It’s an understatement to say that my suggestion that the Democrats ought to hire Bob Somerby didn’t create much excitement. (Probably it’s the Zizka cooties.) Hopefully someone else will pick up the issue again at some later date.
Two objections were raised to Somerby: first, that his site isn’t much fun, and second, that he isn’t a team player.
The first objection is profoundly stupid. Somerby’s site has been around for about six years, and isn’t really a “blog” at all. It’s an internet research tool. He isn’t trying to produce an entertaining mix of politics, trivia, and personal reportage. He’s investigating the American media, reporting his results, and providing the rest of us with a searchable archive. The Daily Howler is the best answer to the question, “Are blogs really journalism?” In his case, the answer is yes. There is information available on his site which is not available anywhere else. Somerby is a researcher who creates knowledge.
The second, team-player objection points to one of the Democratic Party’s biggest weaknesses. Democratic pros tend to be credentialed institutional people from universities, unions, and public administration. Their jobs consist of normalization, following and enforcing procedures, achieving consensus, and various sorts of backscratching and brownnosing activities.
Republican pros tend to be small businessmen and semi-criminal elements. Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist work like con men sizing up a mark or burglars casing the joint. They’re not interested in normality and keeping the lid on, but are always looking for an edge. And they do a lot of their work through disavowable semicriminal surrogate groups not formally connected with the Republican Party.
I shouldn’t have to spell it out, but I’m talking to Democrats, so I will. The advantage is with the Republicans here. They’ve been winning, and Norquist and Gingrich have been able to destroy their Democratic adversaries. (And sure, Gingrich overreached and got bounced — but he transformed American politics first. Incidentally, did you know that Norquist is an Islamofascist-symp?)
Somerby understands the political media better than anyone else does, and he knows what needs to be done. The Democrats’ media approach has been feckless for decades, and Somerby could help fix that. But it does seem unlikely to me, too, that Somerby could fit into any of the existing Democratic media operations, and still less likely that he will ever be asked to head one of them.
So it makes sense to me for something like this to happen. A donor sets up the requisite legal entity (a 527 or whatever), puts money into it, phones Somerby, asks him how much money he needs, and writes him the check. Easy.
P.S. Scoobie Davis is another unfunded guy who’s been studying the political media for years. He has a good handle on the problem and some solid practical proposals, so they should give him money too.