November 20, 2006

Wannabes: One of the more thoughtful (ie., someone who posts more than two sentences at a time) bloggers on the left, Digby, writes about Maureen Dowd, describing her unfavorably as a classic "Mean Girl." Dowd made a rather over-the-top statement about the new Speaker-Elect and Botox, playing into the stereotype that a female public figure is more concerned about physical appearances and vanity than any substantive political issues, and is rightfully chastised. To Digby's credit, he/she also points out that over the past six years, liberals have been willing to look the other way when Dowd aimed her vituperation at Republicans, forgetting that she made her bones in the 90's by making shallow, catty attacks on the Clintons.

But Digby then goes on to list the characteristics of the "Mean Girl", quoting from Rosalind Wiseman's tract on the subject, Queen Bees and Wannabes, and perhaps shows an uncomfortable lack of self-awareness, to wit:

-- Her friends do what she wants them to do.
-- She can argue anyone down, including friends, peers, teachers and parents.
-- Her comments about other girls are about the lame things they did.
-- She doesn't want to invite everyone to her birthday party, and if she does, she ignores some.
-- She's charming to adults.
-- She makes other girls feel "anointed" by declaring them special friends.
-- She is affectionate to one person to show rejection of another, like throwing her arms dramatically around one girl to emphasize the exclusion of another.
-- She does not take responsibility when she hurts another's feelings.
-- She seeks revenge when she feels wronged.
In fact, each of those characteristics is typical not just of "Queen Bees" in high school, or of Beltway Insiders in general, but of the political blogosphere in particular, especially the lefty blogosphere. The lefty blogosphere is as cliqueish and centralized as any high school, with a handful of blogs at the very top, doling out links and support to others very sparingly. Those who go against them, or are critical of their favorites, end up on the receiving end of some vicious attacks, made more difficult to counter by the fact that so much of it is anonymous.

Of course, insults are usually petty and personal ("liar" and "wanker" are two of the more popular), and often targeted at the person's appearance or weight. Mistakes are rarely owned up to, like this one confusing two different Harry Byrds. Those who believe that civility and respect for others is the foundation of liberalism, from which our principles germinate, and not simply a debating ploy, are labled "concern trolls", and hooted out of the conversation. And "charming to adults?" Well, no one can smooch derrieres like a lefty blogger when in the presence of Howard Dean, Arianna Huffington, James Wolcott, or Paul Krugman.

Those who may have been baffled by the intense, out-of-proportion jihad that many bloggers had against St. Joe can better understand the phenomenum by seeing it through the prism of the childish, petty antics of the Mean Girl in reacting to someone who doesn't prostrate herself before her. Lieberman spoke critically of President Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, was a cheerleader for the war and the Administration, and refused to oppose cloture on the Bankruptcy Bill or the Alito nomination. In short, he was a conservative Democrat, but he was not unlike any number of others, like Senator Nelson of Nebraska, or Senator Kohl of Wisconsin, or even candidates like Robert Casey Jr., Jim Webb, and Harold Ford Jr., who received unflinching blogospheric support. There was just something about him they didn't like. Thus, a Senator who had organized for voting rights in Mississippi in 1963, at a time when people died for doing that sort of thing, was drawn in blackface on one popular blog.

To no one's surprise, the tactics used against Senator Lieberman backfired badly, and one of most sanctimonious men in American politics got to play the role of martyr, easily winning reelection after losing his party's nomination in one of the bluest states in the country. Perhaps the lesson lies in the fact that no one really likes the Mean Girl, and that if you adopt Varuca Salt as your role model, the public will rebel.

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