Sick of political blogs? Too bad! The 2008 campaign is unavoidable; if you know what superdelegates are, or who said “God damn America,” you’re already a victim. Thanks to the curse of modern technology, you’ll be hearing what top Internet buffoons are saying about the candidates — whether you want to or not. So you may as well prepare yourself. Herewith, a rundown of 10 conservative Web scribblers who, by virtue of their high readership or annoyance factor, are likely to invade your casual conversations until the gruesome finale of our Celebration of Democracy drives us all back to our blessed, customary ignorance.
JAMES LILEKS (The Bleat; lileks.com)
FUN FACT: Briefly lived in Washington, D.C. (“where I heard every voice on the globe,” and also “the world’s crossroads of disease”), in a “blaring trash-strewn enclave” where he “lived in a constant state of nervous dread.” Currently resides in a house he calls “Jasperwood,” complete with “water feature” (i.e., fountain), in a Minneapolis neighborhood that he describes as “urban.”
CANDIDATE: Undeclared, leaning toward George Wallace
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 60/40
HISTORY: Writer for various papers, including The Washington Post; longtime employee of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, for whom he blogs and supplies columns. Books include humorous, affectionate tweakings of ads, recipes, and photographs from the mid-20th century, which also comprised the centerpiece of The Bleat when it started in 1997, along with scrupulous coverage of Lileks’s daily routine (dog-walking, conversations with daughter, unsatisfying encounters with store clerks). Conservative themes emerged tentatively at first, with grumpy-old-man swipes at graffiti (“When I see that thicket of cryptic squibbles plastered on a sign, I want to bring back the chain gang”) and Monica Lewinsky (“I no more care how she feels about Ken Starr than I care how Al Capone felt about Eliot Ness”). September 11 exacerbated these tendencies to an hallucinogenic degree. Predicted New York would be “nuked,” compared a Chock Full O’Nuts Coffee can to “an urn from Atlantis,” and imagined his daughter attacked by Osama bin Laden (“Give me a gun; show me the cave”) and feminists (“I cannot possibly think of any good reason to ever strike a woman, unless it’s the one in the uniform who wants to pry my daughter’s arms from my neck because the state has decided all men must leave the household for the good of the People”).
MODUS OPERANDI: The Bleat remained thick with such fist-shakings until the 2006 elections, which seem to have thrown Lileks for a loop. Now, he mainly weaves weird culture-war demurrers into his ripely worded chronicles of shopping and child-rearing. So far he’s been quiet about McCain and even Hillary, but he refers to Obama as “Cool Brother,” which, given his longstanding antipathy to The Boondocks, is dispositive. Also: “Hillary and Obama; put them together, and what do you have? White. Male.”
WHAT TO EXPECT: Long, maudlin reminiscences of Ye Olden Tymes (croquets lawns, village greens) contrasted with fantasies of the Brave New Worlds affected by Hillary (forced repatriations of girlchilds and slut-servicings of Bill) or Obama (forced integration of Target, Wal-Mart).
GLENN REYNOLDS (Instapundit.com)
ORIENTATION: Glibertarian (sex, drugs, guns, endless wars)
FUN FACT: Self-described “transhumanist”: “Once human technology passes a certain threshold… human beings will potentially enjoy the kind of powers and pleasures traditionally assigned to gods or beings in heaven.”
CANDIDATE: A transparent mystery (see Modus Operandi)
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 5/95
HISTORY: Law degree from Yale. Currently a professor at the University of Tennessee. Many books and papers, mostly legal perspectives on firearms (“Kids, Guns and the Commerce Clause”) and outer space (“International Space Law: Into the Twenty-First Century”). Began online career as commenter A.G. Android at Slate (“The groupies I’ve seen backstage at rock shows are generally not especially attractive”), where he was praised as “the Pride of the Fray.” Founded Instapundit in 2001, with a stance both libertarian (“GLOWSTICKS AND BOTTLED WATER: DRUG PARAPHERNALIA?”) and pro-Bush. September 11 boosted his circulation (thanks in part to publicity from Fox News) and dramatically reduced the libertarian content. Reynolds cautioned citizens against “being stampeded into giving up their freedom,” but also intensified his identification with Bush (“It’s clear that adults are in charge”) and denounced leftists with increasing frequency and anger (“more than a little in common with Osama bin Laden”). As anti-war sentiment grew, he attacked “Big Media’s bias in favor of the left,” calling for a “guerrilla media” of bloggers to combat it.
