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June 23, 2006

Who’s In The House

Lamontmarkos1A

Lamontmarkos2A

Lamontmarkos3A

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Besides a recent take on the visual coverage of YearlyKos, The BAG hasn’t had much opportunity to actually look at the liberal blogosphere.  For this reason, I was thrilled to see this recent Ned Lamont ad featuring Markos.  (You can find it in this “Video Dog” post on Salon.)

The ad is groundbreaking as much for its narrative as for the “first time” convergence of cyber- and traditional politics.

By analyzing and comparing different stills, I believe you can read quite a lot about the impact and the morphing of the ’sphere, and it’s growing effect on MSP (“mainstream politics”).  I thought I’d discuss and compare “a few letters” (and I invite you to do the same).

B: Depicts what has (had?) been the recognized role of the ’sphere — with the blogger on the outside peering in, checking up on and looking over the shoulder of the largely unwitting pol.

C: Captures the abandonment and vigor of the blogging space.  Also, reclaims the role of emotion in progressive politics.  Whereas Repugs frame Dems as emotionally reactive, angry, unstable (see: the Dean scream), the blogosphere offers a healthy reframe, in which emotion — characterized by components such as: commitment, care, concern, passion, boldness and confidence — is a good, powerful and essential characteristic for the party –and the debate.

A vs D:  Demonstrates how the blogosphere — through “cultural transfer” — can shake up the deadening ritual of political behavior — in this case, transforming a prescribed candidate into a more spontaneous and innervated one.  (A growing “beware” to the pol, however, who — like Lieberman — tries to boycott or resist the new ‘tude.)

E1:  Is this the natural evolution of the ’sphere? As unpredictable as it is revolutionary, we’ve “entered the room.”  For the first time, there is an expectation to engage the politician not just from “virtual space,” but in the physical world and in common space.  (It’s interesting this was set in a home environment, however.  Somehow, I can’t see the roots stretching — or, having to — so far as to meet the politician on his/her work-a-day turf.)

Lastly, I can’t help noticing (E2) how Markos is more charismatic, forward and engaged with the camera than Lamont, and how the supporters line up more with Markos, as well.  It raises the question of how the ’sphere (or the heavyweights of the sphere) are going to manage the power, notoriety and success.  All good problems, to be sure.  But tricky issues, nonetheless.

  • margaret

    Warning: a “devil’s argument.
    Mr. Lamont may be the best man for CT, but I want to know, who appointed Markos the “decider” for Democrats? There seems to be a herd instinct at work at his site, as well as other similar sites which appears to me, to accomodate contrary opinions about how to do things and whose campaigns to support. Markos is just another political consultant, informally dressed. And, I fear, unless Lamont and other, “Markos-chosen” candidates can win this election, will prove Markos to be simply a young man with a big ego distracting the party from what it really needs to do to win: face to face meetings with voters. Blogging is fun, but the millions who do not blog, or use the internet, need to be enlightened by real, not virtual, interaction.

  • PTate in MN

    Very interesting analysis! I came to the sequence of clips not knowing what Kos or Lamont look like, so before I viewed the video I was puzzled–I thought the photos might be from a sit-com. The face peering through the window (B) and the two men breaking into the house (C) followed by the fear in Mr Rogers were vaguely alarming… & the happy crowd shot at the end (E)? What is going on here?
    When I viewed the ad, it was clearer–”real” people support Lamont & his agenda. But the lens in this ad is definitely on the ’sphere, not on the politician. The Kos-world IS feeling empowered!
    My reaction echoes the question you raise–“how the ’sphere…are going to manage the power, notoriety and success.” My question is how the old order will adapt to this new way of doing things: The ’sphere believes it is shaking things up. At least in this ad, the energy is more about us (the sphere) than the traditional pols.
    Meanwhile, I have to ask myself a sensitive question: I initially interpreted the two men coming through the door as “breaking in.” To what extent was my interpretation the result of automatic, unconscious racial stereotyping in an ambigious situation? So I find another layer to this narrative. It starts with a white guy in an oxford shirt in his comfortable orderly suburban home–mullioned windows, flowered sofa, swimming pool out back. [read: the traditional status quo] Into his space pour a crowd of people of all colors and ages, diversity personified. [read: "the rest of us"] While they support his cause (“spend more money on domestic issues”), the energy is not about the politician. The energy & focus is on the interlopers. [read: we're taking over.]The politician is just a placeholder, a bridge, to the demands and interests of the up-and-coming democraphic led by Kos. In the last shot Lamont is sitting slightly off-center, a little isolated from the energy. The pleasant, orderly traditional sitting room is obscured by all people who have invited themselves in: It’s the end of the world as we know it, if “we” means the traditional elite.
    Also, are the people of color really all wearing black T-shirts and the white folks all wearing white T-shirts or oxford button-downs?

