Sunday, March 12, 2006

Whither the JBlogosphere?

People blog for all sorts of reasons--and more power to them...and to us, since the same of course applies to the JBlogosphere as well. But for those of us who write about current events--on matters Jewish and Israeli--what is our goal?

Through the medium of blogging we expect to:

  • share our feelings and frustrations
  • share items in the news that may be missed
  • critique news items and the people who appear in them
  • share our opinions about events in Israel
  • open discussion on any number of Jewish issues

But some of us in the US have another goal in blogging, an accomplishment that one occasionally finds in the Blogosphere in general, but not in the JBlogosphere: making the MSM take note and have an impact.

The general Blogosphere has some major victories under its belt:

  • making Trent Lott's comments about Strom Thurmond an issue, leading to his resignation as House Speaker
  • giving broad exposure to the Swift Boat ads and forcing the MSM to address them, a major blow to Kerry's Presidential campaign
  • exposing the Killian documents as forged and forcing the MSM to take note, leading to Dan Rather's early retirement

This in addition to bringing issues of double-standards, hypocrisy, bias, and outright lies to the general public.

We in the JBlogosphere who like to draw attention to the double-standards, hypocrisy, bias, and outright lies found in international relations with and media coverage of Israel--can we ever hope for anything as impressive, or are we limited to preaching to the choir?

The main enemy is the media which sets the agenda and influences public opinion, and even the general Blogosphere does not win every battle against it. Case in point: the Air America scandal (see here and links at bottom of post) has been virtually ignored by the media, though if the issue was a Conservative radio network, one might expect there would be all kinds of coverage.

One could argue that even the successes of the blogosphere need to be taken in context:

  • Trent Lott, as a Republican who was attacked by liberal bloggers as well, was an obvious target for the liberal media
  • The Swift Boat ads and the Killian documents were issues directly bearing on a Presidential election. Though in both cases the media was reluctant to cover the issues, it was difficult to avoid once the Blogosphere's coverage reached critical mass.

These are exceptions to the general lock that the liberal bias has on the media.

Even with the growing recognition of the Blogosphere, besides the lack of attention to Air America, we still see all kinds of media bias in its coverage of Bush and Iraq as well as domestic issues. But even without being able to dictate what are the headlines that people will see in the press and on TV, the Blogosphere provides a strong alternative source of information for those who are looking for it.

However, regardless of what you think of the potential of the Blogosphere to grow into a force for the MSM to reckon with, and even if the Blogosphere will have growing influence and pressure on the media, it won't help the JBlogopshere.


First, because no matter how opposed the liberal media is to President Bush in general and US policy in Iraq in particular, when it comes to Israel--Bush and the media are now on the same page.

The media not only supports the Road Map, but after the required perfunctory declarations about Hamas, the media working its way towards supporting the need, if not the obligation, to deal with them.

Secondly, with everything else happening in the world and the pet issues each blogger has, how much attention is really being paid to Israel by the general Blogosphere?

How often does Instapundit cover Israel or has a post about Hamas and its election?

Little Green Footballs is a great exception, but it is still an exception.
Powerline also covers the situation in Israel from time to time--but how many of the big blogs do?

As things stand now:

  • The media follows the liberal line in covering Israel.
  • The general blogosphere does not cover Israel to the degree it covers other similar issues.
  • The general blogosphere occasionally will link to a post in the JBlogosphere, but not often.

If we can barely appear on the Blogosphere radar, how can we expect to get the attention of the general public as a whole, the media, and eventually the elected officials and policy makers?

If Israel is a topic that is not covered by the big blogs in the general blogosphere, what reasonable goals can we set for ourselves, and how do we go about achieving them?

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AbbaGav said...

I believe one thing we have to do is get our blogs out into the general blogosphere a little bit. There are obviously exceptions, but a lot of us keep our reading and commenting and trackbacking constrained within our own narrow slice of the sphere. More JBlog participation in general carnivals, trackback parties and alliances would help. Commenting and supporting the big blogs when they do talk about the situation (linking in numbers that are noticed) can encourage and motivate.

Writing and getting visibility for some related but not strictly Jewish posts can even help, whatever draws eyeballs to our topics and links, even if the entry point is the side door.

Great post though, and a very worthy topic of discussion.

AbbaGav said...

("Jewish posts" mean JBlog's typical Israel/Hamas posts as well as strictly Jewish issues).

Unknown said...

