The paradox of Left2Right
Left2Right is a new political blog whose contributors include some of the biggest names in social and political philosophy. The blog's mission is to discuss ways for the left to communicate its message more effectively to the opposition.
Based on the mission statement, I was expecting a lot of Lakoff-style analyses--written by leftists, addressed to leftists, attending specifically to the details of crafting a message to present to the right. Basically, I was expecting the blog to be a more academic version of the Daily Kos. Instead, it's turning out to be more like a liberal Volokh conspiracy. This is good. The left needs a liberal academic counterpart to Volokh. Crooked Timber does some of that work, but it is by and large an academic blog.
So far, the Volokh Conspiracy more functionally integrated with the non-academic blogosphere than any of its liberal counterparts. Volokh functions like a think tank, supplying academically credible opinion pieces on topical issues. The VC makes good use of the blog medium, linking and being linked to by other conservative and libertarian opinion leaders. Liberal bloggers read VC and link to their posts, too. Blog-to-blog dialogue may be more efficient than blogger-commenter dialogue in terms of shifting the political discussion.
The posts at Left2Right are what I wish New York Times Op/Ed pieces were like: liberal, carefully reasoned, and clearly written. For better or worse, Left2Right is engaging the right wing much more directly than I expected. That's a nice way of saying their blog has been infested by right wing trolls. I'm not sure if the blog's authors anticipated this reaction or not. Maybe they are hoping to engage directly with the trolletariat. In which case, they have more confidence in the good faith of the average Freeper than I do.
It's heartening to see academics who are willing to talk politics with the general public. The dynamic at Left2Right is different than in the comments threads at other liberal blogs. Usually, bloggers say their piece and leave commenters to hash things out amongst themselves. At L2R many the contributors tend to write at least as much in the comments threads as they do in their posts.
This is exactly the kind of exchange that many on the right claim to want. I've heard so many bitter denunciations of alleged ivory tower academics who aren't interested in making their views intelligible to the average person. Now I'm hearing a lot of bitter rants about what nerve these academics have to condescend to everyone else.
I'll make two suggestions, one to the liberal blogosphere and one to L2R. Liberal bloggers, the academic left needs our support to help start that "movement" we're always wishing we had. The right wing has been farming its experts for 30 years and now they're reaping the benefits. (These benefits include the platform they have created to lie about the liberal bias of the news media and the average academic. Ironically, the vitriol directed towards L2R is a symptom of the legitimization of the anti-intellectualism and paranoia spawned by the right wing's own intelligentsia.) So, link to L2R. Help them spread the word.
My suggestion to L2R is simpler: user registration for comments.