MODUS OPERANDI: Expresses overt support only rarely, mostly in reviews of cars and consumer goods. Otherwise cites other (mostly right-wing) writers, adding a few words — or one word (usually heh, indeed, or ouch) — to denote approval. This style is, probably purposely, hard to engage. For example, after a lengthy quote in defense of the 1980s Salvadoran death squads, Reynolds adds this: “makes me wonder if making comparisons to Central America will help the Left, or simply bring up a lot of things that a lot of people would rather gloss over today.” Inquiries as to meaning are likely to go unanswered, as Instapundit has no comments feature.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Quotes denunciatory of Democratic candidates, followed by snotty asides involving Walter Mondale, Robert Heinlein, and Osama Bin Laden. Also, heh.
ROD DREHER (CrunchyCon; beliefnet.com/columnists/roddreher)
ORIENTATION: End-times conservative
TONE: Cheerful when discussing food or “sluts”; otherwise, grimly millenarian
FUN FACT: Claims to suffer from “Sensory Processing Disorder,” which makes it difficult for him to shop at Wal-Mart. May also be said to suffer from a religious form of attention-deficit disorder, having in the past 15 years moved from the Methodist faith to Catholicism and thence to Eastern Orthodoxy.
CANDIDATE: McCain in 5, 4, 3, 2…
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 50/50
HISTORY: Reviewed movies at New York Post (“Runaway Bride is a runaway bore!”); at the National Review Online, began promulgating “Crunchy Conservatism,” a mix of Christian conservatism and small-is-beautiful slow-food doctrines (also the topic of his book). Supported the invasion of Iraq, which he has since denounced; also denounced homosexuality, which he still denounces. Now a columnist at the Dallas Morning News. At CrunchyCon blog, Dreher vacillates between anger at Islamofascists and sympathy for Islamic fundamentalism, at least insofar as it resembles Christian fundamentalism. Outraged by a little-seen indie documentary about zoophilia, Dreher asked: “What do you say to Muslims abroad who’d genuinely wonder why, if this kind of decadence is the fruit of American liberty, they should welcome what we have to offer?” Though originally angry at Jerry Falwell’s post-9/11 statements, Dreher later decided that “God will judge America, and judge it harshly. And perhaps is judging America…” Despite this, he strongly denounces Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright for his “God damn America” comments — which would seem inconsistent, were we unaware of Dreher’s feelings on race, as seen in his frequent denunciations of black racism and reminiscences of how he was once denied a job in favor of “a woman or a minority.” In lighter moments, Dreher regales his readers with moral judgments (e.g., calling a bride who displayed a tattoo on her wedding day a “slut”) and his praise of artisanal cheeses and meats.
MODUS OPERANDI: Despite anti-war stand, he is typically ChristyCon on most issues. Criticizes capitalistic excesses (“How Wal-Mart Harms the Free Market”); however, his preferred method for reversing this problem isn’t social policy but embracing Jesus. Culture war (“This is how the left works: yell ‘bigotry’ to silence critics”) excites him far more than economics.
WHAT TO EXPECT: As always, will vote Republican because of the fetuses, and agitate for the McCain administration to support sustainable yogurt farming.
