Monday, February 20, 2012

Scenes From the CPAC Soap Opera, and Notes for Conference Attendees in Future Years

Here's yet another topic I'd been hoping to blog about during the last week but didn't find the time.

From what I've been reading among CPAC attendees, this year's event was decidedly more raucous than years past, either that, or some of the more veteran bloggers on the scene are feeling pushed out and over the hill, forced to issue cultural fatwas against the hip crowd of younger participants, many of whom were apparently looking for a good time beyond the conference panels on politics and new media. This morning's lengthy essay by Robert Stacy McCain is perhaps a symptom of that, although few people are quite so skillful in expressing the angst: "Notes on an Unfinished Letter of Apology (Or, Does Ed Morrissey Torture Cats?)." (Via Memeorandum.)

That's a term paper-length discussion, but linked there are some of the earlier commentaries that I'd hoped to write about previously. Of special importance is Robert's own piece from last weekend, responding to the reportedly scandalous social mores and reality-series behavior on display among the young hotties prowling around the place. See: "Who Wants to See Tina Korbe’s Thighs?"

That's Tina Korbe at the video above, along with Ed Morrissey she is interviewing Rick Santorum. I've never met Ms. Korbe, but I've tweeted a few things to her and have yet to get a tweet back in response. Sometime last year she became the third full-time blogger at Hot Air. I don't read over there that much anymore, so I can't give a real detailed review of her commentary and analysis. She's good and has an excellent sense for the breaking topics, and if I recall she's got a cultural conservative orientation that's right up my alley. But like I said, I don't read Hot Air all that much. Basically, back when Hot Air was a Michelle Malkin joint, Ed Morrissey was brought on board as a marquee blogger, and I used to read over there regularly. But in 2008, when I had backed John McCain before just about anyone else in the conservative 'sphere, I recall "Captain Ed" tip-toeing around about supporting a candidate in the primaries, before coming out basically like a weasel for Mitt Romney. At that time in 2008, Romney had gotten the choice National Review endorsement and he seemed, for some reason, like a grassroots alternative to McCain, who was hammered as RINO (quite deservedly, but I didn't acknowledge that 'till later). I didn't care so much at the time about evincing a go-along-get-along approach to my fellow conservative bloggers across the 'sphere. I thus proceeded to savage Ed's endorsement and ridiculed others who'd jumped on the Romney bandwagon. I have no idea if Ed actually read my stuff or not, although I have a hunch that Allahpundit may have seen some of it and later, when I was aggressively promoting my blog posts by email, I received a personal note from him informing me that he didn't want anything to do with me. To this day, I don't think Allah's ever linked me at Hot Air (although Jazz Shaw linked me just the other day). He's a something of a self-appointed gatekeeper of the upper-establishment blogosphere, and in my opinion he's an overrated analyst, prone to verbose conspiracies and milquetoast ideological commitments. When Michelle announced the sale of Hot Air to Salem Communications I had even less reason to visit the site, as it seemed that any remnants of conservative activist sensibilities went out the window with the sale.

In any case, when I visited CPAC in 2011 I made it a point not to say hello to Ed Morrissey. The Hot Air people set up the big booth not far from the main lobby of the hotel, and the swag giveaways there make for a circus atmosphere as you're maneuvering through the conference to get to your panel presentations. Ed looks like a nice guy, and he's reasonable and doesn't bother with flame wars and all that. But I felt no need to pile on and substantiate with a personal introduction whatever other praise and ululations Ed was no doubt getting from the college-age blog wannabes slumming around the conference filling their tote bags with Hot Air yo-yos. The hierarchy in the conservative 'sphere is obviously unfair, but life is unfair and you go with the advantages that you have. Ed's good, but he's not that good. He probably ought not blog about politics in California's Central Valley, for example, as I indicated in a post some time back offering the Captain a corrective on Golden State water politics: "California's Central Valley Economy in Perspective."

