November 14, 2003
Freepers Respond to "Where Are the Netroots?"

Well, whaddaya know — I do a Google for “netroots” this evening, and discover that a post I made a few weeks ago asking why Democratic candidates get much higher turnout numbers on than Republican ones do got republished on, the “premier conservative news forum” (or so their masthead tells me). That apparently kicked off some interest, because the FreeRepublic discussion thread on my article is the #2 Google result for “netroots”, and the article itself is #3.

Now, when I asked where are the Republican netroots, I meant it. I sincerely wanted to know. This is because I’m interested in netroots as a general political phenomenon, not strictly as a way to score partisan debating points. In other words, I was wearing my old poli-sci major hat when I wrote that piece (though with some snarky progressive-leaning observations — hey, this is my blog, not frickin’ Newsweek). So, even though I was coming to the thread belatedly, I was excited — maybe these folks were going to answer my question and teach me something I hadn’t known before.

Then I read the thread. Oops! Should have known better, I suppose.

Most of the responses aren’t very informative — they’re just eye-rolling denials that a disparity exists (“I know a few columnists went to some of Dean’s early meetups, and the numbers weren’t even a fifth of what they were advertised”), which aren’t very useful. But the ones that did attempt to address the issue basically fall into two groups:

  1. GOP activists aren’t on Meetup because Meetup is a “liberal” site. I think that’s just a case of circular logic in action — liberals are using Meetup, so Meetup must be a liberal site. But there’s nothing particular about Meetup that leans it one way or the other; in fact, as I mentioned in my original piece, the Schwarzenegger-for-Governor campaign in California made good use of it, while Arnie’s Democratic opponents barely made a blip. So Republicans can use Meetup to their advantage, if they concentrate on actually doing so rather than just waving it off as a bastion of liberalism run amok.
  2. GOP activists don’t need Meetup because they have FreeRepublic/InstaPundit/warblogs/etc. This reply is more intriguing, since it implies the existence of alternate online fora where GOPers do their organizing. But it misses the key point that interested me in Meetup in the first place, which was that it was a service that was using online technologies to get people involved offline — get them out of their houses and into their communities. In my clicking around FreeRepublic, I saw that they do some of this; they organize “support our troops” rallies, and they have affiliations with local chapters that have their own meetings and so forth. As far as I could tell, though, there isn’t the kind of standing commitment that people make to the Meetups, and it’s hard to get a sense of what their aggregate national turnout for the local chapters is — they have 20,000 registered users of the site, but it’s not clear how that number maps to people who actually come out to meetings versus just checking the message boards. So — there’s a germ of truth here, but there’s also a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s happening on the other side of the aisle.

So, in short, lots of heat but not a lot of light. And there was one response in the thread that I thought was worth calling out specifically:

Gee, Jason Lefkowitz has made the breakthrough discovery that way more liberals go to a liberal political site… and others don’t want to get involved in something that has been promoted as a part of the Dean (far left end of the Dems) site.

<Bugs Voice>What a idjit! What a ultramaroon!</Bugs>

In one shot he disproves this interesting thesis. And that’s all I got to say about that.

Now, I’ve already talked about how I think it’s silly to dismiss Meetup as a “liberal political site”, and calling it an arm of the Dean campaign is even weirder, so I’m not going to waste any time on those points. Instead, I’d ask you to take a good look at the essay he linked “interesting thesis” to. It’s a charming piece entitled “Assessing the Ashkenazic IQ” that asserts to statistically prove that Jews are smarter than the average person. His point being — ooh, the wit! — that I am the living disproof of said theory. Touche!

I’m not averse to being called dumber than the average person. Heck, I’m sure you’d have no problem finding old professors and ex-girlfriends of mine who’d be more than happy to confirm that for you. But does anyone else find this random dragging in of Judaism a little distasteful? After all, I never mentioned myself as Jewish in my original article. In fact, I never mentioned it anywhere on my site. That’s because, at least by the strictest definition, I’m not really Jewish — my mother is Catholic, so as far as orthodox Judaism is concerned I’m not Jewish and that’s that.

The reason I tell you this is to ask what it says about that someone can see an article linked to written by someone with what I assume he thought was a “Jewish-sounding name”, and without knowing anything else about that person, use the opportunity to drag in random and unrelated Jewish stereotypes out of left field — and nobody else in the thread takes offense, or indeed, even seems to bat an eye.

If that’s what passes for “freedom” in their FreeRepublic, they can keep it.

Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at November 14, 2003
Comments is hardly a conservative website. It is a site used to distort the facts of events in Israel as well as put down Christian thought. The site monitors news articles by the second and immediately deletes any article it finds negative to Israel's interest regardless of the truth. Conservative Christian's barely have a voice there and are kicked off routinely. On the other hand, the Jew's on that site are allowed to have taglines like "kill them all, let Allah sort them out".

Posted by: Christian Conservative on February 13, 2004 9:41 AM
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