HINDROCKET, THE BIG TRUNK, THE DEACON (Power Line; powerlineblog.com)
ORIENTATION: Grassroots Establishmentarian
TONE: First-draft-of-right-wing-history important
FUN FACT: Named “Blog of the Year” in 2004 by Time. (“I don’t put much faith in anything that comes from Time magazine.” — Hindrocket, 2003)
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 30/70
HISTORY: Powerline was founded in 2002 by lawyers John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson, and Paul Mirengoff, all fellows of the right-wing Claremont Institute and contributors to conservative publications. The genesis of their cognomens is unknown, but they’ve been widely mocked (“Assrocket”) and were eventually soft-pedaled by the authors, who favor lengthy dissertations on moral and political topics (“the Clinton-Gore lack of seriousness about issues”), personal essays (“Being a child of the ’50s, I don’t recall a time when Sammy Davis was not a celebrity…”), and the occasional attempt at investigative journalism, some of which were howlingly unsuccessful (“Bin Laden is dead. More leaks are starting to come out…” — July 27, 2002). Sometimes they struck pay-dirt, however, including the “Rathergate” controversy over George W. Bush’s alleged military service, which figured in the blog’s 2004 Time award. Thereafter, Powerline sometimes attempted to recapture the old magic, most notably by unsuccessfully debunking the damning “Schiavo memo” from Senator Mel Martinez’s office, which was laid to rest with the admission “Real Memo, Fake Story” (“While [it]… didn’t turn out to be a Democratic dirty trick, the media’s treatment of the memo was misleading at best”). Mostly covered other people’s reporting from a right-wing Republican perspective, like Fox News with a scroll bar.
MODUS OPERANDI: Having built their reputation and traffic sufficiently, the authors appear to be coasting (“Will Bush Rebound in 2008?”). They do sometimes attempt to hold John McCain’s feet to the fire (“Those of us who want to preserve the interrogation device that apparently caused Khalid Sheikh Muhammad to break down in minutes… remain free to punish McCain and/or Graham at the polls for their underlying efforts to ban waterboarding categorically”), but their heart obviously isn’t in it (“Stop attacking McCain for his ‘impurities’ ”).
WHAT TO EXPECT: Pro forma boosterism, with frequent breathless dispatches on whatever scandal the GOP is pushing in October.
MEGAN McARDLE (The Atlantic Online; theatlantic.com/author/megan-mcardle)
ORIENTATION: Lipstick libertarian
FUN FACT: Very concerned with diet; talks at length about her experience of vegetarianism and veganism, while denouncing the veggie-vegan dogma of “free-lance preachers in the hemp shoes.”
CANDIDATE: Obama, for the moment
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 60/40
HISTORY: Began posting at Live From the WTC (later Asymmetrical Information) as “Jane Galt” shortly after 9/11, with Randian tropes and denunciations of “Lefty Idiocy.” Advocated patriotism, war, the execution of John Walker Lindh, and the beating of noisome war protestors with “a two-by-four,” the uproar over which made McArdle briefly quit blogging (“-30-”), only to return a week later, accusing her opponents of incivility. Struck libertarian themes — for example, opposing subsidized health care that would treat “the guy who’s been overeating for the last thirty years” the same as worthier sick people — but frequently played both ends against the middle, as when she chided Phillip Morris for introducing a Christmas “holiday cigarette” while asking: “What the hell is the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids doing complaining about this… Of course, we all knew that the kids were a smokescreen for the fact that these activists don’t like tobacco, period.” Also refrained from endorsing gay marriage, advocating “humility” from libertarians on social issues and quoting G.K. Chesterton. Enlivened her output with posts about the problems of being tall (“I’ve decided to start my own guerrilla movement, designed to force the world to accommodate larger size people”) and other puckish subjects. These increased in frequency as Republican policies became less popular, even among her readers. Eventually abandoned her previous affection for the Iraq War while complaining that the war’s opponents were trying to make her look bad (“Do you get credit for being right, or being lucky?”). Worked briefly at The Economist; later picked up by The Atlantic, for whom she blogs now under her own name, but in a similar (though apparently more heavily edited) manner.
MODUS OPERANDI: As an Atlantic blogger, McArdle still complains about statism, but half-heartedly (“I just can’t get that excited about the complaint that the Bush administration wants to spend taxpayer money on people with bad mortgages. The government spends amazing amounts of money on amazingly stupid things”). Continues to assert that government health-care programs unfairly favor the old and sick. Has endorsed Obama while complaining: “I wish he wouldn’t tell me things that I can’t possibly believe.”
