Today's Blogs

Bloggers Say the Darnedest Things

Today, bloggers discuss a study that examines the way the Internet shapes political discourse, the latest prospects for a Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy, and a tabloid scoop on the children of Chernobyl.

Bloggers say the darnedest things:In his 2002 book, Cass Sunstein predicted that the Internet might ultimately fragment political discourse by allowing each participant to customize his diet of news and opinion and tune out information that was difficult to swallow. At Crooked Timber, academic Eszter Hargittai has unveiled some preliminary findings from a study designed to test Sunstein’s thesis and explore the Internet’s effect on “cross-ideological conversations.”

Hargittai and two colleagues examined 41 leading blogs, classified as conservative (20) or liberal (21), and mapped the links that appeared on those blogs during three one-week periods over the past year. “Certainly both conservative and liberal bloggers are more likely to link to those who share their political orientation,” Hargitti finds, but the results also show considerable cross-ideological linking and no evidence of accelerating fragmentation.

University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner praises the study and highlights the authors’ classification of roughly half the “cross-ideological” links as “strawman arguments”—setting up the sucker only to knock him down. Plenty of others agree linking is an imperfect indicator. “I might link to something to be snarky about it, to make jokes about it to my own peeps, but this is not the same as dialogue. I think focusing on comments would be more meaningful,” suggests a reader in Crooked Timber’s comments. “That is, how often do liberals comment on conservative blogs, and vice-versa?” Other readers criticize the study’s simple liberal/conservative dichotomy for failing to adequately represent the political diversity of even the most popular blogs.

At The Decembrist, Mark Schmitt “was pleasantly surprised” to see his own blog included in the study, until he took a look at results that showed him to be the most estranged of all his liberal colleagues. Inspired, he pledges not to be such an outlier in the future.

Read more blog posts about the study here.

Don’t stop thinkin’ about tomorrow: A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll has renewed premature frenzy—on both sides of the aisle—about a possible Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy. A majority of respondents to yesterday’s poll said they were either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to cast a vote for the New York senator in 2008. More than half had a favorable view of Clinton, while 39 percent reported an unfavorable view. CNN suggests the poll sends “mixed messages” to the divisive politician.

“I’m not sure what’s mixed about the message,” writes ManDrake at personal blog Daffodil Lane. “Without any campaigning at all Hillary has increased her popularity nationwide for a Presidential bid.” At SAMerican revolution, cautious liberal Sam E. Lucas agrees. “Of course it is WAY too early for us to feel confident in these numbers … but I don’t mind saying I got a little giddy when I saw this. Just the thought that it is possible gives me goosebumps,” he writes. “She is historically a polarizing figure, to be sure, but if she wins re-election to the Senate by a significant margin in 2006, continues to earn the respect of her Senate colleagues, and works to be a leader in the party while building bridges with moderates who once viewed her with disdain, then she will be in a good spot when primary season begins in two years.”

“Curb your enthusiasm,” advises conservative lawyer John Hinderaker at Power Line, criticizing the methodology of the poll. “The fact that 53% of poll respondents will, in the abstract, seriously consider voting for any given Democratic candidate for President is hardly surprising, especially when the poll is taken over a weekend, and is not, I suspect, a survey of likely voters,” he writes. “On the whole, this isn’t an especially impressive poll performance. I think it’s true that some voters have forgotten why they ultimately found Mrs. Clinton so annoying. But if she runs in ‘08, they may be reminded.” At Transterrestrial Musings,Rand Simberg agrees, speculating that a Clinton candidacy couldn’t survive the inevitable blogging onslaught.

Read more about Hillary’s chances in 2008.

Scams of the nuclear age: “The Chernobyl nuclear disaster has spawned a generation of ‘mutant’ super-brainy children,” reports Britain’s gossipy Sun. According to a Russian professor, children who have grown up in areas affected by radiation from the 1986 meltdown “have a higher IQ and faster reaction times.”

“Maybe those hundreds of SF stories I read back in the ‘50s weren’t so far off the mark, after all,” writes Texan and novelist Bill Crider, who joins most bloggers in being charmed but not convinced. At science and technology superblog Boing Boing, Ben Garvey provides some visual (and somewhat gruesome) counterevidence, while Cory Doctorow adds: “To be clear – the interesting thing about this story isn’t the possibility that it’s true. It clearly isn’t. It’s that there are doctors participating in a Big Lie regarding the ongoing tragedy of Chernobyl.”

Read more about the Sun scoop.

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