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Blogs, The Mainstream Media, and The War in Iraq

Cari Lynn Hennessy Department of Political Science Northwestern University [email protected] and Paul S. Martin Miller Center of Public Affairs University of Virginia [email protected]

Abstract This paper considers the influence of political blogs on media coverage of foreign policy debates. The study is a plausibility probe of the hypothesis that the influence of bloggers is related to the amount of elite conflict that surrounds a given issue. We hypothesize that during periods of elite consensus, criticisms from bloggers are more likely to be marginalized, while during periods of elite conflict, journalists are more likely to incorporate the views of bloggers as legitimate interpretations of events. Prepared for presentation at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, PA.

"Frankly, we in the media did not cover the antiwar movement as it was moving along on the Internet. We weren't focused on that." -- Andrea Mitchell on Meet the Press, March 23, 2003

In recent years, political blogs have gained new prominence in American politics, and political scientists have begun to consider the effects of blogs. 1 Blogs have had a measurable impact on campaign fundraising and grassroots organizing, perhaps most notably in support of Howard Dean's campaign for the presidency (Kerbel & Bloom, 2005). According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2005, 16% of American adults read blogs, while 6% of American adults have created their own blogs (Rainie, 2005). As the audience for the blogosphere grows, the content of blogs may become more relevant to the political process as bloggers influence the opinions and behaviors of their readers. However, although blogs may directly influence the people who read them, the degree of their widespread impact will most likely depend on the willingness of mainstream actors to incorporate the content of blogs into news coverage that reache s a wider audience. Trying to understand the influence of political bloggers on mainstream news coverage is an admittedly messy task. While blogger influence may seep into news coverage in any number of large and small ways, we opt to study direct references to bloggers as news sources in the tradition of Sigel's (1973) Reporters and Officials. The consequence of this decision is most likely to understate blogger influence.


By providing a wealth of research and ideas to an

There are many definitions of the word "blog," a term that comes from the phrase "web log," because the features of individual blogs differ according to the preferences of their creators. Some blogs allow readers to post comments, while others are closed to reader participation. Some blogs link to other blogs in nearly every post, while others contain only the thoughts of the author. The frequency of updates varies dramatically, with some bloggers posting several times per day, while others allow weeks or months to pass between updates. A feature that is common to most blogs is the "log" format, in which new content is posted above old content, with a time and date stamp to show when the post was first published. This format allows bloggers to respond immediately to events that happen in the news cycle, since the most prominent post is always the most recent post.


audience that includes professional journalists, bloggers may be expanding the sphere of debate even when they do not receive credit. Nevertheless, by examining how and when bloggers become news sources, we can consider a larger concern: Do bloggers alter the landscape of legitimate critical voices, and at what points do critical voices enter mainstream news coverage? Current studies of the mass media suggest that on issues of foreign policy, the mainstream press simply reflects elite conflict and consensus without offering an independent critical voice (Hallin, 1984; Bennett, 1994). Bloggers may offer a critical voice even when political elites are unified in their actions, but their influence depends on the willingness of professional journalists to include their voices as legitimate perspectives. By exploring the mainstream media's

treatment of critical bloggers during periods of elite conflict and elite consensus, we hope to explore the extent to which bloggers contribute to the democratization of the public sphere that reaches citizens through the mainstream press.

Blog and Mainstream Media Blogs have been tremendously successful in raising money and organizing activists, suggesting that bloggers and blog readers feel that collectively, they can have meaningful influence in politics. However, political bloggers hope to have influence beyond raising money and coordinating offline activism: They hope to influence agenda of the mainstream media. While the fundraising power of blogs can be demonstrated with numbers, the blogosphere's influence on the mainstream media is more difficult to measure. In a few highly publicized cases, bloggers have been credited with forcing the mainstream media to cover stories that had initially been ignored. Perhaps most famously, when Senator Trent Lott seemed to endorse segregation at Senator Strom Thurmond's birthday party in


2002, bloggers kept the story alive until the mainstream media finally covered the scandal several days later (Bloom & Kerbel, 2005). Bloggers have also made headlines when their independent research contributed to scandals involving public figures. In September 2004, CBS News was forced to question the authenticity of memos used by Dan Rather in a story about the president's National Guard service. After bloggers scrutinized the typeface and alleged that the memos had been forged, media attention turned from Bush's actions during the Vietnam War to the growing scandal surrounding Dan Rather. Liberal bloggers made headlines in February 2005 when they exposed White House correspondent "Jeff Gannon" as James Guckert, a thinly credentialed reporter with ties to pornographic websites. Yet in most major stories, bloggers seem locked in a losing battle with the mainstream press, which continues to set the agenda based on conve ntions of "objective" journalism, a tradition that stipulates a reliance on official, and likely governmental, sources. This raises the question of why journalists embrace ideas from the blogosphere on some stories, but at other times, they feel free to ignore the stories that are promoted online.

Bloggers and the Iraq War When President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, it was the first time the United States had fought a major war since the emergence of the modern blogosphere. Mainstream coverage of the war represents a crucial test for bloggers, since foreign policy is an area of American politics that has traditionally been dominated by government officials and other elites (Hallin, 1984; Bennett, 1994). The blogosphere offered an alternative forum for discussion of the Bush administration's policy before and during the war, including perspectives that initially received very little support among prominent American policymakers.


The war in Iraq also provides a contemporary example of an extended conflict in which elite opinion has changed over the course of the war. This allows us to study the question of whether bloggers can independently widen the sphere of debate on foreign policy, or whether support from prominent elites is essential for blogger influence. Since the beginning of the conflict, the blogosphere has provided a new forum for the antiwar movement to organize, network, and communicate their position to an online audience of elite readers and ordinary citizens. Antiwar bloggers scrutinized the Bush administration's case for war and argued that the invasion was dangerous and unnecessary, a position that initially received little support among elites. Bloggers encouraged their readers to participate in protest activities, including the demonstration that took place on February 15, 2003. They also criticized the mainstream media's coverage of the debate, claiming that the media was biased in favor of war. Although the antiwar movement benefited from the interne t, it faced many of the same obstacles that the New Left had faced during the pre- internet days of the Vietnam War. During the 1960s, the antiwar movement worked to disseminate its message, but it could not compete with the mainstream press and its audience of millions: The New Left . . . had its own scatter of "underground" newspapers, with hundreds of thousands of readers, but every night some twenty million Americans watched Walter Cronkite's news, an almost equal number watched Chet Huntley's and David Brinkley's, and over sixty million bought daily newspapers which purchased their news from one of two international wire services. In a floodlit society, it becomes extremely different, perhaps unimaginable, for an opposition movement to define itself and its world view, to build up an infrastructure of selfgenerated cultural institutions, outside the dominant culture. (Gitlin, 1980, p.3)

The internet has significantly reduced the cost of writing and distributing the antiwar message for sympathetic readers. By simply posting a blog or a website on the internet, a grassroots


campaign can potentially reach millions of readers.

The internet ensures that the antiwar

movement can reach people who are interested in their message through blogs, websites, and mailing lists -- all at very low cost to the movement. Blogs also provide the advantage of immediate response: While underground newspapers had to be written, printed, and distributed after important events, a blogger can publish a response immediately after news breaks. While the internet has advantages for grassroots movements, antiwar blogs still face the significant challenge of attracting readers. The most popular political blogs attract fewer than one million page views each day. These blogs have an impressive number of readers by the standards of the blogosphere, but not enough to compete with mainstream outlets. In order to seriously influence public opinion, 21st century antiwar movements must engage the mainstream media just as they did before they could use the internet. In addition to the challenge of reaching a wider audience, antiwar bloggers face the additional challenge of gaining legitimacy in a media culture that normally grants legitimacy based on status and credentials. In the tradition of objective reporting, reporters present

government officials as authoritative sources of information, while activists are marginalized or even ridiculed. During the Vietnam War, reporters relied heavily on official sources for information and opinions about the war, while the antiwar movement was consulted primarily for stories about protest movements (Hallin, 1986). Reporters were interested in clashes between protestors and authorities, and whether protests would result in arrests and violence, but the views of antiwar activists were rarely presented as reasonable analysis of the conflict (Hallin, 1986; Tuchman, 1978). Bloggers may catch the attention of reporters as a new protest phenomenon, but this does not mean that their views will be taken seriously in the press.