WHAT TO EXPECT: Will renounce Obama when it is revealed that he once laughed at a Richard Pryor routine with anti-Semitic content.
ANN ALTHOUSE (Althouse; althouse.blogspot.com)
ORIENTATION: “Moderate” Democrat who disapproves of nearly everything the Democratic Party does
FUN FACT: Reduced to tears at a libertarian conference at which libertarian issues were frankly discussed: “I am struck by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas.” Later, a liberal blogger defended Althouse, who then attacked the liberal blogger (“you obviously believe I simply fail to believe strongly enough in liberal and left-wing principles“).
CANDIDATE: No coherently stated preference
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 80/20
HISTORY: University of Wisconsin Law School professor; author of numerous articles and papers, including “Thelma & Louise and the Law: Do Rape Shield Rules Matter?” Began blog in 2004 with posts about law and reality-TV shows; denunciations of Democrats, including John Kerry (“boring us to death over the next 8 months”); and praise for Bush (“I feel a strong connection to this man and what we’ve been through together”). Complained that Democratic campaign literature was “always trying to scare me about things that are about to happen.” Over time, Althouse’s style has become more eccentric. She analyzed at length a Hillary Clinton video, finding vaginal significance in its use of onion rings. She noted the prominence of a large-breasted woman in a group photo of bloggers posing with Bill Clinton, and suggested that readers puzzled by her mention of this revealed a “willful blindness to the criticism of Clinton.” She also began frequently posting her drawings and photographs. Voted for Obama in Wisconsin primary because his “growing power allowed me to cast off my resignation,” but has since posted quotes and cites mostly critical of Obama.
MODUS OPERANDI: Favors piquant reversals, e.g., complains about sexism mainly when she perceives it among liberals (“Atrios managed to summon up worse misogynists [in his comments section] than [anti-Islam blogger] Charles Johnson did”). Defended Justice Alito: “Where are the passionate, Brennanesque liberals of yore, who really believed we have rights?” Frequently posts comments at unsympathetic websites (“Really, why are you writing for [The New Republic] when your diligence and comprehension are at such a low level”). Gleefully attributes baffled reactions to the power of “the Althouse vortex.”
WHAT TO EXPECT: Something — a news photo, a quote, a gum wrapper on the sidewalk — will annoy her and she’ll go to McCain, especially if he runs with Romney. (“I think they look great together. They seem to loosen each other up.”)
CHARLES JOHNSON (Little Green Footballs; littlegreenfootballs.com)
FUN FACT: Coined the terms idiotarian and anti-idiotarian for, respectively, people who don’t think like him and people who do.
CANDIDATE: None, but prone to close late and reliably anti-idiotarian (i.e., Republican)
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 40/60
HISTORY: “fixed my flat from this morning and got out on the bike. riding for 15 minutes and pow! fss–fsss–fss–fsss. yes. another flat.” This kind of lower-case personal reminiscence, interspersed with media and tech reviews, were Johnson’s bailiwick at LGF until 9/11. A week later, considering a National Review denunciation of Islamic terrorists, he wrote: “I agree totally — something I never imagined I would say about an article in the National Review.” Quickly outstripped the Review in conservatism, denouncing the Johannesburg Earth Summit (“generated between 300 and 400 tons of garbage”), the “NEA’s pomo multiculti agenda,” and “the left-wing extremism that dominates U.S. college campuses.” But he’s really a single-issue voter whose bugbear is terrorism, and who will support any foreign adventure purporting to fight it. Was an early supporter of the invasion of Iraq (“Stability Is the Last Thing Iraq Needs”) and has his eye on Iran (“Iran’s Manhattan Project Still On Track”), and on America, too: was pleased by a 2004 poll that showed 44 percent of Americans believed the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of American Muslims (“that’s not going to make the moonbats among us feel very good”). Johnson was delighted by the results of the 2004 election (“Moonbats… packing your bags and heading to Canada to escape the evil Cowboy Chimp’s imperialistic regime”), but was dismayed by the returns in 2006, especially when Muslim Keith Ellison was elected to Congress (“They’ll be celebrating in Gaza tomorrow”).
