Last month, as the mess in Wisconsin unfolded, Paul Krugman weighed in on the power games being played by Governor Scott Walker and the GOP. Busting the unions in Wisconsin, said Krugman, is “not about the budget; it’s about the power.”
But then he went on to say something that set off all kinds of thoughts that resonate far beyond Madison:
In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.
Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money.
This is why I love Firedoglake.
Krugman starts to get at what I think FDL does, and does fairly well, as it has grown from Jane’s personal blog into a more institutional presence — and that last sentence explains why FDL’s membership drive is so important.
FDL has proven that it has the chops to take on policy in a deep way — see Libby, health care, BP, warrantless wiretapping, whitewashing torture, LGBT rights, etc. — to counter some of the spin coming from the Village, the Traditional Media, and/or the corporate and political Powers That Be. We don’t do “he said, she said” journalism. We go after what isn’t said, and try to bring it to light. We take what is said and dissect it, teasing out the truth that the spinners either don’t see or don’t want anyone else to see.
Not mentioned in Krugman’s description but central to FDL, I think, is humor in all its flavors. Subtle satire, over-the-top flagrant mockery, politically pointed parody, and inspired photoshops/visual humor play a big role at FDL, and serve to puncture the self-importance of many of those who set themselves up as Those Who Know Things despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Including ourselves.
The diaries at MyFDL are a big part of this institutional counterweight to corporate big money as well. The diaries serve not only to give writers a platform, but also to bind the readership of FDL to the broader institution (“I don’t just read and comment, but put up my own stuff on the FDL community site!”), and to strengthen FDL more generally by pointing folks to important stories that might otherwise get missed. A given MyFDL diarist may not be the greatest blogger in general, but then comes that one subject where he or she has incredible personal insights, professional expertise, or fresh on-the-scene information about a current news story, and the editor can push that to the FDL front page immediately.
Then there are the lurkers — a term of endearment for those who read but do not comment. I am convinced by seeing the effects of FDL’s activism efforts (trying to influence legislation, for instance) that the lurkers are a huge part of FDL’s presence in the political conversations around this country. (If you don’t think lurkers matter, you might want to keep it to yourself, lest the Lurking Mod take offense. What other blog do you know that has its own Lurking Mod?)
I am often stunned to discover the range of talents, professional backgrounds, and personal expertise of the writers and commenters at FDL. I’ll plow through posts and comments, and sit back with a silly grin on my face as I think “Damn, we’re an impressive bunch.”
FDL doesn’t have billions of dollars, but we’ve got a growing ability to serve as a counterweight to those who do. If you’re looking for a pithy description of FDL’s mission and a reason to become a member of FDL, I think The Shrill One may have handed it to you.
And with every member who joins, that counterweight gets just a little bigger.