Amidst mainstream press headlines of an angry and divided
electorate, the blogosphere last week suggested there is at least one thing
people across the political spectrum agree on: Going to war with Iran to boost
the U.S. economy is a troubling idea.
During the week of November 1-5, bloggers across the board
roundly rejected that kind of strategy. The idea came in an October 31 column
by David Broder and attracted more than a third (35%) of the news links on
blogs that week, making it the No. 1 subject according to the New Media Index from the Pew
Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
In the piece headlined “The War Recovery,” Broder—a longtime
Washington observer with generally moderate views—wrote about ways that
President Obama could bounce back from a difficult 2010 election to win a
second term. Although Broder wrote he “was not suggesting that the president
incite a war to get re-elected,” he also declared that if Obama spends the next
two years “orchestrating a showdown with the [Iranian] mullahs…this will help
him politically” and the “economy will improve.”
Online criticism of Broder’s piece produced a kind of
blogosphere bi-partisanship and unanimity rarely seen on crucial political and
policy issues. Some argued that the idea of starting a war for political or economic
reasons was immoral. Others offered that if additional government spending would
help the economy, the spending could be on things like infrastructure rather
than military conflict
The second-biggest subject on blogs last week, with 17% of
the links, was the November 2 elections and the political consequences for
Obama, the overwhelmingly No. 1 story in the mainstream media. While much of
the traditional press coverage focused on Washington’s changed political
landscape in the wake of major Republican gains, the bloggers’ conversation
focused more narrowly on columns that criticized Obama’s performance.
Most of that attention was to a piece by Washington Post columnist
Krauthammer, written prior to Election Day. These bloggers, like
Krauthammer, were overwhelmingly critical of the President.
Another Washington Post column,
this one by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, ranked third, at 13% of all
links. In the column, Bernanke explained why the Federal Reserve responded to
the economic crisis with “strong and creative measures.” The complex discussion
that followed in the blogs split between those who feared Bernanke’s actions
would lead to inflation and those who supported the more aggressive federal
The No. 4 subject, with 10% of the links, was the October 30
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C., led by comedians Jon
Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The rally, which drew about 200,000
people according to some estimates, received mixed reviews. Some bloggers
supported Stewart’s vocal criticism of the news media and polarizing politicians
while others felt it was nothing more than a liberal gathering in disguise. The
same rally was also popular on YouTube, with Stewart’s closing speech being the
third most-popular clip last week.
The No. 5 story on blogs, at 8%, was a BBC
report about a female boa constrictor snake that scientists claim had 22
baby snakes with no father, thus making them “virgin births.”
On the social-networking site Twitter last week, all five of
the top subjects focused on tech news and were based on reports from the
The No. 1 story, with 11% of the links, focused on a new feature
for Microsoft’s Hotmail which will allow users to receive and send emails from
other email addresses, including ones from Gmail or Yahoo Mail. According to Mashable,
Hotmail is the most popular email service, but it is facing competition from
others like Google and Yahoo.
A report about a new ad for
T-Mobile’s wireless network that makes fun of AT&T’s slower network speed
was second at 9%.
At 7%, the third story alerted fellow Twitter users of a new mode for
the iPhone game, Fruit Ninja. The popular game allows players to smash
imaginary fruit on their phone’s screen.
That was followed by a report (at 7%) that Apple is planning
on tripling the length of iTunes’ music previews
from 30 seconds to 90 seconds and a preview of Dell’s new tablet computer,
the Inspiron Duo, which will feature a full QWERTY keyboard (also at 7%).
The Broder Backlash
While David Broder’s October 31 column
was not focused entirely on a potential war with Iran, it was that section that
provoked anger throughout the blogosphere.
“I realize Washington Post columnist David Broder’s
expiration date came and went some time ago,” summarized Dan Kennedy at Media
Nation. “But suggesting that President Obama
prepare for war with Iran in order to boost his re-election prospects is surely
a new low.”
A number of bloggers questioned the ethics of such a
“Nowhere in the article does Broder question the morality of
rattling war sabres in the name of economic growth,” wrote JJac at the Richmond
Tea Party blog. “I am deeply troubled by the ease with which he suggests
it, seemingly ignoring that fact that ‘rising tensions’ sometimes leads to
actual war, with other people’s children sent off to kill and die in some
“Politics inevitably will play a role in war, but that role
must come after the decision to wage war has been made on apolitical grounds,”
declared Publius at The
Fourth Branch. “The same is true with economics. Broder gets the process
Others said that there were different ways to increase
government spending, which could help the economy without going to war.
“War is NOT the answer to our economic problems,” stated Jim
Luke at EconProph.
“The only way war can help economically is by increasing government spending
dramatically. If we could do it for a war, then we can get the same benefits
without the dead bodies, the broken families, and the destruction just by
focusing our spending here on constructive stuff. David Broder should be
“This from a person [Broder] who has consistently opposed
government spending and other Keynesian ideas for stimulus as inappropriate,”
agreed Linda Beale at ataxingmatter.
“War, he appears to think, is ok, but government spending on major public
infrastructure is not? Now that is crazy.”