But enough about Hot Air. Captain Ed and the others are certainly a good entry to this larger topic that's been vexing Robert Stacy McCain and some of the others who ventured opinions on the Jersey Shore-ification of CPAC. One bit of news from this year's conference that comes as absolutely no shock to me is that the CPAC bloggers' lounge is now segregated. I traded emails with The Lonely Conservative before the conference, and she mentioned she'd just put in her application for her blogger's credentials. I then recounted my story with her, whereby I had been denied credentials in 2011, but that when I got to the convention I spoke directly with Tabitha Hale to issue my outrage at the exclusion. "Do you know who I am?" I asked Tabitha without the slightest bit of hubris. I told her that I'd long paid my dues in the conservative 'sphere. (I dare anyone to walk five miles with me to put out citizen journalism like my exclusive and widely-cited 2010 report, "Immigrants and Socialists March Against SB 1070 in Phoenix.") And I explained to Tabitha that I was going to be reporting from CPAC for John Hawkins' Right Wing News and David Horowtiz's News Real Blog. So with that Tabitha threw up her hands, waved over to Kristina Ribali, and relented with some exasperation, saying: "Oh, let him have his credentials." I'm not accustomed to begging for attention, much less special treatment, so I can guarantee you that the moment didn't sit well with me. And while I fully expect to attend CPAC in the future, I will assuredly be taking a different approach next time, and in fact I doubt I'll even bother with scoring credentials unless something changes in the interim. As The Lonely Conservative reports, even acquiring credentials now is no guarantee of access to the bloggers' lounge. See: "Random Ramblings: CPAC Loose Ends,..":
There’s a lot from CPAC that I haven’t had time to get to. As usual, I had a wonderful time. The first day I was hoping maybe I could get into the bloggers lounge, but had no such luck. I had my heavy laptop with me, which I ended up carrying around all day. I shouldn’t have worn heels, by the time Susan Robbins and I got to BlogBash I was exhausted and my dogs were barking up a storm.
Lonely Con was "hoping to get into the bloggers' lounge"? What's up with that? She was credentialed. It turns out that CPAC's now using a two-tiered credentialing system for bloggers, which is another way of saying that non-establishment and non-inside schmooze-bloggers need not apply. Jerry Wilson has more on that at Goldfish and Clowns (where he picks up on some comments offered by Joy McCann):
I got quite the unintended chuckle from Joy McCann’s comments about the lack of room for bloggers:
As I understand it, this was the first year that we had two tiers of blogging, and in a way that’s really unfortunate. Perhaps next year there should be a sort of “media overflow lounge” where we can meet with some of the boutique bloggers and the up-and-comers. (I’m very small-time, myself, but I’m connected enough that barely I made it in [and, no, not by showing skin or flirting].)

Ed Morrissey and I talked a bit at BlogBash about how odd it is that New Media at CPAC has grown as big as it has, and although I know that this makes some people wistful, all-in-all it’s likely a good thing: information is good, and avenues for its dissemination are to be desired in the conservative movement (and in a democratic republic at large).

But I’m not crazy about it forcing a tiered system on us, wherein there are two classes of bloggers. With 500 bloggers, however, and fire codes preventing us all cramming ourselves into that one room, I’m not sure what can be done . . . unless we get a different room that doesn’t feature access to the main ballroom. It could be that that is the next step.
Ed Morrissey, concerned about a tiered caste bloggers society? Actually, as I read Joy’s post it says nothing about Morrissey being concerned about the situation. But of course. What else can one expect from Mr. I’m Only Here To Pick Up My Award (And Don’t You Dare Ask Me To Answer My Email)?

While I know Joy means well — she expands on the idea here — I’m not crazy about the idea of a media overflow lounge where those of us on the bottom rung can be stuffed into with the hope that maybe, just maybe one of the bloggers from on high will wander by to possibly acknowledge our presence with a royal wave before being escorted back to the bloggers lounge we dare not besmirch with our loathsome lowly putrid persons. Blogging is supposed to be about citizen journalists, no one above anyone else and all with something worth considering.

This leads to the question as to whether professional bloggers, which I define as bloggers paid by a corporation to write, are bloggers at all. I don’t believe they are. Case in point would be Hot Air, which is now owned by Salem Communications. Its writers write on behalf of Salem. Their primary function is creating content that entices readers to the site, thus enabling Salem to sell advertising on it at a maximum profit. That’s not blogging. That’s paid column writing that should be judged – and treated – accordingly. Go hang out with the regular media, for that is precisely what you are — conservative (sometimes) Maureen Dowds.

As to BlogBash… still waiting for an invitation. Maybe it became lost in the email. I’m sure it will arrive right after my invitation to BlogCon in Charlotte this May. (File that under “Never.”) Speaking of which, I confess to a perverse hope that CPAC will announce a regional event in California to be held the same weekend as BlogCon.
There's still much more at Jerry's post, but I want to stay with the two-tiered outrage for a minute. I didn't attend this year, of course, so I don't even know who decided on credentialing and segregating at the bloggers' lounge. Obviously there are too many bloggers who'd like access to the lounge, and I'll admit, it's a pretty sweet set up. While the WiFi sucks, you'll enjoy breakfast served and an eagle's nest access to the main convention hall, and you'll meet all of your favorite bloggers --- and not to mention some of the political rock stars of the convention, who often swing up to the lounge for a meet-and-greet with the selected few bloggers lucky enough to gain entrée. Jeez Donald Rumsfeld, I might have missed you had I not gotten down and groveled like a hungry beggar so as not to miss out on privileged access to the CPAC sky-box of the blogosphere:


Anyways, I think I'll send readers back over to Robert's post, which is still longer than this one and that ought to be enough anti-establishment ranting for one day.

CPAC is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any conservative. I doubt I'll have any less a good time if I'm un-credentialed next time. Indeed, events like this are as fun as you make them, and I'll be planning my own bashes among like-minded friends for the next go-'round. Jason at The Western Experience did without credentials this year and he reported having a great time --- and he suggested we get together to plan for future conferences. So, up-and-coming bloggers take note: The conservative blogosphere is your oyster. Have at it and pursue your happiness, which is your God-given right. Don't let the false blogging gods of CPAC segregate you out of having a good time. You don't need them. Write with a passion, get involved and network among those with similar goals, and understand that all of these hierarchies don't mean a lot in the end --- frankly, the Ed Morrisseys of this world are media celebrities more than they are bloggers. Keeping things in perspective will help you avoid burnout and disgust. Just keep pluggin' and see where things take you. Onwards and upward you blogging proletarians!