The Indexing Hypothesis and Blogs In order to contribute to the democratization of the public sphere, bloggers must be able to propel stories and ideas into mainstream discussion even when similar voices are absent from the elite community. In previous coverage of foreign policy issues, journalists were more likely to question the administration when elites expressed disagreement. According to the indexing hypothesis, critical coverage is "indexed" to the amount of elite conflict among political elites, who define the sphere of legitimate opinion (Bennett, 1994). Journalists are reluctant to include critical voices during periods of elite consensus, but when there is a sustained conflict among elites, "the news gates also tend to open to grass-roots groups, interest groups, opinion polls, and broader social participation in media policy debates" (p. 25). By operating outside of the rules of journalism or politic elites, bloggers hope to provide an essential public voice for concerns about foreign policy decisions that garner elite consensus within Washington. However, traditions of objective journalism suggest that even with a substantial online audience, bloggers will find it difficult to break into mainstream coverage. The indexing hypothesis was formulated before the blogosphere was born, but blogs could fit with the hypothesis because reporters may place blogs into the category of groups that only receive significant attention when elites disagree. Bennett theorizes that this "indexing" occurs because an ongoing conflict gives journalists an opportunity to explore the story from a variety of angles, including new standards for accountability. When a conflict lasts for several days, journalists must search for new ways to report the same story, and turning to outside sources such as the blogosphere provides new angles for coverage. Comments from bloggers may appear in reaction stories to accompany stories of elite conflict, but when extended elite conflict occurs, bloggers also have a better chance of inspiring journalists to cover the story from


new angles in a way that legitimizes interpretations from the blogosphere. If the indexing hypothesis holds true for the blogosphere, coverage of the Iraq war that began in 2003 should reflect an increasing influence of bloggers as elite discourse moves from consensus to open conflict. The breakdown of elite consensus on the Iraq war may follow a pattern similar to the increasing conflict that occurred during the Vietnam War. Previous research on the Vietnam War has found that contrary to conventional wisdom, negative media coverage did not force elites to eventually withdraw from the war. While many politicians, including Richard Nixon, believed that the press was leading the opposition and rallying the public against the war, research has found that throughout most of the war, the media continued to legitimize official sources while antiwar groups were marginalized as violent, radical protestors rather than sources of valid opinion on the war (Hallin, 1984). After the Tet Offensive in 1968, coverage did become more critical, but Hallin finds that the increasingly critical coverage was not merely a reaction to events, because coverage failed to fluctuate with successes and failures on the ground. Instead, the increasing opposition actually reflected the growing discontent among elites who were speaking out against the war. Hallin concludes that overall, the media continued to follow the conventions of objective journalism that initially yielded predominantly positive coverage of the war. The initial support reflected the consensus among political elites in support of the war, and as consensus broke down, the media's continued reliance on official sources resulted in more negative coverage. The conflict between elites legitimized opposition to the war as an acceptable position within the Sphere of Legitimate Controversy, though the legitimization did not necessarily extend to the antiwar movement itself. A similar pattern has been found in coverage of the first Gulf War


(Entman & Page, 1994). Expanding on Bennett's indexing hypothesis, Entman and Page suggest that in addition to indexing coverage to the consensus or conflict among elites, the media are more likely to index their coverage to the most powerful elites. In addition to reporting official comments on events that have already happened, journalists frequently strive to predict what will happen, and sources with influential roles are more likely to offer accurate predications; the opinions of powerful officials are most likely to result in actual policy decisions (p. 97). Because reporters continue to rely on the same standards of objectivity that guided their coverage in recent wars, we should expect coverage of the second Gulf War to be indexed to the statements of elites, especially elites who have a role in shaping foreign policy. Assuming that critical bloggers have a role similar to that of grassroots organizations and independent activists, their relevance in the mainstream media should depend on conflicts between elites.

Research Design This study is a plausibility probe of the hypothesis that blogs have a greater opportunity to influence the mainstream media during periods of elite conflict than they have dur ing periods of elite consensus. Supportive evidence would show a correlation between the amount of

division between elites on a specific issue and the amount of blogger influence on that same issue. If a relationship exists as hypothesized, the evidence should indicate that bloggers are predominantly ignored or treated as partisan activists when the majority of political elites are in consensus on an issue. Evidence would also show that when elites express conflicting views on the issue, bloggers are more likely to be presented by the mainstream media as legitimate sources of opinion. Ideally, the issue in question should be an issue that has undergone periods of both conflict and consensus after the emergence of the political blogosphere. If blogs receive more attention overall during periods of elite conflict, even in reaction


stories, this could suggest that increasing conflict has resulted in more willingness to turn to nonofficial sources for interpretation of events. However, in order to claim significant influence, blogs must be able to influence the way that the mainstream media cover events; mentions of blogs in reaction stories might merely indicate increasing curiosity about the blog phenomenon. In order to demonstrate significant influence, bloggers should appear in stories to provide legitimatized interpretations of events. They should be introduced as potential sources of

reasoned opinion rather than as partisans or radicals. The hypothesis will be tested by examining the influence of an academic blogger, Juan Cole, over the first two and a half years of the war in Iraq. We will also examine the treatment that partisan antiwar bloggers received throughout the war. The authors recognize the limits of studying the sourcing of but a few bloggers.

Elite Conflict During the Iraq War Although exact measurements of elite conflict are beyond the scope of this paper, we conducted this study based on the rough observation that elites overwhelmingly supported the war during the initial stages of planning and invasion, but open conflict between elites increased as the war progressed. This assumption is based on the voting records and public comments of prominent members of the U.S. Congress. On October 11, 2002, the U.S. Congress voted overwhe lmingly to grant President Bush the authority to use force against Iraq, with a majority of Senate Democrats voting for the resolution. When President Bush eventually ordered a military attack on Saddam Hussein's regime in March 2003, the nation experienced a surge of patriotism and support for the mission of the troops that was echoed by Democratic and Republican elites. A bipartisan majority of party elites continued to support the administration throughout the first months of the war. On


November 3, 2003, only twelve senators voted against a bill that authorized $87 billion for Iraq without providing a way to pay for the spending increase. During the 2004 election season, the most prominent elites remained supportive of the war. President Bush made speeches about the war throughout his campaign, and while the Democratic presidential candidates offered strategic criticism, the major contenders were reluctant to criticize the overall mission. The eventual Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry, had voted for the resolution to authorize the war, and when pressed, he stated that he did not regret his vote. In July 2004, ABC News anchor Ted Koppel surveyed 42 senators who voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq, and only three said that they regretted their vote. However, the presence of antiwar candidates, including Dennis Kucinich, Carol Mosely Braun, and Al Sharpton, allowed for some legitimized debate that had been absent during the initial stages of the war, though they likely marginalized themselves as a consequence of their opposition. By 2005, party elites from both parties were openly criticizing the war. In May of that year, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) proposed an amendment that called for withdrawal from Iraq. The amendment ultimately failed, but it received the votes of 128 congressmen, including five Republicans. In June 2005, Democratic and Republican senators scolded Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in hearings about Iraq and proposed a bipartisan timetable for withdrawal. Senator Edward Kennedy called the war "a seeming intractable quagmire" and called for Rumsfeld to resign (Graham, 2005). While consistent war opponents continued to speak out, several elite senators who had initially supported the war expressed regret and called for withdrawal. In October, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) called for withdrawal and said publicly that his vote to authorize the war had been a mistake (Cillizza & White, 2005). In


November, former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who voted for the Iraq resolution while he was still in office, launched a campaign calling for complete withdrawal from Iraq by 2007. Senator Diane Feinstein, who voted for the resolution in 2002, said on national television, "Had I known then what I know now, I never would have cast that vote, not in one thousand years." In November 2005, a dramatic call for troop withdrawal came from Congressman Jack Murtha, a former Marine, distinguished Vietnam veteran, and ranking member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Prominent Democrats continued to speak out against the war in 2006. John Kerry

reversed his campaign statements about his vote to authorize force when he stated publicly that "the war itself was a mistake. . . It was wrong and I was wrong to vote for that Iraqi war resolution" (Barrett, 2006). Resolutions calling for withdrawal were introduced by leading Democrats in the U.S. Senate, and one resolution calling for troop reduction received 39 votes. Although elite conflict has fluctuated throughout the war, the actions and statements of influential members of Congress show an overall trend toward increasing elite conflict as the war progressed. If the hypothesis that increased elite conflict allows for increased blogger influence is plausible, the study should find that as the war progressed, the opinions and analyses of bloggers received an increasing amount of attention in the mainstream press, not just as fodder for reaction stories but as plausible interpretations of events. We expect antiwar bloggers to be largely shut out of the debate during late 2002 and early 2003, when elites were largely united in their support of military action against Iraq. We also expect the antiwar perspective to be marginalized during the first months of the war, when political elites and many mainstream commentators rallied in support of the military, linking support for the troops to support for the war itself. We expect antiwar bloggers to have a greater


voice in mainstream coverage during 2004 and 2005, when a violent insurgency outlasted the administration's initial predictions. We expect antiwar bloggers to have the most influence during 2006, as sectarian violence claimed hundreds of lives, and members of Congress regularly spoke out in favor of withdrawal.

