Right is Wrong Part II: Do we have to choose sides?

This is part of an ongoing dialogue with Cowboy Kahil about the Ecosystem and New Blog Showcase that began in this post. I was going to put it as a comment there, but it’s long enough and relevant enough that I figured it might as well go up here.
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Cowboy –
I appreciate your response. Let me preface my own by acknowledging that you caught me at the end of a bad day, and I was likely a bit more snippy than I might otherwise have been. Bottom line: no major offense taken here; not a big deal on an irritation level — though we do have significant differences of opinion and philosophy, on which I’ll elaborate (sans too many snarky comments) here.
That said, to address some of your specific points: indeed, the phrase “I know the TTLB system has flaws in its counting, while other systems are closer to the mark” was the crux of the problem, and what set me off.
In the first place, I’ve grown rather weary of people who think they know about flaws in the Ecosystem and carp about them. This does NOT apply to folks who actually email me about specific issues in the spirit of pointing out problems so they can be fixed; I’m just talking about those who post about it elsewhere and toss off offhand comments implying that it’s broken or “flawed”. It’s annoying, and it’s rude, particularly if there are no facts or evidence given to support the accusation.
Given that you made that statement in the context of arguing that female and lefty bloggers are underrepresented, and that you said “other systems are closer to the mark”, it certainly sounded to me like you might be implying some inherent bias in the system. If that was not your intent, fine; glad we cleared that up.
I think my larger problem with your message was that the underlying attitude — which really does feel like affirmititive action to me — really rubbed me the wrong way. I may post in more detail on this later; but at a basic level, my vision for the new blogger showcase was to level the playing field a bit and give new bloggers a chance to get exposure they might otherwise not get. But central to the project is the idea that this isn’t a gift; it’s a chance for those new bloggers to demonstrate their own skills and competence; to win on their merits.
The reality is, if you are encouraging people to link to bloggers in the contest because they are lefty, or because they are female; well, then the contest no longer becomes one of pure merit. (And yes, I know, “merit” in this case is a damned slippery concept). Now a new blogger is at a disadvantage if they don’t toe a particular ideological line, or if they happen to be male.
And your further statement on your vision didn’t reassure me either:
“I included you in the mailing (and note that I did not send that to my entire list of lefties) to call your attention to the fact that I was doing some cheerleading for the Left. I thought it would be handy for you to promote the contest for the microbes. If the Right responded in kind, more cheerleaders, Right and Left, would emerge, more attention would come to all the newbies and to your site, and it’d be a win-win all around.”
Well, maybe this would be a win for me, if all I wanted was greater traffic. But frankly, I don’t much like that vision. In that world, what happens to bloggers who aren’t toeing the ideologicial line of either right or left? I think central in your approach is an assumption that there are always large warring camps (left and right; female and — I guess, by your logic — male) supporting their own team.
This is antithetical to the way I like to think about the Showcase, and the blogosphere in general. I think one of the best things about it is that — by modern media standards, at least — you do see a great deal of individuality and a reluctance to accept a single party line on issues. It’s been widely pointed out that the two leading “right-wingers” of the Blogosphere — Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan — are hardly Republican Party poster-children. Glenn bashes the Bush administration regularly on a host of issues; Andrew is a gay Catholic conservative (and I can’t think of anything less party line than that) who staunchly supported Bush on the war and is now beating the heck out of him on his budget.
Reducing the Blogosphere to “left” and “right” camps strikes me as just silly. And by the way: you do realize that I myself get classified as a lefty blogger sometimes, yes? I always chuckle at that — but then, I suppose I should chuckle just as much when I’m referred to as a “right” blogger. It’s a stupid way to classify folks given the complexity of issues we face today, and given the fact that in the Blogosphere, there’s no reason to do so.
In modern politics, the fact is that you’re either with the Republicans, or the Democrats. You have to choose, or you won’t get far, and you won’t be able to get into office. This forces a dichotomy in the space of actual politics — one must choose a side.
But that is not the case in the Blogosphere. There’s no reason to choose a side and toe the party line. I can write a left-leaning post one day about one issue, and a right-leaning one about a different issue the next. My credibility and, presumably, interest to my readers (the only payoff that really matters to me, and I suspect to most bloggers) doesn’t go down because of this — it most likely goes up.
Anyway, nuff said for now on that, but I’d certainly welcome others’ thoughts on this issue.
All that said, I do appreciate your efforts to spread the word about the Showcase, and to point out specific errors in the Ecosystem listings. I have no objection at all to you arguing, as you have, for folks to give special attention to particular sub-groups of “disadvantaged” bloggers and using membership in those groups as criteria in linking as opposed to (or, as I think you would argue, in addition to) the sheer quality of their work.
I reserve the right, however, to argue against you on that point…

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