  • readytoblowagasket

    A blog talking about an ad talking about the blogosphere?
    Slow news day?

  • http://www.jaxxattaxx.com/ black dog barking

    I typically visit Daily Kos several times a day. There’s a lot of energy and focused attention sloshing around — if something important is happening they’re talking about it at DK.
    margaret, Markos is *not* a political consultant. He is emphatic about this. From what I gather he’s about as popular among insider Democratic operatives as he is in Rove-World.
    PT, besides the social and class “breaking in” the ad swarms over the Fourth wall separating actor and audience. It is probably a good thing to turn the politician (back) into a placeholder, an agent of the electorate, a representative.
    I too found Markos more comfortable with the camera than Lamont. ‘Kos has just finished an exhaustive public relations tour promoting his book. No doubt picked up a lot of both the theory and practice of relating to the tools of mass communications.

  • http://www.jaxxattaxx.com/ black dog barking

    Fixed Fourth wall link.

  • weisseharre

    :) ~,~, arf,arf .^.^ (:

  • King of Pants

    It’s funny that in two of the stills you selected (C&D), Lamont and Markos look absolutely deranged.

  • itwasntme

    Very interesting topic, highly worthy of discussion.
    I think this ad might make the candidate looked”swarmed over” by unruly supporters: who are these people? Might have worked better if candidate had recognized them and INVITED THEM IN. “Come on in, you’re welcome here” is a mighty good phrase for any politician to use, and to visually, as well as verbally, throw open the doors.
    Very good aspect is the non-actor cast of regular folks. The more diversity the better and I don’t care or notice who wears what colors. I do keep alert for hidden prejudice in my thinking, but I personally, and the younger generation in general, have gone beyond the “what color shirt and what does it mean” thing, at least regards to racial, rather than “clique” stereotyping (judging by the herds of 13 to 16 year-olds running thru my house daily). Another stereotype that is falling with that generation is prejudice against a woman speaker/leader. These guys change, as XBox characters, from male to female without a hair turned, and listen when a woman’s voice is given as the authority. Interesting, to my generation (old hippie).
    Overall, this was a great, fresh ad. The openness could use some tweeking, but it’s great for progressives/liberals overall. But this kind of openness is guaranteed to get the conservative adrenal glands going. This is just the stuff they fear and react to: perceived chaos. They can’t take it, and it makes ‘em want to crack down, write new laws, etc. So in this aspect, it is a negative for progressives in that it charges up the right to man their stick-up-the-ass barricades.
    My estimate is (from OJ Simpson to current political crises) that at any one time, about 1/3 of the people are: frightened, angry, stupid, ill-informed about what is going on, and this 1/3 should always be considered, since it is a CHANGING POPULATION. Sometimes I am part of the 1/3 myself, so it’s important to recognize this, and give it a nod in some way when any politician is speaking to voters thru mass media. Using such as phrases as “Many people think the rapid changes in (media, social order, corporate structure, worship) are bad and dangerous to our way of life, but I believe we Americans, by sticking to our belief in individual freedom, can safely accommodate change that benefits our way of life.”
    Didn’t mean to run on here. Maybe I need to get back into advertising.

  • http://anonymous.com anonymous

    Markos is a REPUBLICAN that could not be a “big-shot” on some key issues.
    For him to be considered “the” left or progressive “decider” for the republican party.
    Some of bloggers, that represent themselves as “liberals” have created a circle of links – constantly referring to each others a “leaders” and “experts” in different areas.
    It is a lie – just more “holiday inn express” style expertise and leadership.
    I am not saying that kos is without his merits, I am saying that there is little or nothing progressive or liberal at any of his circle of links.
    BAGnewsNotes might be trying to “break into” the circle of links, but that does not make kos a leader of the democratic party — to do so will be to lose the support of progressives and REAL liberals that have been the backbone of democratic politics for generations.