The Expert Blogger In order to examine the influence of expert bloggers on foreign policy coverage, we studied coverage of Juan Cole, who writes the blog "Informed Comment." Cole is a history professor at the University of Michigan, where he studies religion and the Middle East. It would be impossible to select one blogger who was representative of all other bloggers, but Cole's blog is ideal for the study because he blogs almost exclusively about Iraq and because he writes the type of critical analys is that we expect will be excluded from mainstream coverage during periods of elite consensus on the war. While Cole is unique from other bloggers in that he has expert credentials, he is an example of a blogger who uses an online forum to criticize and supplement mainstream coverage. Cole's position and his field of study might legitimize his interpretations of the war for mainstream coverage without a blog, but Cole's blog is the reason that he has achieved widespread recognition. The United States ha s countless qualified historians and professors of Middle East studies who would be able to provide informed opinions about the war in Iraq, but without blogs of their own, these professors are largely ignored by the blogosphere and by the mainstream media. Cole has gained unique prominence because his blog allows him to speak daily to a sizeable audience of internet readers who are intensely concerned with the details of the ongoing conflict. Cole might be a more knowledgeable source of opinion than other

professors in his field, but the mainstream press has no way of evaluating him in comparison to


other professors. His exceptional notoriety as an academic expert suggests that mainstream reporters consult Cole not because he is a professor, but because he is a professor who blogs. Cole also serves as an apt example for the study because his position as an academic expert falls outside of the realm of official sources that normally appear in news coverage. Cole possesses rare knowledge and insight into the history and culture of Iraq, but his interpretations of the conflict are not necessary for reporters to tell a compelling news story. The conventions of "objective" news coverage and beat reporting encourage journalists to base their stories around the interpretations of officials, and the war in Iraq has been no exception. When the war began, military officials were available to provide dramatic accounts of the military "shock and awe" strategy, and political leaders provided frames for the war that invoked themes of spreading democracy and fighting the war on terrorism. Military actions could easily be placed within these relatively simple frames; discussions of the history of Iraq were rarely reported in any depth, and the complex cultural conflicts in Iraq were reduced to three groups: Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. Additionally, Cole has been intensely critical of U.S. leaders throughout the war, accusing the administration of severely blundering the occupation. In the mainstream cult of objectivity, seeking the historical analysis of an academic, especially one who is critical of the Bush administration, would be a deviation from routine sourcing. Therefore, during a period of elite consensus, such as the beginning of the war, we expect Cole's interpretations to be almost completely disregarded by the mainstream media, while the interpretations of public officials dominate the news. However, during a sustained conflict between elites, Cole's interpretations of events in Iraq should become more welcome in the mainstream press. The dissenting views of many Democrats and some Republicans should legitimize opinions that contradict the administration's claims about Iraq, and Cole's blog


provides a wealth of information that might allow reporters to rehash the same debate from a new angle. If Cole does receive more attention from the mainstream press during periods of elite conflict, this would suggest that elite conflict helps to legitimize the interpretations of bloggers for mainstream media.

Data Collection In order to measure Cole's influence in the mainstream media during the early and later stages of the war, data was collected from a sample of U.S. newspapers. Although Cole also appeared on television during those months, newspapers provide the least ambiguous context because articles are premeditated and edited for clarity. Television interviews can begin in one context but end up elsewhere depending on the spontaneous statements of the participants; an interview that begins as a respectful request for interpretation can quickly turn to partisan combat. The format of newspaper articles ensures that when mentioned, Cole will be identified in a short, specific phrase that communicates his function in the article. Depending on the author's purpose, he might be identified as an expert, a partisan, a blogger, or some combination. These identifying phrases, combined with the context of the appearance, present a clear context that can be judged as either legitimizing Cole's views or presenting them as an example of politically motivated, partisan opinion. Newspaper articles were collected from the Factiva database because it provides a consistent sample of major and local newspapers for the duration of the study. Ideally, the study would include every dominant newspaper in every major city, but with limited resources, the database provides access to archives from local newspapers and from major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, which traditionally set the agenda for smaller news outlets throughout the United States.


A Factiva search was used to obtain every article appearing in the newspapers that included the phrase "Juan Cole" between October 1, 2002, and June 30, 2006. The start date was chosen because the U.S. Congress passed a resolution to authorize force against Iraq in October 2002. Although the resolution specified steps that the president should take before invading, the resolution was widely interpreted by the media as a vote for the war, a demonstration of elite support for the use of force. The end date is the last day of the last full month before the data was collected in June 2006. Instances in which Cole was mentioned or quoted were coded as one of the following broad categories: Expert Credent ials -- Stories were coded for this category when Cole was credentialed based on his status as an academic expert. Articles were coded as giving Cole expert credentials when he was identified as a professor, an expert, a specialist, or an authority on the subject. With these credentials, his comments could then appear as the reliable interpretation of an individual with specialized knowledge.

Partisan Credentials -- Articles were coded for partisan credentials when they included any word or phrase that identifies Cole as having a partisan view on either the war or the administration. For example, Cole might be described as a leftist, or as an opponent of the war. Partisan credentials cue the reader that Cole might have partisan motives, undermining the legitimacy of his opinion. Expert and Partisan Credentials -- Articles were coded for this category when Cole was identified as both an authority and a partisan within the same article. None of the Above -- Articles were coded for this category when Cole was not identified as a an expert or a partisan.

The articles were also coded based on whether or not Cole was identified as a blogger, including any reference to his "blog" or to his "website." A mention of Cole's blog indicates that the author


of the story is aware of the blog, suggesting that the blog may have been a factor in his or her decision to use Cole as a source. However, the absence of such a mention does not necessarily indicate that Cole's blog did not influence the author. Reporters ma y be reluctant to admit that a blogger influenced their reporting; additionally, identifying Cole as a blogger may also reduce the impact of his expert status, since bloggers are generally perceived as both amateur and partisan. Finally, each article was identified as either a news story or an editorial piece based on the designation of the newspaper that ran the story. Opinion writers have more freedom in how they identify and discuss their sources; for example, for the author of a news story to accuse an individual of lying would violate the standards of objective reporting, but opinion writers are free to attack the credibility of a source. Articles were coded as news or opinion to see if any of the above categories could be linked to editorial pieces; for example, descriptions of Cole as a partisan are expected to appear in editorial pieces more frequently than in news stories. Additionally, the editorial pieces may provide a more revealing representation of how Cole was viewed by the mainstream press throughout the period of the study, since opinion writers are free to praise Cole as informed or to criticize him as a radical partisan. Each of these categories was analyzed for change over time during the period of the study to compare any changes with the overall trend toward increasing elite conflict. The stories were then grouped according to the month and year that they appeared in the media. The data is expected to show that Cole received an increasing number of legitimized mentions in the later stages of the war, while depictions of Cole as a leftist are expected to either remain constant or to decrease. If Cole was more frequently solicited for expert analysis in 2005 than in 2003 and 2004, this would illustrate the hypothesis that the influence of bloggers is indexed to the amount


of conflict between elites.