MODUS OPERANDI: For this election cycle, Johnson has interrupted his traditional Muslim-watch more often than usual to run pieces critical of Obama (“Obama Fools Mississippi”) and Clinton (“I doubt the crying tactic will work very well with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad”). Fairly quiet on McCain, but insists that “I know who I want to vote against: the Hillary-Obama Appeasement Complex.”
WHAT TO EXPECT: More reverse jihad, a late McCain endorsement, then still more reverse jihad.
JONAH GOLDBERG (The Corner/Goldberg File/Liberal Fascism blog, National Review Online)
ORIENTATION: Legacy-pledge conservative
FUN FACT: Son of Lucianne Goldberg, the Republican operative who got Linda Tripp to wear a wire in the Lewinsky affair; helped Mom spread the word in multiple TV appearances.
CANDIDATE: McCain, duh
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 90/10
HISTORY: Worked for wire services and produced TV projects and documentaries prior to joining National Review in 1998. Shortly thereafter, Goldberg launched the National Review Online (NRO). Writes for the Review online and off, and for other publications. Themes and style were evident from his earliest NRO “Goldberg File” contributions. Prefaced a post on Bill Clinton’s Kosovo intervention with a quote from The Princess Bride (which remains one of his cultural touchstones, along with Animal House, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica) and took a breezy attitude toward matters of life and death (“We should kill Milosevic… Stalin moved populations like I play Risk on my computer”). Later, welcomed “the opportunity to wax Swiftian and offer my modest proposal for saving the rainforest,” resulting in a wan P.J. O’Rourke rip-off proposing to “sell the rainforest to Disney” (which “is becoming an incredibly liberal company anyway”). His muddled, heedless style often necessitated a lengthy “Corrections” section, with errors mostly belligerently defended or blown off (“my crack team of researchers is unavailable to me, and I will have to get back to that one at the end of the week”). In January 2002, he created the Corner, where the short-form posts suited his lighter side (“Okay, I just tried to take a follow-up nap”), leaving Goldberg Files for longer examinations of single topics with a pretense of seriousness, e.g.: “It’s so depressing that ‘people of color’ has replaced ‘colored people’… the practice is just one small sign of how completely the racialist Left has abandoned the moral juggernaut that was Martin Luther King’s original argument: that everyone should be judged by the content of their character…” Breezily acknowledged his own non sequiturs: “Like saying violence never solves anything, people understand what I mean even when in reality what I’m saying isn’t true.” In 2007, Goldberg published Liberal Fascism, expanding his NRO method to book length, alternating accusations of fascism against liberals such as Hillary Clinton with insistences that he was saying nothing of the kind.
MODUS OPERANDI: Goldberg’s comical persona — once pretty much all he had — is now mainly a fallback position in his attempts at serious commentary. For example, he begins one Goldberg File with the observation that “God, unlike, say, North Dakota, has an uncanny gift for staying in the headlines”; then launches into an incoherent but apparently earnest defense of religion based on the obnoxiousness of scientists and Penn Jillette; then wraps up with a philosophical assertion — “whatever electrochemical signals my brain may be receiving, my awareness of their existence doesn’t diminish the fact that I love my wife or that I think love is something more than mere electrochemical signals” — and a joke about a turkey sandwich.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Comparisons of the Democratic candidate (whoever he or she happens to be) to amusing inanimate objects and Nazis.
MICHELLE MALKIN (michellemalkin.com)
TONE: Very, very angry
FUN FACT: In 2004, attacked Wonkette’s Ana Marie Cox and her protégée, Washington call girl Jessica Cutler, as “the female Beavis and Butt-head” and “skanks”; was thereafter subjected to years of mercilessly mockery by Wonkette scribes, including doctored photos of Malkin frolicking in a bikini, which were strenuously debunked by her (“updated: tracking the source of the bogus Flickr photos… Wonkette editors demonstrate further malice…”).
