A Guide To Blogosphere Jargon

going galtWhenever I write about TV political punditry, I feel tempted to use some terms that are unfamiliar to people who are sane and/or have lives, like “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to” and “Starbursts” and “The Moustache of Understanding.” These are terms either created or adopted by the blogosphere as a sort of shorthand, conveying ideas — or, more usually, contempt — in a phrase whose meaning is familiar only to regular readers of the blog. It’s very much like the way Howard Stern and other radio hosts have certain catchphrases whose meaning is only revealed after multiple listenings.

Anyway, the blog Balloon Juice has created “The Balloon Juice Lexicon,” an alphabetical guide to terms used on that and other blogs, like “Even the Liberal New Republic,” “Blogger Ethics Panel,” and “High Broderism.”

It’s mostly a dictionary of liberal blog terms, because Balloon Juice is basically a liberal blog (though it was originally a conservative blog; its author moved left over the years, and that’s one of the interesting thing about blogs: if someone becomes more conservative or liberal, you can literally track the way their political orientation changes, because it happens right in front of you). But some of the terms and their definitions are useful from any political point of view. Ever since the term “The Village” was invented to describe Washington media/political insiders and their insular view of what matters in the world, I’ve had a hard time calling them anything else; when you turn on the TV and watch Cokie Roberts or David Gregory, yes, “The Village” does describe the world they live in. And although it isn’t used much any more, I love the term “Magical Unity Pony,” sarcastically used to describe Obama during the 2008 campaign, because it perfectly sums up the absurdity of the idea — popular in The Village — that he would usher in a golden age of bipartisan co-operation. Other terms I like:

Canuckistan – Canada.

Concern troll– Someone who pretends to agree with the prevailing views of the blog, and simply wants to urge caution in this one case, but who is really trying to undermine the views he pretends to hold. Can be hard to distinguish from a poster having second thoughts or angsty misgivings, but tendency becomes clear after several posts. Gives rise to the expression, “concern troll is concerned”, coined from LOLcats.

High Broderism– Also frequently seen as merely “Broderism.” whereby a centerright pundit, often Broder himself, decrees that bipartisanship is a good thing and can be achieved if only everyone would agree with the centerright pundit. For the last ten years or so High Broderism has been the shorter version of virtually every oped from David Broder.

Serious Person– Also frequently appearing as “Very serious person,” this is applied to a person held in great esteem by The Village, who is repeatedly entirely wrong about everything, usually with tragicomic results. Conversely, those who have pretty much been right about everything the last twenty years are referred to as “not serious.”

Shrill– Telling the unpopular truth. The polar opposite of a pundit whose slavish devotion to mainstream approval leads him or her to frequently wrong conclusions (see ‘serious person’). Someone dubbed ‘shrill’ can be reliably accurate but nonetheless ignored for stepping outside the “acceptable” range of political opinion (see ‘Overton Window’).

Just don’t take it too seriously, and enjoy — or be horrified by — the large number of phrases that have become part of the blog mythology, as well as how much of the blogosphere is obsessed with print/TV media coverage. At least if you’re reading a blog and you see someone write “Richard Cohen is America’s Concern Troll, but The Village and the SCLM love him because at least he isn’t Shrill,” you’ll know what that person is talking about. Though you still probably won’t, and shouldn’t, care.

And yes, it would be good to have a conservative equivalent for this dictionary, though my impression is that conservative blogs don’t tend to be quite as jargon-dependent as their liberal equivalents. But there are some phrases that have been popularized by conservative blogs, such as variations on the term “Thrown under the bus” (to refer to Obama cutting off associates like Rev. Wright when they become politically inconvenient).

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