Results The initial Factiva search results included 211 matches for the phrase "Juan Cole." Articles were then removed from the sample if the matches appeared in letters to the editor, duplicates of the same article, or articles about a different Juan Cole. Letters to the editor were removed because the study is only concerned with the decisions of professional journalists in selecting sources for their stories. Likewise, duplicate articles were removed because each

unique article represents one decision to include Juan Cole as a source, and articles appeared in multiple newspapers for reasons unrelated to sourcing. After duplicates and letters to the editor were removed, 169 unique articles were left. The distribution of appearances over time appears in Figure 1.1, using a three month rolling average. In the months between the October resolution and the beginning of the war on March, 20, 2003, Cole was almost entirely ignored by the newspapers in the sample, with only two appearances during that period. He was quoted once in November on the question of how the ayatollahs of Iran might react to a U.S. presence in Iraq, and once in February expressing reservations about the looming war. During this period, Cole blogged extensively about the possibility of war. While Cole ultimately supported the removal of Saddam Hussein on

humanitarian grounds, he criticized the intelligence used to justify the war, and he expressed deep reservations about the administration's unilateral approach. Cole also expressed fears that the outcome of war would be a disaster for the Iraqi people and for the United States. On his blog, he pointed out that neither Kuwait nor Afghanistan had become a democracy after U.S. intervention, and he accused the Bush administration of unrealistic expectations and of preferring American occupation to true Iraqi democracy:


The Bush administration is not actually going into Iraq to establish democracy. Rather, the Iraqi people will be forced at gunpoint to trade a belligerent dictatorship for a pliant one. This is to be Chile 1973, not Japan 1945. I have been very afraid myself all along that the Cheneys, Rumsfelds, and Wolfowitzes would pull this switch on us at the last minute. Cole's commentary about the possible outcomes of war was informed by his research on the sentiments of the Iraqi people and by his knowledge of the larger Middle East. As an expert on Shiite Islam, his predictions might have been of interest to the mainstream media, but with the exception of the quotation in February, the newspapers in the sample did not consult Cole for his opinion about the wisdom of invading or the likely consequences of an American presence. Cole was quoted sporadically during the first months of the military occupation in 2003, but entire months passed without a single mention of Cole in the newspapers that were studied. When Cole did appear, he was most frequently quoted about Iran, the capture of Saddam Hussein, and the political potential of the Shiite majority. Cole was quoted with increasing frequency in 2004, beginning in February of that year. Reporters consulted him primarily about the political divisions between Iraqis and about the ongoing conflict with the insurgency, which seemed to grow stronger throughout the violent summer of that year. In August 2004, the month with the highest number of appearances, Cole was consulted frequently about the bloody conflicts between U.S. forces and the militia led by Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric. In these articles, Cole provides explanations of the Shiite religion and criticizes the U.S. for the ongoing violence. He told the Associated Press, "The Americans will win militarily. But I think they are losing politically." In November and December of that year, Cole was quoted in stories about the ongoing insurgency and in several stories about the upcoming elections. Mentions of Juan Cole declined somewhat in 2005, but journalists continued to quote him steadily throughout the final year of the analysis. In January and February, Cole was quoted in 19

thirteen unique stories about the Iraqi elections, which took place on January 30, 2005. Between March and October, Cole was quoted in stories about a variety of topics including the terrorist bombings in London and the vote on the Iraqi constitution. The small number of appearances in 2003, especially in the months leading up to the war, suggests that mainstream reporters and columnists were less inclined to consult Cole while elites were largely unified in their support of the war. The hypothesis also seems to be supported by data showing that a substantial increase in appearances occurred during months of intense violence, in which the administration faced criticism for an apparent inability to control the insurgency. While Cole was quoted with increasing frequency as the war progressed, many of the references to Cole in the sampled newspapers were linked to current events, which may account for the increases in some months. However, the first months of the war included a number of widely covered events, including the end of U.S. ultimatums and start of the bombing, while Cole was ignored by every newspaper in the sample. In February 2003, Cole used his blog to dispute the Bush administration's suggestions that Saddam Hussein was working with al-Qaeda, and in March of that year, he criticized the administration's claims that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). During the months before the war, Cole's criticism of intelligence never appeared in the sampled newspapers. But in October 2005, when U.S. intelligence officials claimed that a letter attributed to Ayman Zawahiri was authentic, Cole's doubts about the letter's authenticity appeared in two of the newspapers. The Washington Post included Cole's criticism in one news story and one opinion piece, quoting directly from Cole's blog. The next day, the Christian Science Monitor printed Cole's criticisms of the claims of intelligence officials, also quoting


from the blog.

Credentials and Blog Influence Juan Cole was credentialed as an expert in almost every article in which he appeared. Out of 169 total articles, Cole was described as an expert in 153 of the stories (90.5 percent). He was described as both an expert and a partisan in 13 stories (7.7 percent), and his name appeared without credentials in just three stories (1.8 percent). Cole was never described as a partisan without also being credentialed as an expert. In the vast majority of the articles, Cole appeared to offer insight based on his expert status, and he was frequently consulted specifically about his area of expertise, Shiite Islam. But although Cole's comments in news articles are most

frequently justified by his expert status, the evidence suggests that his prominence as a blogger contributes to his appearances in mainstream opinion and news. Twenty-nine of the articles (17.2 percent) referred directly to his blog, while some authors quoted the blog without mentioning it. In an article appearing in November of 2002, Borzou Daragahi quoted directly from the blog and wrote simply, "said Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan" (Daragahi, 2002). In a few articles, authors followed quotations with "wrote Juan Cole," without mentioning where he wrote the comment. The evasiveness of these authors suggests that reporters may be reluctant to admit that they quoted a blog instead of conducting their own interviews, which may account for the fact that a majority of the articles never mention Cole's blog. Some articles paraphrase Cole without a direct quotation, leaving open the possibility that the reporter learned his opinion from his blog. Ultimately, it is impossible to measure the exact amount of influence that Cole's blog had on the sampled newspapers during the period of the study. His blog was quoted in a minority of articles, but for other articles, reporters may have called Cole for an interview based on analysis


that first appeared on his blog. Additionally, because only explicit mentions of Juan Cole were analyzed, the data would also fail to account for influence that was not attributed to Cole. His blog provides news and analysis about the region almost every day, and his posts may alert journalists to new information and prompt them to investigate new stories. Cole's blog could potentially serve as a research tool for a number of journalists who cover Iraq, but without surveying the journalists themselves, it would be extremely difficult to measure the amount of unattributed influence.

Editorials Cole appeared in only one editorial in 2003, but as his prominence increased in news stories, he appeared in an increasing number of editorials. Thirty- nine of the stories that Cole appeared in were editoria ls (23.1 percent). Some opinion writers quoted Cole to enhance their arguments, but several opinion writers included Cole for the purpose of attacking him. These articles are especially useful because unlike the news stories, they include commentary on Cole's status as an expert on the Middle East. Although Cole has been critical of the administration since the beginning of the war, he was not personally attacked in editorials until late 2004, coinciding with his increasing prominence in mainstream news articles. As the insurgency raged on throughout 2004, opinion writers began to incorporate Cole's commentary to bolster their own criticisms of the administration's strategy. Following Cole's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Ap ril of that year, his critical testimony was quoted at length in two editorials. In an article calling for a revised strategy, Kenneth J. Moynihan of the Worchester Telegram & Gazette quoted Cole's accusations that the U.S. had failed to understand Iraqi society and had blundered the occupation as a result of this ignorance (Moynihan, 2004). Ted Roelofs of The Grand Rapids Press included Cole's scathing


comment about the Coalition Provisional Authority: "I don't think they have a clue, frankly, about what is going on. They don't know Arabic. They don't know Arabic society." In the same article, Cole called the situation a "growing fiasco" (Roelofs, 2004). Cole was also quoted as a source of information in editorials about Iraq, terrorism, and the views of the Islamic world. Beginning in September 2004, Cole became the subject of criticism in several editorials, five of which appeared in The New York Sun. The first editorial to attack Cole appeared on September 9, 2004, in The Sun. In the editorial, opinion writer Eli Lake accused Cole of "outrageous libel," citing a blog post in which Cole wrote that "pro-Likud intellectuals" were using the Pentagon to fight for Israel (Lake, 2004). Lake expressed dismay at Cole's growing credibility in the mainstream media: Only a few years ago, Mr. Cole's blather might be consigned to that corner of the Internet reserved for tinfoil-capped witnesses of alien landings and the selfappointed investigators of the British royal family's drug cartels. But it is a sign of the times that Mr. Cole is appearing as a commentator on National Public Radio and has been quoted in the Washington Post and has spoken before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Sun also attacked Cole in three unsigned editorials, calling his blog an "anti- Bush website" and criticizing the Democratic National Committee for linking to him from their blog ("The Left and the Tsunami," 2004; "Stewart's Party," 2005). In May 2005, The Sun printed an unsigned editorial that criticized a blog post about Lawrence Franklin, in which the author quipped that Cole "took time out from disparaging the liberation of Iraq" to write the post ("The Franklin Arrest," 2005). While The Sun printed more attacks on Cole than any other newspaper in the study, its writers were not alone in their disapproval. David Brooks of The New York Times quoted Cole's criticism of the Bush administration's policy toward Israel and then concluded that Bush had been correct all along (Brooks, 2004). In the Boston Globe, opinion columnist Cathy Young