Many further questioned Broder’s role in the political
“In spite of his institutional stature, Broder’s mental
capacities have in recent years come into question and his op-ed in the Washington
Post on Sunday provides
yet another occasion to wonder what is going on inside this man’s brain as he
pushes for war against Iran,” asserted Paul Woodward at War
The Elections and
Five days before the mid-term elections, conservative
Washington Post columnist Charles
Krauthammer criticized Obama for being a divisive
figure responsible for his party’s impending losses in Congress.
Democratic pollsters Patrick H.
Caddell and Douglas E. Schoen expressed a similar sentiment in a column
condemning Obama for using the politics of polarization and resentment.
Conservative bloggers jumped in with their own attacks on
“The great Charles Krauthammer wrote a column yesterday that
really should hit home for what's left of Obama's supporters,” blogged DJ
Tablesauce at Third
“Quite the uniter this president is,” remarked Kini at E
Māua Ola i Moku o Keawe. “A democrat congress that
dominates every bit of legislation. Unwilling to work with the Republicans
on any legislation. They passed that monstrosity called Obamacare…Yet,
Obama allowed No Compromise, No Republican Ideas, and Passed this crap sandwich
against the will of the American people.”
“Democrats have to find someone to blame
for Tuesday's debacle,” predicted DrC at COTTonLINE
two days prior to Election Day. “President Obama will be their target-in-chief.
The blame-shifting has already begun…They [Caddell and Schoen] accuse him of
behaving in an unpresidential manner, and of further dividing the country.
These are probably fair criticisms.”
The most viewed news
video on YouTube last week was a six-minute animation created by a
site called Xtranormal which turns written text into movies. The video features
two talking animated creatures and is clearly intended to ridicule the viewpoints
expressed by many in the tea party Movement.
The second video was
another edition of the popular You Tube-based series called the Philip DeFranco Show
where DeFranco talks directly to the camera and expresses his opinions on
subjects ranging from the press to smart phones to pop culture.
An excerpt from Jon
Stewart’s October 30 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was the third most-viewed
news videos on YouTube last week. The comedian’s twelve-minute closing speech
to the crowd was viewed almost a million times. Among his critiques during the
speech, Stewart derided the press for promoting divisiveness.
“The country's 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic
conflictinator did not cause our problems,” Stewart declared in the clip. “But
its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its
magnifying glass up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues
heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire…If
we amplify everything we hear nothing.”
Most Viewed News & Politics Videos on YouTube For the Week of October 30 to November 5, 2010
3. Jon Stewart’s closing speech at the October 30
Rally to Restore Sanity
4. An Italian band sings a musical parody about Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi
5. A Norwegian news report about a man
looking for the culprit in several shootings aimed at people with foreign
The New Media Index is a weekly report that captures the leading
commentary of blogs and social media sites focused on news and compares
those subjects to that of the mainstream press.
PEJ's New Media Index is a companion to its weekly News Coverage
Index. Blogs and other new media are an important part of creating
today's news information narrative and in shaping the way Americans
interact with the news. The expansion of online blogs and other social
media sites has allowed news-consumers and others outside the mainstream
press to have more of a role in agenda setting, dissemination and
interpretation. PEJ aims to find out what subjects in the national news
the online sites focus on, and how that compared with the narrative in
the traditional press.
A prominent Web tracking site Icerocket,
which monitors millions of blogs, uses the links to articles embedded
on these sites as a proxy for determining what these subjects are. Using
this tracking process as a base, PEJ staff compiles the lists of links
weekday each day. They capture the top five linked-to stories on each list (25 stories each week), andreads,
watches or listens to these posts and conducts a content analysis of
their subject matter, just as it does for the mainstream press in its
weekly News Coverage Index. It follows the same coding methodology as that of the NCI. Note: When the NMI was launched in January 2009, another web-tracking site Technorati
was similarly monitoring blogs and social media. PEJ originally
captured both Technorati's and Icerocket's daily aggregation. In recent
months, though, this component of Technorati's site has been down with
no indication of when it might resume.
The priorities of the bloggers are measured in terms of percentage
of links. Each time a news blog or social media Web page adds a link to
its site directing its readers to a news story, it suggests that the
author of the blog places at least some importance on the content of
that article. The user may or may not agree with the contents of the
article, but they feel it is important enough to draw the reader's
attention to it. PEJ measures the topics that are of most interest to
bloggers by compiling the quantitative information on links and
analyzing the results.
For the examination of the links from Twitter, PEJ staff monitors the tracking site Tweetmeme.
Similar to Icerocket, Tweetmeme measures the number of times a link to a
particular story or blog post is tweeted and retweeted. Then, as we do
with Icerocket, PEJ captures the five most popular linked-to pages each
weekday under the heading of "news" as determined by Tweetmeme's method
of categorization. And as with the other data provided in the NMI, the
top stories are determined in terms of percentage of links. (One minor
difference is that Tweetmeme offers the top links over the prior 24
hours while the list used on Icerocket offers the top links over the
previous 48 hours.)