Earlier today– I can’t remember if it while I was on my bike ride, grading/wrapping up stuff for the summer term, reading my Google Reader feed, or what– I had this feeling that my long suffering and delayed project, Blogs as Writerly Spaces, had kind of run its course. I mean, I haven’t done anything with it in months and months (I have poked at it more recently than my link above might suggest, but still), and I kind of have a bit of a “milked dry” feeling about the whole thing. I’ve worked my survey data (such as it is) and other research into at least five different presentations over the years, and it has been feeling a little wrung out to me. Besides, blogging is kind of “been there, done that” nowadays, right? How do I write a book-length project (or hell, even a decent article-length essay) about this phenomenon that has either become irrelevant in the shadow of Facebook, Twitter, and whatever is next? Who cares about a medium that has either faded away or has been subsumed/consumed by MSM to the point where even freakin’ Stanley Fish has a “blog” as part of the New York Times?
Anyway, this was all in the back of my mind while listening to the radio on the way to Costco and I was listening to “Here and Now” and they had a story (mp3) about this story in Salon by Justin Elliott, “How the ‘ground zero mosque’ fear mongering began,” and I had a tiny twinge of second thoughts on my project. Maybe there’s something there there after all. Elliott has a time-line how this mosque/community center/whatever it is controversy got so out of hand, and how a right-wing conspiracy theorist blogger named Pamela Geller (her blog is called “Altas Shrugs”) started and fueled this whole thing. Elliott has a time-line and corresponding links to Geller’s blog to make a pretty compelling argument how her blog made this into a story. Granted, Geller is more “connected” than most bloggers (her bio points to appearances on various news outlets, and she was apparently on Hannity’s radio show, etc.), but I think Elliott makes a pretty compelling argument that this non-story turned into a story in part because of Geller’s persistence and blogging. Take a look at Atlas Shrugs now and it’s clear that she’s still using this story, or it’s still using her.
The politics here are interesting in a way, but the dynamics of the rhetorical situation are much more interesting to me. And maybe I ought to not completely close up that book project yet.