called Cole a "left-of-center commentator on the Middle East" and argued against his analysis of the causes of terrorism, beginning her critique with "Pardon me for pointing out the obvious. . . " (Young, 2005). In October 2005, an uns igned editorial in The Press-Enterprise called Cole "a favorite Middle East expert of the press and steadfast opponent of the Iraq War" and accused him of unwarranted pessimism toward the possibility of Iraqi democracy ("Forward in Iraq," 2005). The editorial pointed out that Cole was "the man who was sure the inspiring first elections in January would never happen," implying that events had proved him wrong, thereby damaging his credibility. These editorials suggest that by late 2004, Cole was perceived as a threat by commentators who supported the administration's policy in Iraq. Eli Lake's complaint that Cole had become a legitimate commentator suggests that in his view, the mainstream media were taking Cole more seriously than they had in the past. Cole could not have been called a favorite of the press in the early days of the war, when he was not consulted once by the sampled newspapers about the beginning of the war in March 2003. The editorials also indicate that its authors were aware of Cole's blog and of its influence. Several of the editorials either quoted from his blog or mentioned its existence. In August 2004, Bradley J. Fikes of the North County Times praised Cole's blog as a source of news on Iraq: To find out what's really happening in Iraq, those much- maligned blogs come in handy. One of the best is the blog of Juan Cole (, an expert on the Shias of Iraq and professor of history at the University of Michigan. Cole, who lived in the Arab world for six years, speaks Arabic, Persian and Urdu, and has done considerable scholastic work on Iraqi history. These are credentials not normally possessed by most reporters of TV "news" performers (Fikes, 2004). In a July 2005 editorial, Daniel Pipes of The New York Sun complained that Juan Cole had distorted a statement he made about Michelle Malkin's book, In Defense of Interment. Pipes claimed that despite his quick response, "the cat was out of the bag. Now, 350 Web sites have


repeated the falsehood that I want American Muslims in concentration camps." Pipes' article suggests that in his opinion, Cole's blog has enough influence to seriously impact his reputation (Pipes, 2005).

Partisan Bloggers Juan Cole is unique from most popular bloggers because he writes about Iraq from the perspective of an expert. He displays his academic credentials directly under the title of his blog, emphasizing his expert status, and his blog focuses almost entirely on topics that are related to his field of study. However, his credentials alone do not distinguish him from the

partisan/activist blogs, since several involve the contributions of academics, lawyers, and other professionals. Cole differs from most A- list political bloggers in that his blog primarily offers information and analysis rather than political news or calls to political action. Cole frequently posts criticism of the Bush administration and its policies on Iraq, but his blog does not follow the daily drama of Washington politics, and he spends very little time advocating for specific politicians or for the Democratic party. While opinion writers have labeled his blog "anti- Bush," Cole writes far more about the situation in Iraq than on the American politics that affect it. Because Cole avoids the stigma associated with having a partisan agenda, his increasing influence during the Iraq war may be a unique benefit of his expert status. Juan Cole was treated as a legitimate expert by mainstream newspapers such as the New York Times, while he was criticized primarily by conservative opinion writers. However, activist bloggers may not enjoy the same legitimacy: During the Vietnam War, antiwar

protesters were demonized by mainstream newspapers, not just by right wing opinion writers (Gitlin, 1980). Activist antiwar bloggers may be treated in a similar fashion. In this section, we


will examine coverage of partisan antiwar bloggers during the Iraq war in order to study the treatment that they received in mainstream news coverage.

Study Design In order to examine the influence of partisan antiwar bloggers in the mainstream media, we replicated the Cole study using four prominent liberal and conservative blogs: Daily Kos, Instapundit, Eschaton, and Little Green Footballs. We studied the amount of attention these blogs received over time by recording the number of references in mainstream newspapers between the period of October 2002 and June 2006. In order to study the degree of legitimacy granted to antiwar bloggers by mainstream journalists, we studied the context of these references in the most influential newspapers. We chose these four blogs because they have been among the most popular political blogs since at least 2002, and because their support or opposition to the war has remained consistent throughout the period of the study. The bloggers who write Daily Kos and Eschaton, two of the most popular liberal blogs, have opposed the war in Iraq since the administration first began to publicly consider military action. Instapundit and Little Green Footballs, two of the top conservative blogs, both supported the invasion of Iraq, and they continue to argue that it was the right decision. Because these blogs are the most widely read liberal and conservative blogs, we can expect these blogs to be referenced more often than blogs with small audiences. Journalists use the A -list political blogs as a "summary statistic," representing the views of lesser-known liberal and conservative bloggers (Drezner & Farrell, 2004). In other words, if these blogs are not cited, it is unlikely that less popular blogs are receiving media attention.


Another benefit to studying these four blogs is that they allow us to study the influence of individuals who were not included in mainstream political discussion before they were published online. Some of the most popular bloggers, including Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, Andrew Sullivan, and Joshua Micah Marshall, were published in the mainstream media before they launched their blogs. For these bloggers, the internet provides an additional f rum, but their o voice in mainstream discourse cannot be attributed to their blogs. In contrast, the bloggers who founded Daily Kos, Eschaton, Instapundit, and Little Green Footballs achieved their current notoriety by building an audience for their blogs. Blogs cannot be credited with promoting new ideas to the mainstream media unless journalists cover bloggers who do not already have a voice. Using the Factiva database, we recorded the number of references to each blog that appeared in mainstream newspapers between October 2002 and June 2006. We used the same group of newspapers that were used to study Juan Cole: every local and national U.S. paper that appears in the database. The stories were grouped by month, and we recorded the total number of references that appeared in each month of the study. The inclusion of the two conservative blogs, Instapundit and Little Green Footballs, allowed us to compare coverage of antiwar bloggers with coverage of bloggers who had largely agreed with the administration during the period of the study. If the results show that antiwar bloggers received more attention the later years of the war, an alternative explanation might be that blogs simply became more popular during the period of the study. Political blogs are a relatively new phenomenon, and their readership grew at the same time that elites became increasingly critical of the Iraq war. If a growing blog phenomenon accounts for patterns of media attention, we should expect both liberal and conservative blogs to receive more attention


over time. In order to demonstrate a potential relationship to elite conflict, antiwar blogs would need to receive more attention relative to conservative bloggers during later periods of the war. Every unique article that mentioned one of the four blogs was included without respect to the subject of the story. While Juan Cole was almost always quoted in stories about Iraq, the partisan bloggers were quoted in stories about a variety of subjects, many of which were unrelated to the war in Iraq. We included every reference that appeared in the newspapers, regardless of the surrounding content. This approach allowed us to determine the total amount of attention that each blog received in the newspapers over time, but it had the disadvantage of not allowing us to see whether these patterns were related to war coverage. The Iraq war was a major political issue throughout the period of the study, and we can expect the bloggers' war views to have at least some impact on whether the media described them as legitimate or radical. However, the quantitative results alone will not provide sufficient evidence to link patterns of influence to the war. Our content analysis of articles will provide insight into the context surrounding the references. In order to study the context in which blogs were mentioned during the period of the war, we examined every article mentioned the blogs in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. These newspapers were chosen because they have disproportionate influence on the public agenda, and because they are widely read among elites. The antiwar movement will have the most influence if antiwar voices appear in the most influential mainstream outlets. Additionally, these newspapers may provide cues to other journalists when they discuss the significance of political blogging. We studied these articles to see if blogs were quoted in relation to the Iraq war, or if they were merely cited in articles about the blogging phenomenon. We also looked at the context to


determine whether antiwar blogs were treated as legitimate sources of opinion, or if they were marginalized the way that antiwar protest movements have been in the past. If increasing elite conflict made journalists more likely to consider antiwar bloggers in their coverage, supportive evidence would show that antiwar bloggers received space to explain their views of the war. While they may not be granted the same degree of legitimacy that Juan Cole received, they should not be marginalized as fringe radicals. Supportive evidence would also show that antiwar bloggers were more likely to be quoted in the later years of the war than at the beginning of the war.