  • Victoria

    OK. I’m going in another direction here…
    Do we think that’s Lamont’s actual house or a set?
    If it’s his house, what do we make of it? That he lets his wife’s taste rule? Or would he pick a flowered sofa and skirted table? – I’m just saying the set contributes to his seeming lack of dynamism compared to the walk-in-the-door T-shirt crowd.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Ned Lamont is hardly “regular folks”; he’s a millionaire businessman worth $90 to $300 million, a range widely quoted. He can certainly afford to buy Markos for a TV ad, and he can easily outspend Lieberman. Can he buy a Senate seat in 2006?
    From a Hartford Courant article on the topic of millionaire congressional candidates:
    “Self-financed candidates lose more congressional races than they win, even when they spend millions, Steen said. . . .
    “Self-financed candidates who win typically have either significant political experience or a record of philanthropy or other civic involvement, according to Steen.
    “Lamont has no reputation as a philanthropist and his elective experience is limited to successful campaigns for local offices and a losing race in 1990 for state Senate.”
    http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-campwealth0604.artjun04,0,6309008.story
    This might explain why Lamont is somewhat controversial to Democrats who want to hold on to every single Senate seat. I personally detest Lieberman and would be happy to see him gone, but I would hate to see Connecticut lose any of its Democratic strength for 2008. Once again, the Republicans are sitting back and letting the Dems duke it out.
    This is a regional race between two well-connected, Ivy League-educated, East Coast white guys. So what’s new here? Nothing, actually. PTate is absolutely right to notice the racial and sartorial/economic markers in the ad. The audience for this ad is still clearly Connecticut.
    Hard to say what will ultimately happen in this white boys’ game of Democratic hardball. I guess it depends on how many liberal bloggers live in Connecticut and get out to vote. Markos lives in California, so he won’t be voting for Lamont.
    But at least the ad is *cool,* right?

  • Quentin

    Margaret says, ‘Blogging is fun, but the millions who do not blog, or use the internet, need to be enlightened by real, not virtual, interaction.’ Yes. And I would add the millions and millions. Anonymous says (someone else does the same), ‘Some bloggers that represent themselves as “liberals” have created a circle of links – constantly referring to each others a “leaders” and “experts” in different areas.’
    These two statements just about sum it up. There is a good chance that Yearly Kos was not the beginning of a surge but the high point of a fading organization. Markos has nearly no where to go from here except into consultancy and mainstream respectability. Or show business or a talk show. He is pretty conservative to my way of thinking anyway. He looks sort of angry, agressive, in that one picture, but it’s a still and maybe he’s just being in character for the ad. I hope Ned Lamont kicks Mr. Lieberman out on his ass. Whatever, the ‘progressive’ blogosphere has become too self-congratulatory, which can only have a stilting, negative effect. I’m a ‘genetic’ Democrat, so I’m always looking out for shortcomings in the views of converted Republicans like Markos. He’s a bit of a maverick, in fact, maybe even like Mr. McCain. He talks about the long knives coming out after the succes of Yearly Kos. Maybe he can better understand that Yearly Kos has made him more transparent, or has at least given me that impression. Besides, anything that goes on in Las Vegas automatically makes me very suspcious, I being a diehard northeastener. Now, I’ve got that off my chest, a little personal personality is, after all, one of the many opaque smoke screens of the ‘progressive’ blogshpere anyway. For this reason I greatly respect Digby, whose ‘personality’ is shaped by his ideas and their expression. I’ve been reading Daily Kos for years. Someday soon I will stop.