Interesting post. When I started blogging, I was actually unaware of the "J-blogosphere", which exposed me more to other blogs; now that I'm more in the J-sphere, I see I'm more insular. But at the same time, I think that when it comes to major discussions, the J-blogosphere can have an effect much like the blogosphere does. Remember, the blogosphere isn't pulling off major changes on a daily basis; it's simply creating a higher awareness. I think the J-blogosphere is doing the same thing, though obviously more within our own community. However, it still does slowly spread outside the community, even if it's a small minority; and it does force changes within the Jewish community itself. That's something.

Ze'ev said...

As I see it, perhaps we are aiming too high. There are plenty within the Jewish world who are ignorant about all things Israel / Jewish. If through the J-Blogsphere we can help to educate and enlighten those who would otherwise ignorant or misinformed - and perhaps to take action of their own - then that's a worthy goal, in and of itself.

westbankmama said...

I think that getting the word out in the JBlogosphere is a little like campaigning door-to-door. It seems like you aren't really accomplishing much - and you never really know the impact you have. But I think it is definitely worth it.

Sabzi Aash said...

I believe that we're not going to accomplish too much because it's primarily Israelis who are responsible for the sordid situation over there, and Israelis who have to turn their thinking process around to change things. There's no one more Catholic than the Pope, and America is never going to be more Jewish or Zionist than Israel, so as long as the latter is going to flop around in whatever direction the wind's blowing, it's in trouble. Unfortunately our primary audience is English speakers, so we're missing the ones who really need to hear what we're saying. There are Hebrew blogs out there of course, but I don't know anything about them.

Daled Amos said...

Generally, the comments break down into 2 groups:

1. those where our focus is external to bring issues to the general attention of the public

2. those where our focus is internal to educate our own people and counter misinformation.

Sabzi Aash breaks the issue down differently--not on our focusing on Jews vs. the outside world, but on changing attitude in Israel vs changing attitude in Galus.

I think that makes for an even more intimidating goal, if we are talking about effecting real change.

However, if we aim to first start by disseminating information--primarily internally but always with an eye to getting news items, fiskings, and even just stories of everyday life in Israel out to the general Blogosphere, we can make a start.

Abba Gav had a number of suggestions:

1. Participating in general carnivals (off hand I know there are some in the area of history. Which other ones might be relevant?)

2. I know nothing about trackback parties--what are they, how do they work?

3. What kinds of alliances would we be talking about? Doing what and towards what goal?

4. In what way can we support the big blogs in ways that would matter to them? Would be as a group link to a particular post on a blog like Instapundit? What would that accomplish other than draw attention to a particular post at a particular time? What would be be trying to "encourage and motivate" that blog to do?

5. Writing posts not directly connected to Jewish topics. (I know that when I wrote a series of blogs on the issue of the Denmark cartoons, my traffic more than doubled and it was not too difficult to tie the topic to Israel. The same should apply to any topic regarding Iraq, terrorism, Islam, free speech etc)

Any other ideas?

Soccer Dad said...

You brought up a lot of good points. I don't know how all of them would work.
But linking to a single post of Instapundit probably won't do it. Instapundit and most higher beings don't check Technorati. We're probably better off looking for second tier bloggers.

I suggested in the past using concentrated postings in response to a Washington Post article. And using Technorati to find other commenting on that article and linking to them. The hope being that they'll check and discover others who agree with them.
There has to be a way to get the attention of an aggregator like Memeorandum. I don't know how to do it. I get mentioned (as does Israpundit) once in awhile.
As you saw by forwarding the Israpundit article on occupation to someone who has a legal interest, I helped provide the guy with info that he'll use in a law review article.

Perhaps some sort of tag team approach where different people scan different (sympathetic) highly ranked blogs. And whenever the blogger writes something get "the team" to dig up as much info as they can to address the issue. (like legal aspects of occupation in Volokh.)

AbbaGav said...

I agree with David on the second-tier point, and it explains a little more what I meant. If one person links to a second tier blog's article on Israel, they think that's nice. If they write about Israel and five to ten people link to it, and traffic comes to read what they wrote, they start to gravitate (perhaps unconsciously, who knows) toward the topic a little more.

And the linkers can provide more information. But to have that happen, there needs to be a little effort and organization, a tag team perhaps as David suggested.

As you point out, this only aims at getting external exposure for our message, and trying to change the facts in people's minds around the world. It does nothing for changing the minds of the locals, which is also an important job, but I pay even less attention to Hebrew blogs than Sabzi does.

Unknown said...