An Overview The number of references to Daily Kos and Instapundit are displayed in figures 1.2 and 1.3, using a three month rolling average for both graphs. References to Daily Kos increased throughout the period of the war, peaking in the final month of the study, while references to Instapundit remained rela tively stable throughout the war. Coverage of both blogs fluctuated with events, but Instapundit never received the amount of attention that Daily Kos received during the last year that was studied. Instapundit received the most attention in the months surrounding the 2004 election, and references declined following the re-election of President Bush. References to Daily Kos also increased during the 2004 election, but references surpassed these levels during Bush's second term. Events relating to the Daily Kos blog account for many of the references that the blog received during 2006. The founder of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, co-authored a book called Crashing the Gate, published in March 2006, which was mentioned in 28 articles. In June 2006, the Yearly Kos convention attracted reporters from all over the country, accounting for much of


the coverage in that month. Although Instapundit has never promoted a convention, the author, Glenn Reynolds, published his own book, An Army of Davids, in the same month that Moulitsas published his book. Reynolds' book received less attention in the newspapers, with mentions in 11 articles. The results for Eschaton and Little Green Footballs are displayed in figures 1.4 and 1.5. Although these two blogs have consistently ranked among the top political blogs, they were covered much less frequently in the newspapers that were studied. Eschaton first received media attention in December 2002, when the author, Duncan Black, blogged about the scandal surrounding Trent Lott. Eschaton received the most attention in the months surrounding the 2004 election. Following the election, Eschaton was cited consistently in the newspapers, but it never received the level of attention that Daily Kos received in the later years of the war. Little Green Footballs received only a few sporadic mentions until September 2004, when the blog published questions about the authenticity of memos that Dan Rather had used on CBS. Little Green Footballs was cited in 31 articles in that mont h, becoming part of the growing scandal surrounding Rather. Following the controversy, Little Green Footballs was cited

periodically during 2005 and 2006, but it never received as much attention as it had received during the Rather scandal.

Instapundit The New York Times and the Washington Post cited the pro-war blog Instapundit as a source of commentary on the Iraq war in the early stages of the conflict. In the months leading up to the invasion, the mass media began to speak of "warbloggers," bloggers who were actively covering the war on terrorism and the potential war in Iraq. Writing for the New York Times,


Lisa Guernsey called the author of Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, "one of the most frequently cited warbloggers"(Guernsey, 2002). In the first days of the invasion, the Washington Post quoted Reynolds at length in an article about the role of blogs in war coverage. Calling the Iraq war "the first true Internet war," the reporter, Howard Kurtz, noted that " . . . has seen a surge in traffic as the Iraq crisis has heated up, doubling to 200,000 hits a day" (Kurtz, 2003). In the same article, Kurtz published quotations in which Reynolds promoted his own blog as a source of fact checking and "unpacking the spin in the media coverage" of the war. In April 2003, Reynolds published a proposal for dealing with Iraqi oil that was picked up by Washington Post writer George Melloan. Melloan wrote, "Iraqi oil can be put to the service of the Iraqi people in a quite simple way. I am indebted to a Web site called Instapundit for a proposal on how this could be done" (Melloan, 2003). Following these references in the first months of the Iraq war, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal did not cite Instapundit in stories about the war until February 2005, when Howard Kurtz quoted Glenn Reynolds in two articles about the resignation of CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan. Jordan had resigned following comments in which he accused U.S. troops of intentionally targeting journalists in Iraq. These articles were the last references to Instapundit in the context of the war for the three major newspapers. The three major newspapers also mentioned Instapundit in several stories that were not about the Iraq war. The blog was mentioned in articles about the blogging phenomenon, and Reynolds was quoted as an authority on blogs. When liberal bloggers discovered that a

conservative blogger on had plagiarized in the past, the New York Times quoted Reynolds, who said that "They didn't like him because he was a conservative and he was


given real estate at The Washington Post" (Bosman, 2006). The Washington Post also quoted Reynolds in its coverage of the story. Beginning in 2004, the Wall Street Journal published several op/ed columns by Reynolds. He wrote two columns in 2004 and four in 2005. While his first column was about the

blogosphere, his later columns focused on a variety of political issues: the role of Kofi Annan, the governor of Tennessee, the future of the newspaper industry, the nomination of Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court, and the Dubai ports deal. Although his blog was always mentioned at the conclusion of these articles, most of the columns did not focus on his role as a blogger. Reynolds received space as a guest opinion writer who was presumably qualified to opine about topics unrelated to blogging. Reynolds did not write for the Wall Street Journal in 2006 as of June 2006.

Daily Kos In the first year of the war, the three major newspapers did not cite the antiwar blogs, Daily Kos and Eschaton, in stories about the Iraq war. However, Daily Kos was cited in multiple articles in the later years of the war, beginning in 2004. Although Daily Kos was rarely

mentioned as a legitimate source of commentary on the Iraq war, the blog was cited in stories about independent discoveries, protest activities, and conflict with the party establishment. These stories allowed the Daily Kos blog to contribute to the antiwar narrative by representing the liberal, antiwar movement. In two instances, Daily Kos was cited when the bloggers' independent research exposed misleading images used by Republicans to promote their foreign policy agenda. When President Bush was running for reelection in October 2004, his campaign released a television


advertisement that included a digitally altered image of soldiers listening to the president. Bloggers on Daily Kos discovered that the same soldiers appeared in the crowd multiple times, and the Bush campaign was forced to admit that they had doctored the image (Rutenberg, 2004; Kurtz, 2004). In another independent discovery, bloggers on Daily Kos noticed that Republican congressional candidate Howard Kaloogian was using an image of Turkey to demonstrate that Baghdad was secure. In March 2006, Kaloogian posted the image on his website after a trip to Iraq, as evidence that Baghdad was "much more calm and stable" than had been reported. Dana Milbank reported the bloggers' observations in the Washington Post: "But something didn't look right to readers of the liberal Web site Daily Kos, who noted that women in the photo were wearing Western clothing, a couple was holding hands, and signs are in the Roman alphabet" (Milbank, 2006). Daily Kos was also cited when its bloggers participated in online and offline campaigns to promote their view of the Iraq war. In April 2004, a Daily Kos blogger named J.B. Lawton used the blog to organize a rally to protest the Sinclair Broadcast Group when it refused to broadcast an episode of "Nightline" that featured the names of American soldiers who had died in Iraq. Lawton's protest was reported in the Washington Post (Harris, 2004). In June 2005, Daily Kos bloggers were mentioned for their efforts to publicize the "Downing Street Memo," a British document that suggests that Bush and Tony Blair conspired to manipulate intelligence in order to justify war with Iraq. Christopher Cooper wrote in the Wall Street Journal the story had received attention due to "declining public support for the conflict," but also because of "an Internet campaign by war critics prodding journalists to talk about them" (Cooper, 2005). Cooper cited the website created by Daily Kos bloggers,, and described the e-mail campaign that was directed at mainstream media outlets. In August 2005, Daily Kos


was cited in the Washington Post when Cindy Sheehan used the blog to promote her antiwar protest in Crawford, Texas. Sheehan held a conference call with liberal bloggers, and she wrote a post on Daily Kos that criticized media coverage of the antiwar movement. Brian Faler reported on Sheehan's interaction with the bloggers in an article titled "Soldier's Mother Takes Protest to Bloggers" (Faler, 2005). Following Hurricane Katrina, the Washington Post included a quotation from the Daily Kos blog, connecting the humanitarian disaster in New Orleans to the war in Iraq: Liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas, at Daily Kos, says America is a place "where an elective invasion of distant lands is possible, but airlifting food and water to stranded refugees inside our own borders is not. Where the top Republican in the House kvetches about rebuilding New Orleans while happily funding the rebuilding of Iraq. Seemingly without worrying himself that reconstruction estimates for New Orleans -- $25 billion -equals just three months of funding for the Iraq quagmire" (Kurtz, 2005).

Appearing in September 2005, this article was one of the only instances in which Daily Kos was quoted at length in an interpretation of events surrounding the war. In several articles, Daily Kos was cited in stories about conflict between Democratic elites and the liberal, antiwar base of the Democratic party. These stories did not appear in the three major newspapers during the first years of the Iraq war, although bloggers had been criticizing Democratic elites from the beginning of the conflict, but multiple reporters focused on this theme in 2005 and 2006. Writing for the New York Times, Michael Crowley cited Daily Kos in an article that described how liberals use the internet to criticize Democratic leaders. He noted that Hillary Clinton was frequently "vilified on liberal Web sites for supporting the Iraq war" (Crowley, 2005). In a book review that appeared in the Wall Street Journal in June 2006, Brendan Miniter also described liberal bloggers' criticism of Hillary Clinton's views on the war:


Sen. Clinton herself felt the sting of leftist discipline when she was blasted on the -- one of the Bush-ragers favorite sites -- for not denouncing her own vote in favor of invading Iraq. For such ideologues, Sen. Clinton is a sellout (Miniter, 2006).