  • itwasntme

    Why all the sneering at Kos et al? Bloggers have it all hanging out, with their opinions and expertise (or non-expertise) there for the world to see. If you no like, go someplace else and read. The great point about Our Beloved Internets is the fact that everybody can play – the idiot and the savant.
    Bloggers only have “authority” if you give it to them, they aren’t necessarily claiming it for themselves. Those who’ve been claiming authority and expertise for years, Op-ed writers, journalists, etc have been completely blindsided by the fact that somebody else can write a coherent sentence, and read history and draw conclusions. They don’t like that loss of authority. In fact, BAG here perfectly represents what blogging is about:
    stating a subjective opinion, sharing experience, and finding the best truth, which is often something you could never have thought of all by yourself, or received from some “authority”

  • profbacon

    I think it would be far more enlightening to compare and contrast this ad to the god-awful Lieberman cartoon.

  • margaret

    Coming back to the discussion:
    What we are all talking about here, is “media.”And, “media” is the problem, whether it is an ad, or an editorial, or a rant on a blog.
    The democratic process must ultimately include interface between human beings at rallies, or at fund-raisers, or at polling places, or over the neighbor’s fence. Blogs, or ads, or any other medium of “selling” the candidate are flawed, in that the message is shaped to the medium and to the targeted audience. And, where does that leave the world of political ideas? In the same stupid “mush” that it finds itself, and which frustrates the serious voter who wants information about positions of politicians on important issues, not “spin,” not slogans, not clever images.

  • readytoblowagasket

    margaret, yes, you’re right that *media* is a problem, exactly because of intrinsic “formal” limitations. But human nature is a problem, too, as anonymous and Quentin both point out: The “cool kids” wanna-be mentality and a self-congratulatory reflex have already infiltrated so much of the progressive ’sphere. The *star power* bestowed on Markos and Ariana Huffington by their fans is testament to that.
    So for The BAG to call this ad “groundbreaking” is suspect and worth challenging. Does the ad really break any significant political ground, or are we just witnessing an old media form gobbling up and digesting a newer one? The resulting “package” is still an ad, after all, and to my eye, it looks just like other political ads, only rowdier. If the content is geared to liberals, does that make it “groundbreaking”? I’m not impressed by this ad just because Markos is in it.
    So I did a “Ned Lamont” search on YouTube, and 120 separate entries came up. Ads, video clips of speeches, interviews, press conferences, you name it. That guy is *working* the Internet video angle. Is that groundbreaking? Or is it good-old opportunistic survival of the fittest?
    http://www.youtube.com/results?search=ned+lamont&search_type=search_videos
    I also did a “Markos Lamont” search on YouTube, and 6 entries came up, all clips from this month. Apparently Markos is stumping for Lamont. On mainstream TV (Meet the Press) and on the book tour for his own book (Crashing the Gate). So maybe that’s why some people are “sneering at Kos et all,” as itwasntme wonders.
    http://www.youtube.com/results?search=markos+lamont&search_type=search_videos
    (I saw Markos on his book tour, btw, and I was *totally* not impressed. Disappointed, yes. Impressed, no.)
    To me, this ad is like Volkswagen using hip music in their Jetta ads to appeal to a younger market. Someone was going to do it sooner or later. It’s still traditional advertising. Just hipper.

  • margaret

    I think, apros pos the argument by “readytoboowagasket” touches on the wishful thinking of those who really wish there could be “regime change” in this country in the next election cycle, so that we could embrace our Constitution, again, with some hope that it meant something, still. A few blogs, a few celebrities on the internet, clever graphics, will simply not be the panacea. A major shift in thinking about what we are, as Americans, and how we exercise our responsibilities as citizens is needed.
    But, I am afraid that a great revolution has occurred in this country because of the power of media, and there will be no turning back to a world where law, as we have known it, has any meaning. For the young, there is the illusion of change for the better through the power of the intenet, but for the generation born in the period between the two world wars, there is the reality of change which diminishes our humanity because of the one-dimensionality of media messaging.

  • Stacia

    What strikes me recently about Markos is his almost surreptitious slide into the mainstream. While he had been on TV before, his recent tour to promote the book and the blog, this commercial, and Yearly Kos have made him very well known. At least for the moment.
    I started reading Daily Kos before the 2004 elections. I signed up for an account about a year later, and several months ago really enjoyed the site. When Kos came back from all his publicity appearances and took over again, I realized, I didn’t like the blog anymore. Kos comes across as energetic in this video but I think it’s really anger. He’s conservative, very concerned about appearance, and refuses to be anything but a leader. Not that any of these things in and of themselves are bad, but when we’re dealing with trying to change American politics for the better, it means he (like so many before him) will be influenced by what gets him ahead over what’s best for the liberal cause.
    I think Yearly Kos and this ad is the beginning of the final mating dance between Markos and mainstream politics. They’ll be wed by the 2008 elections.

