Blog Wars

Blog Wars, a documentary on the blogosphere’s role in Ned Lamont’s Senate campaign, will air on the Sundance Channel on Thursday evening, December 28. (Check your local cable listings for times.) British filmmaker James Rogan obtained remarkable access to both the leading liberal bloggers and (to the extent there was a difference) the Lamont campaign. The result is a fascinating, you-are-there look at contemporary politics, as lived on the web. Less-liberal bloggers and pundits, including Michelle Malkin, Christopher Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan, Charles Johnson and me, act as a sort of chorus, commenting on the action in Connecticut and the political scene generally.
Rogan’s style is classically documentary. The camera is an eye that records the action without judging it. Rogan skillfully edited the many hours of footage he shot into a seamless and fast-moving narrative that tells the story of the Lamont campaign, and related blogospheric phenomena, with utter neutrality. The viewer can make of it what he will.
Others, no doubt, will draw different lessons from Blog Wars, but for me, the film was an expose of the liberal bloggers, who come across as vapid and remarkably vulgar. I repeatedly found myself wondering why on earth they had permitted Rogan to film a particular scene, or why, knowing that his campera was filming, they behaved as they did. I think part of the explanation is that James is such a nice, unthreatening guy that his subjects are somewhat disarmed.
Rogan stumbles a bit at the end of Blog Wars. The film deals mostly with the primary campaign between Lamont and Joe Lieberman; the general election, which Lieberman won easily, is glossed over quickly in the context of the Democrats’ wins elsewhere. Rogan tries to connect Lamont’s primary victory to the party’s later gains by suggesting that it somehow emboldened Democrats around the country.
In a sense, I think what happened was that James found himself covering the wrong story. In Connecticut, the status quo prevailed, and the real story turned out to lie elsewhere. It’s hard to see this as a victory for the bloggers whose energies were focused largely on their unsuccessful effort to unseat Lieberman.
In 2004, the Republicans did well, and people said that it showed the strength of the conservative blogosphere. In 2006, the Democrats did well, and people said that it showed the strength of the liberal blogosphere. I think that in both years, electoral results flowed from the state of play of the issues as perceived by the voters, and the influence of bloggers was marginal, at best.
Nevertheless, if you are interested in the blogosphere and the role the internet plays in modern politics, don’t miss Blog Wars. It’s an excellent documentary that tells an entertaining story and offers the best look so far into the world of the political bloggers.
PAUL adds: It may have been left on the cutting room floor, but I told Rogan in the weeks before the Connecticut primary that Lamont would probably win the primary and Lieberman would probably win the general election.