In the Washington Post, Michael Grunwald described the views of the founder of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, including his opinion that Democrats should distance themselves from Republicans on the issue of the Iraq war (Grunwald, 2006). Daily Kos was also cited in the Washington Post in an article about liberal bloggers' support for Jim Webb, an antiwar candidate running for the Senate from Virginia (Barnes & Shear, 2006). The theme of conflict between Democratic elites and liberal bloggers also appeared in the papers in stories that did not mention the war. Multiple articles described liberal bloggers as intolerant of any Democrat who sided with the Republicans on a given issue, often implying that the bloggers were reckless and unreasonable in their demands. In February 2005, David Brooks wrote that Daily Kos readers "savage Democrats who violate party orthodoxy" (Brooks, 2005). The Wall Street Journal published an editorial in July 2005 that accused Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden of appeasing liberal bloggers, including those on Daily Kos, because they were "threatening primary challenges for any Democrat who supports Mr. Bush on anything" ("Democrats and Cafta," 2005). In a February 2006 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henniger wrote that bloggers on Daily Kos and other liberal websites were "fanatic" and "foul- mouthed" ideologues who expect Democrats to conform to their rigid ideology (Henniger, 2006). Other coverage of Daily Kos focused on its founder, Markos Moulitsas, as a celebrity figure. The publication of his book and the Yearly Kos attention inspired many reporters to focus on his role in starting the blog and leading an activist movement. Following the

convention in June 2006, David Brooks accused Moulitsas of leading a vicious online


movement: "The Keyboard Kingpin, a k a Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, sits at his computer, fires up his Web site, Daily Kos, and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way" (Brooks, 2006). The column implied that liberal bloggers were not independent as they claimed to be, but rather the minions of one leader, Moulitsas, who was directing their opinions and actions.

Eschaton and Little Green Footballs Eschaton and Little Green Footballs were both mentioned in the three major newspapers, but they appeared in fewer articles, and they were not cited in the context of the Iraq war. Eschaton was primarily discussed in articles about blogging. The author, Duncan Black,

appeared in the newspapers when he attended the Democratic National Convention and revealed his identity for the first time. Black received additional attention in the newspapers when he testified at an FEC hearing about the possibility of regulations for political bloggers. Eschaton was also mentioned when it played a role in public scandals, including the controversy surrounding Trent Lott's comments in 2002, and the scandal surrounding White House reporter Jeff Gannon in 2005. In 2006, the Washington Post cited Eschaton as one of the blogs that encouraged readers to send critical e-mails to the ombudsman, Deborah Howell. Eschaton was also mentioned as one of the blogs that had discovered examples of plagiarism from the past work of a conservative blogger. The Wall Street Journal cited Eschaton as an "influential" blog that had helped to direct roughly $500,000 to the campaign of congressional candidate Ciro Rodriguez (Gurwitz, 2006). Although Eschaton had been a key blog in multiple fundraisers for candidates, this was the only instance of online activism that was mentioned in the three major papers.


Little Green Footballs was primarily covered in stories about the controversy surrounding Dan Rather after he used questionable documents to impugn the National Guard service of President Bush. Little Green Footballs had been one of the most vocal sites to question the authenticity of the memos, and the site received credit for fueling the controversy. The site was also quoted as an example of conservative blogs in stories that discussed liberal and conservative reactions to events. In October 2004, when Sinclair Broadcasting aired a movie about John Kerry, the New York Times quoted a commenter on Little Green Footballs who complained that the movie was not critical enough. In May 2006, the New York Times quoted a commenter at the blog in reaction to the news that the Qwest telephone company had refused to share information with the N.S.A.: "If the N.S.A. wants to listen in on my calls, by all means go for it" (Zeller, 2006). After a student committed suicide at the University of Oklahoma, the Wall Street Journal quoted a theory on Little Green Footballs that the student was an Islamic terrorist. Overall, Little Green Footballs received the least amount of attention in the three major newspapers, consistent with the study of multiple newspapers that showed coverage of Little Green Footballs significantly declining after the Dan Rather scandal subsided.

Discussion The results indicate that Cole became more widely quoted as the war progressed, suggesting that a relationship between elite conflict and blogger influence is plausible. However, a relationship between Cole's influence and conflict among elites is difficult to establish without an exact measure of elite conflict. Congressional votes and increasingly critical coverage

indicate an overall increase in conflict as the insurgency outlasted the initial expectations of the Bush administration, but the level of conflict fluctuates based on events and based on domestic politics.


It is of course possible that increases and decreases in mainstream attention to Cole may be influenced by variables not addressed in this study. Cole's specialization in Shiite Islam may partially account for the high number of appearances surrounding events such as American conflicts with the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi election, in which Shiite voters were expected to win a majority. Additionally, Cole himself may be more reluctant to give interviews on certain topics or during certain times of the year. Further research might include an interview with Cole. Another factor that may contribute to Cole's influence in the mainstream press is his popularity on the internet. Cole's blog has been widely read at least since the beginning of the war; it was voted the "best expert blog" in both the 2003 and the 2004 Koufax awards, which are decided based on the votes of readers. However, the exact number of readers and inbound links remain unknown, and even if accurate information were available, some inbound links are from sites that draw more mainstream attention than other sites. While it would be difficult to measure Cole's online influence over time, it remains possible that his increasing prominence in the press was partly due to increasing popularity among widely-read websites. The Cole study is also limited in that it only includes a select group of newspapers. These newspapers may not accurately represent all American newspapers, and more significantly, they fail to account for Cole's appearances on television and radio. These mediums present a greater challenge in studying the decisions of media professionals because once Cole has been scheduled for an appearance, the content of the interview depends on interaction with Cole and other guests, giving the interviewer much less control.

The partisan blogger study revealed a similar pattern of influence. The leading antiwar


blog, Daily Kos, received an increasing amount of coverage during the later years of the Iraq war, as elites became increasingly divided in their views of the war. We do not have enough evidence to conclude that elite opinion was the reason that Daily Kos received more attention in these years; however, the evidence suggests that elite conflict is a plausible explanation for patterns of blogger influence. The results also suggest that Daily Kos and Instapundit may be unique in the amount of media attention that they receive, while lesser-known bloggers have little chance of appearing in mainstream coverage. The antiwar bloggers, Daily Kos and Eschaton, received very little coverage in the sampled newspapers during the first years of the war, while Instapundit was regularly cited as an example of the emerging political blogosphere. The content analysis of the three major

newspapers reveals that during this period, Instapundit was cited in stories about the Iraq war. These stories tended to focus on the role of bloggers in war coverage, and they included Instapundit as a source of online commentary and "fack-checking" of mainstream news about the war. During this period, bloggers who opposed the war, including those who wrote on Daily Kos and Eschaton, were regularly publishing the antiwar viewpoint and mobilizing their readers in protest of the war. However, these bloggers received very little attention in 2002 and 2003, and the three major newspapers never quoted their views in articles about the Iraq war. The absence of antiwar voices from the blogosphere may have been a consequence of the apparent consensus in the elite community on the decision to invade Iraq. As Republicans and the most powerful Democrats voted in favor of war with Iraq, the antiwar position was easily marginalized as a position that fell outside of mainstream political discussion. Antiwar bloggers lacked the credentials of government officials and mainstream media pundits, and their views did not fit the narrative that was being promoted by government officials. The newspapers in our


study were evidently aware of blogs during this time, but they chose to focus on self-appointed "warbloggers" like Instapundit, who were covering the war from the position of supporting the Bush administration. Other factors may have contributed to the lack of focus on antiwar bloggers during the first years of the war. While Daily Kos and Eschaton were the most popular liberal blogs during 2002 and 2003, they were still less popular than Instapundit. Exact measurements of traffic and inbound links from previous years are difficult to obtain, but according to the archives of the blog tracking site Truth La id Bare, Instapundit routinely ranked above the two antiwar blogs that we studied. On March 22, 2003, Instapundit was ranked first with 906 inbound links, while Eschaton ranked second with 557 inbound linkes. Daily Kos was listed with 442 inbound links. According to traffic rankings from 2003, Instapundit regularly received twice as many visitors as Eschaton and Daily Kos, although all of the blogs were receiving tens of thousands of visitors each day. Instapundit may have received more coverage during 2002 and 2003 because