  • Stacia

    What strikes me recently about Markos is his almost surreptitious slide into the mainstream. While he had been on TV before, his recent tour to promote the book and the blog, this commercial, and Yearly Kos have made him very well known. At least for the moment.
    I started reading Daily Kos before the 2004 elections. I signed up for an account about a year later, and several months ago really enjoyed the site. When Kos came back from all his publicity appearances and took over again, I realized, I didn’t like the blog anymore. Kos comes across as energetic in this video but I think it’s really anger. He’s conservative, very concerned about appearance, and refuses to be anything but a leader. Not that any of these things in and of themselves are bad, but when we’re dealing with trying to change American politics for the better, it means he (like so many before him) will be influenced by what gets him ahead over what’s best for the liberal cause.
    I think Yearly Kos and this ad is the beginning of the final mating dance between Markos and mainstream politics. They’ll be wed by the time the 2008 elections roll around.

  • Stacia

    Double post, sorry. I was trying to correct my last sentence and posted twice.

  • Quentin

    Margaret: on the media’s horrific atmospherics see hunter’s ‘The National Media: Vapidity as Lifestyle Choice’ posted at, of all places, Daily Kos! Mind you: Kos is not speaking here. He has told us about buying his house, his family, even posted pictures, mentioning family visits in other parts of the U.S., but has told has painfully little about his politcs except that he is against this war: note well, but not against all wars, just to avoid any misunderstanding on the military front, as if the clarification is enlightening.
    An underrated site is the Power of Narrative by Arthur Silber. What the hell does Markos represent anyway. Is he supposed to be the new orthodoxy, a political tastemaker who uses the power of the Kos (HIS?) community to influence politics by making an ad. Who is Kos and who is Markos? Tell me the difference.

  • King of Pants

    To my mind, DailyKos has been, for a good long time, the Powerline of the “left.” Left in quotes, of course, because Markos is a former Republican soldier who has never really enunciated any progressive views about anything, except being opposed to the Iraq war.
    What is particularly galling for me is how the site (inadverdently, I suspect) co-opted genuine outrage and anger towards the policies of the Bush administration and channeled it into a “Vote Democrat!” message. Ever since Bush v. Gore, it’s been plainly obvious that it’s a rigged game, yet somehow Daily Kos has channeled all the bafflement and anger into a limp yen for tracking House races.
    I glean an extraordinary amount of political naivete from almost all the posters and commenters on the site, mixed with a fervent opportunism. They’re trying to seize some sort of moment, but they have no idea how.
    Kos is the official spokesman for The Counter-Narrative. Stephen Colbert’s routine at the Correspondent’s Dinner could have been written by him. You know, that same tired thinking (NO WMD’S OMG THEY TOTALLY LIED) that escapes like a thoughtless mantra from numb lips and fingertips. Very crafty, and it shows that he really is the new face of the Democratic Party: grating, infuriating and completely ineffectual.

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com momly

    Very crafty, and it shows that he really is the new face of the Democratic Party: grating, infuriating and completely ineffectual.
    Okay, King of Pants, what’s the alternative? The media is the message and Americans are horribly shallow, so where is the hope for more substantive politics?
    I think Kos and Lamont, however opportunistic they are, are serving as place holders — a way to keep the crushing weight of the right off the little guy until the more lasting alternative comes along. Of course, I have no idea who or what that might be, either, so really, what’s the alternative?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/SOS_independent/ SOS_independent

    Maybe I’m just biased, but I still see this ad, especially the last shot, as somewhat sterilized and, well, political. The politician is still estranged from the “real” people. It all seems very arranged and not casual at all. Ned Lamont only changes his expression momentarily when Markos enters the room so energetically (is this what it takes to inject excitement and real emotion into politics?). Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Lamont and I think he’ll win come November; I just can’t deny what I see in these stills.

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