CANDIDATE: None — McCain’s too liberal
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 97/3
HISTORY: In the early ’90s, reporter and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Daily News; later wrote for the Seattle Times, became a Fox News commentator, and joined Creators Syndicate, which currently distributes her columns. Has published books about the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II (pro), illegal immigration, and “Liberals Gone Wild” (both con). Columns have focused on culture-war subjects (“Voices From the Womb”) from a more-right-wing-than-thou perspective (e.g., citing “President Bush’s cave-in on government funding of embryonic stem-cell research”). Illegal immigrants get special attention, as do nefarious nonwhite Americans, be they of Asian (“Asian-Americans milking 9-11”), Arab (“myth of the Muslim hate crime epidemic”), or African (“Sept. 11 brought home the lesson that vile ideas have bloody consequences — no matter how ‘daggone funky’ they may sound to mush-headed music critics”) descent. Began blogging in 2004, mainly bringing Internet-response speed to the usual subjects, plus a few new tropes, including frequent accusations of “dhimmitude” against parties insufficiently hostile toward Muslims, including YouTube (“JihadTube”).
MODUS OPERANDI: Parses news feverishly for offenses to her worldview. Has been enraged by the D.C. networking group Professionals in the City (for holding an event at the Cuban embassy), Jessica Alba (for “making pro-assimilation remarks”), and Google (for bias in news-site affiliate selection, logos, and search results). Doesn’t spare conservative outlets (“P.C. at the Washington Times“) or the Republican Party (“Is the GOP Lost?”) when they run afoul of her on doctrinal matters, especially regarding immigration. Attacks McCain on this subject, often without the benefit of hyphens (“I don’t want another George W. Bush open borders type in the White House”).
WHAT TO EXPECT: Barring a dramatic reversal on immigration by McCain, will wash her hands of the whole election and concentrate on everyday liberal- and foreigner-bashing.
ACE OF SPADES (Ace of Spades HQ; ace.mu.nu)
FUN FACT: Scrupulously conceals his true identity, but accepted the Blogger of the Year award from 2008 Conservative Political Action Conference in person, looking rather less butch than advertised. Recently celebrated in Time magazine’s “First Annual Blog Index” as the “conservative/libertarian answer to the Daily Kos,” with sample quote about how “large segments of the black population” are anti-Semitic.
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 99/1
HISTORY: Begun by Ace as a blogspot site in 2003 with off-hand political commentary (“Can you imagine a President who thinks like Al Gore?”). In April 2004, promised a transfer to the new address “right after we figure out how to make our site-design look less, what’s the word? ah yes: faggy.” New blog quickly mutated into rowdy multi-author scrum specializing in schoolyard taunts, e.g.: “Yeah, Bryan Singer is gay, but that’s not really what I mean by ‘art-fag,’ ” “John F’n’ Kerry attempts to claim that only non-military pussyboys are attacking him,” etc. Nancy Pelosi became “Granny Rictus McBotoximplants.” Site contributors and readers became “morons,” but affectionately, e.g.: “There’s Hope For You Morons Yet: Woman Takes Out Ad To Lose Virginity Before 30th Birthday.” Throughout good times (2004: “I don’t plan on doing anything except gloat until Thanksgiving”) and bad (2006: “Islamist Enemies Take Great Relief in Democratic Win”), contributors keep their spirits high with “not safe for work” links, often accompanied by moral dudgeon (“Something has seriously gone wrong in this culture… Ten years ago? Virtually impossible to get a young girl to do this.”)
MODUS OPERANDI: Not much changes with Ace. Believes the Wright scandal “belies Obama’s appeal to those of us who wish black folks well but honestly would prefer to be left the fuck alone to live our lives in peace”; disdains Clinton (“Seven Year Bitch”); agnostic on McCain (“he would rather lose a war than a political argument”). Has threatened to sit out the election unless McCain goes anti-immigration.
WHAT TO EXPECT: In the eleventh hour, will remember that McCain is running against a woman or a black guy. Then, porn and car-crash videos all around!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 15, 2008