false stories. Clintons cheaters and hustlers? NYT can do that, in spades. War with Iraq based on existence of WMD? Oh, yes, indeed, NYT can do that, with horrific results for hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed human beings, for the Iraq nation torn asunder by violence, for our nation mislead and moving toward economic downturns. NYT can do that for more than one country being set up for attack/invasion. Alas.

*Mainstream Corporate Media

First word that comes to mind?
Diane Arbus.
Really looks like one of her freaky photos to me. This is the image the Times picked? They must really hate the blogosphere. Makes me glad I cancelled my scrip.

What "Voice" said, above: Thank YOU!

"We need to make a genuine effort to be the change we wish to see in the world."

Stereotyping by Right and Left and MSM just fuels conflict and doesn't advance the social agenda we want to see make change for the better in this country.

I see this picture and I see myself.

I wonder how long the photographer had to wait for the crowd to leave. Except for the angle, this looks like a photo I might have taken if I were there and just wandering through. But then, I don't work for a putative newspaper of record. It does look rather bleak. The Diane Arbus reference is right on. Perhaps this is what the photographer thinks bloggers do while he is with all his buddy at the local tavern getting smashed.

OTOH, they do look contented with what they're doing. Perhaps this is their lunch break after walking around all morning (or afternoon) and chairs at these conventions tend to be few and far between.

Voice, I understand what you're saying, but it's not that we're criticizing the man and woman ourselves; we're saying that whoever decided to choose this photo is trying to put that message across. It's not just what they look like themselves, but the dim lighting, the dreary background, the fact that they're all by themselves looking isolated, etc. - it seems that this is what they want people to think of when they think of bloggers.

And here I was hoping you'd pick the rinky-dink photo as your subject - those are my socks! Worst-dressed person at YearlyKos. Yes, I'm pretty sure the photographer (or perhaps his editor) went out of his way to make us look kooky and marginal. Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Howard Dean and Mark Warner didn't seem to share that opinion...

More power to you, Carl! If that is truly you in those black sox, it makes me feel that The BAG was really there.

Yep, really me. Happy to give you a vicarious presence - but you really should come to YK07 in the flesh! It's a fantastic group of people, and a wonderful event.

I like your T-shirt, Carl.

Thanks, Ummabdulla,

Quoting myself from the flickr page with the NYT photo:

I love that shirt - I get a lot of positive comments, and a lot of nasty looks ('course, that could be the socks!) and I like them both. I'm making the right people happy and pissing off the right people, too.

I acquired the shirt while volunteering on the Kerry campaign in Ohio (where I had moved so my vote would count). 7-day weeks and 12- to 15-hour days. I guess I earned it. I'd have preferred victory; the shirt is something of a consolation prize.

I got the socks at Sears. ;-)

Ummabdulla -- I understand where the commentary is coming from and I meant to imply that I'm also complicit in that my first response to these mainstream representations was concern. I work as an actress -- so projection and appearance are my bread and butter.

What I intend here is a challenge to myself, as well as to others here, against responding, in knee-jerk --fashion, to these messages. If we focus on arguing the MSM, saying "that's not us!, we look like Jane Hamscher and Arianna Huffington" (and I'm a huge fan of both, for their intelligence and commitment, and I don't in any way intend to disparage them with this reference to their great looks), we're doing something terribly wrong. And you won't see many Repubs throwing their own under the wheels for how they dress or look (other things: yes; appearance: no).

How about if we just embrace us all? Where's the bad media argument in that? Challenge the MSM on a host of other things -- god knows, MSM provides the ammunition -- but to sell some of us down the river because they don't look like some other of us? (and let's not kids ourselves: if it were Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney in that hallway -- scratch that: if it were Jane and Arianna in that hallyway, we wouldn't be analyzing this picture in these terms, regardless of lighting, wallpaper, blah blah blah).

I know image matters. But we can reframe this one too -- and we should. Because it's a Loser Proposition to worry that we're not represented as the kewl kids.

We are completely cool (and good on ya, Carl! cause I really do dig the black sox. I'm sportin' some myself right now, thank you very much . . . .)

We just need to own it.

actually, folks sitting like this were just a few steps from the action, usually pausing to get something sent off and/or to recharge batteries for the next round of action. I hope that in 2007 somebody plans ahead to have a slew of surge supressors coming out of every floor plate so that people don't have to choose between seeing the presentations and taking notes or blogging. a room with 900 bloggers in it and only 6 outlets is a crime....

hey, bag!

sorry you couldn't make it! we had a great time! too bad! i would hav loved to meet you!

Likewise Skippy,

I missed a chance to meet the real 'roo!

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