Both of those ideas are interesting, but I'd approach it somewhat differently as well. Some of us (myself, David, etc.) are "big" enough that we're still far bigger than most blogs, even if we're nowhere near the big ones. Perhaps by focusing on blogs around and below our level, we accomplish more in the long-term:

1) You're creating a grassroots approach to disseminating information. By starting with individual bloggers who are more likely to pay attention to the content of what you have to say, and not bigger bloggers who will simply read and move on, you're creating a bigger impact overall. Those people in turn influence others, or at the least will know how to spot propaganda.

2) Those smaller blogs may also link to you, which will "move you up" in the blogosphere. Look at David: By spreading himself out, he moved himself up to a higher tier of bloggers. The higher you are, the more likely a really big blog will pay attention to what you have to say - which usually will result in a lot more hits, readers, and links. He's been "Instalanched" a couple of times, which makes it more likely such a thing will happen in the future.

Most of all, though, it's about content and presentation. Keep writing well and presenting the ideas clearly, forcefully, and in an interesting way, and the readers and links will come. SoccerDad's 'editorials' are possibly his best stuff; Gavriel's sarcasm is LGF-like, but funnier - and makes excellent points underneath the humor. The more people who are exposed to these types of blogs, the better - and to draw readers, often times the writers themselves need to 'get out' more.

Gail said...

My suggestion: The observant JBlogosphere tends to have little to do with secular Jewish bloggers, who have stronger ties to the general blogosphere. Those who host Haveil Havalim might try to link to more of them.

Some Jewish bloggers with high profiles tend to be ignored (for example, Laurence Simon, Jeff Goldstein, Roger Simon).

Bookworm Room is a secular Jewish blog with a diverse and intelligent readership. Its author is an attorney and an excellent writer.

Knockin' on the Golden Door is also very partial to Israel (his father fought for Israel in '48) and has a good readership outside the JBlogosphere.

Other long-standing pro-Israel blogs with large readership: Tonecluster, Solomonia, Aaron's Rantblog.

(Having trouble posting this comment. Forgive me if it shows up 4 times.)

Anonymous said...


This is a fabulous post. David G. (Soccer Dad) has been telling me about what an under-appreciated talent you are.

This is the main issue that has been on my mind since I started blogging. How do we publicize the outrages that the MSM covers up like the truth of Hamas and Iran and the fact that they are working daily to prepare for a nuclear attack on Israel (and possibly the West)?

The point of my blog is to show that the jihad against Israel is simply part of the Global Jihad.

Therefore, one value-added service we can bring is that we have more years of experience and sensitivity to the phenomenon, which the West is just discovering. For example, most people first thought about the concept of suicide-murder on 9/11, which we have been facing for many years.

My main proposal is that we form a closer alliance in terms of publicizing each other's material.

The problem I face is the same one every other blogger faces as well (presumably)--by the time I take care of my personal responsibilities and then post on the blog, I don't have much time to research what other bloggers have written to find what's the most important to publicize/value-added.

I therefore recommend that other bloggers do what I do--save me the time of having to go to your blog and figure this out for myself. Send me an e-mail (no more than daily) containing your most "linkable" post. Soccer Dad has provided one excellent resource in the form of Heveil Havelim, but I find the posts often too old by the time they are posted there.

I highly recommend that we view each other as an "Army of Davids" (see this important post for an explanation).

Thanks again, Bennett, and I look forward to reading the rest of this thread.


Barak said...

I just had another thought. So often, there are many people writing about one topic--it seems like a waste, particularly when so much research time is involved. I would prefer to simply link to the best-written post out there, rather than re-inventing the wheel myself.

On the flip side, I often try to write up stories that other bloggers aren't covering, and then often research them heavily. The problem is that sometimes they don't get picked up, so it can be a big time-waste.

For example, I can see over ten signs that the Jericho jail assault by Israel was a coordinated charade with the US, UK and yes, the PA in order to help Kadima win the election and have a better chance of giving away Israeli territory. There doesn't seem to be anyone covering this topic heavily. If I did, there's a good chance I'd be largely wasting my time without making much of an impact.

It would be nice to have a resource that would allow us to use our time more effectively. I would love to know:

1. Who is the "blogger of record" on any particular current event?

2. Which important stories aren't being covered?

3. Which stories that aren't being covered are of interest to other bloggers? In other words, I'd know if I invested a lot of time covering a story, I'd be likely to get the post picked up by fellow bloggers.

We could be a lot more effective IMO if we were dividing the work better.