journalists were more likely to be aware of the blog; alternatively, mainstream coverage could have drawn more readers to Instapundit, increasing its traffic and link rankings. Another possible explanation is that Instapundit was the first blog to be taken seriously due to the credentials of its author, Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee. Reynolds' status as a law professor gave him a degree of status and legitimacy that the antiwar bloggers lacked. Although Daily Kos hosted a variety of bloggers with different occupations and backgrounds, the most visible blogger was Markos Moulitsas, who lacked formal credentials in politics. Duncan Black, the blogger who writes Eschaton, has a Ph.D. in economics, but he blogged anonymously until 2004. Black frequently joked that he was a "P.E. teacher," leading many to conclude that he was a lowly gym teacher who lacked relevant


credentials. Although Reynolds frequently blogged about topics that were unrelated to his field of expertise, his title may have contributed to his status in the eyes of the mainstream press. The attention that Daily Kos received in the later years of the war suggests that antiwar bloggers can have limited influence during periods when opposition to the war is a legitimate, mainstream position. The bloggers of Daily Kos were rarely consulted for their perspectives on the war in the way that the expert blogger, Juan Cole was consulted. However, the coverage that they did receive allowed them to promote the antiwar narrative in stories that focused on isolated protests and conflicts. For example, coverage of the Daily Kos campaign to publicize the Downing Street Memo indirectly drew attention to accusations that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair had intentionally manipulated pre-war intelligence in order to mislead the public. Likewise, when Daily Kos bloggers protested Sinclair Broadcasting's decision not to air the Nightline episode that honored dead soldiers, the coverage allowed the bloggers to promote awareness of the human casualties of the war. Coverage of the bloggers' online and offline activities in support of Cindy Sheehan also contributed to this theme. Additionally, Daily Kos bloggers were able to accuse Republicans of deception when they discovered that campaign images had been manipulated. The doctored images might not have been noticed without Daily Kos, and the resulting coverage contributed to the antiwar argument that the administration and its supporters had been lying about the war. While these examples demonstrate that antiwar bloggers can receive wider attention for certain activities, the content analysis also revealed that antiwar bloggers are frequently marginalized even while they receive coverage in mainstream newspapers. As Daily Kos became more prominent, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal began to publish news stories and opinion pieces that dramatized the conflict between mainstream


Democrats and liberal, antiwar bloggers. Daily Kos became synonymous with the leftist "base" of the Democratic party, a group of activists who were working to push their leaders to the left. These stories promoted the idea that liberal blogs represent radical extremists while party elites represent a reasonable, centrist approach to politics. This recurring theme of conflict between bloggers and Democrats suggests that the mainstream perception of bloggers is tied to their relationship with party elites. Stories about these conflicts served to complement discussions of conflict within the Democratic party. The elite conflict that emerged in the later years of the war was not simply Democrats verses Republicans: Democrats became increasingly divided in their positions on the state of the war and on the appropriate time of withdrawal. Some Democrats adopted positions that appealed to antiwar bloggers, and the newspapers observed that certain politicians and candidates, such as James Webb, had earned the support of the bloggers on Daily Kos. Other Democrats, notably Hillary Clinton, were routinely criticized for their support of the war, and the newspapers dramatized these conflicts. The recurring accusation that certain Democrats were "appeasing" the Daily Kos bloggers suggests that elites can actually be marginalized by association with liberal bloggers. Since Daily Kos has been called radical and partisan by the mainstream media, politicians who express similar viewpoints can be portrayed as radical themselves or as "captives" of the activist left, which somehow forces elites to adopt leftist positions. These dynamics point to the Entman & Page revision of Bennett's indexing hypothesis: Coverage is indexed to levels of conflict between elites, but powerful elites carry more weight than elites who have little hope of deciding policy. Conflict among Democrats may serve to open the discussion to new viewpoints, but the Bush administration and the Republican Congress still dominate war coverage by virtue of being in power. Thus, Democrats who support the war


are considered "mainstream" and centrist, while Democrats who sharply disagree with the Republicans find themselves marginalized. The antiwar position is not espoused by the elites who actually decide policy; it echoes the views of bloggers, activists, and ordinary citizens who have very little power by themselves. Another finding that suggests limitations for blogger influence is the vast discrepancy between coverage of Daily Kos and coverage of the other three blogs. Daily Kos is cur rently the most popular blog among the blogs that were studied, but the other three blogs are also big names in the political blogosphere, receiving more than one hundred thousand visits per day. Instapundit has consistently received coverage on a variety of issues, but Eschaton and Little Green Footballs have received very little coverage by comparison. Eschaton is a popular source for commentary on the politics surrounding the Iraq war, but the three major newspapers never cited either blog in stories about the war. Instapundit and Daily Kos have become easy examples of "liberal" and "conservative" blogs while lesser-known blogs are rarely consulted. Glenn Reynolds and Markos Moulitsas have achieved near celebrity status, raising questions about the degree to which the top bloggers have become part of the elite pundit class themselves. However, although the mainstream media excluded lesser-known blogs in war coverage, Daily Kos represented the online antiwar movement, providing at least one new voice f r a position o that had been marginalized in the mainstream press.

While our findings provide evidence that blogs can make a difference in how a war is covered in the mainstream media, our findings also suggest that bloggers who oppose the war have extremely limited influence during periods of elite consensus. If blogger influence is limited to the audience of partisan blog readers, bloggers are effectively preaching to the choir


during periods of elite consensus, rather than widening mainstream public discourse on Iraq. Juan Cole provided insight and criticism from an academic perspective, while Daily Kos came to represent the online antiwar movement in the mainstream press. These voices helped to expand the public discussion on the war. However, Jua n Cole and the Daily Kos bloggers were absent from mainstream coverage during the crucial period in which the country debated the question of whether to invade Iraq. They provided critical voices in mainstream coverage once the United States had already become involved in a violent military occupation, but their lack of influence during 2002 and 2003 suggests that bloggers have little chance of influencing foreign policy when powerful elites present a united front. Even when prominent Democrats began to express opposition to the war, the Bush administration and the Republican- led Congress represented the mainstream elite position, while Democrats who opposed the war found themselves marginalized along with the bloggers who agreed with them. Although our evidence suggests that elite consensus and the marginalization of the antiwar position contributed to the low number of references to Daily Kos, Eschaton, and Juan Cole during the first years of the war, we do not have enough evidence to rule out other possible explanations. Early mentions of Instapundit suggest that journalists were aware of blogs during this period, but it remains possible that the antiwar blogs were marginalized because most journalists had not heard of them. Although the blogs we stud ied were among the most highly ranked blogs throughout the war, their audiences have undoubtedly grown in recent years. Media coverage of blogs during the 2004 election contributed to their increasing prominence in the mainstream media, and online and offline references have drawn more readers to the sites. In order to more accurately assess patterns of blogger influence, we would need to compare our


findings with a similar foreign policy debate in the future, when blogs are undeniably known to media professionals. Our understanding would also be enhanced if the future provided an opportunity to study the influence of antiwar bloggers during periods in which antiwar elites found themselves in the highest positions of power. If antiwar Democrats occupied the White House and represented the majority in Congress, they would have an opportunity to shape foreign policy coverage through their own views. In this case, we would expect antiwar bloggers to be covered as a legitimate activist movement instead of a radical fringe movement. Bloggers will always represent a

challenge to elite discourse simply by writing about politics independently of professional news organizations, but they appear to be less radical when they agree with powerful elites. What does this study teach us about the effects of the blogosphere on critical public discourse? During periods of consensus, we cannot say that the blogosphere improved

mainstream discussion. Blogs simply did not make the papers with any regularity. As elite consensus waned, we saw limited increases in blogger influence, including a few instances in which blogs appeared to expand the sphere of mainstream discussion. We conclude that the critical voices from the blogosphere have limited influence on public discussion when influence is measured by explicit references to bloggers. Others may claim that blogger influence is strong, but uncredited. Yet even if bloggers have a great deal of uncredited influence, the lack of explicit references still suggests that journalists do not feel comfortable relying on bloggers as sources or as representatives of public perspectives. Preference is given to official sources or to political organizations such as the Heritage Foundation or the Center for American Progress. While our study focused on political bloggers, our results have implications for the larger question of how professional journalists treat critical voices in foreign policy discussions. The


blogosphere has provided a forum for critical voices, but ultimately, the treatment that bloggers received depended on the status of the bloggers and the perceived legitimacy of the views that they advocated. Bloggers contributed to the discussion of the Iraq war, but elites continued to define the sphere of debate.



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Kurtz, H. (2003 March 23). Webloggers signing on as war correspondents. The Washington Post, F04. Kurtz, H. (2004, October 29). A final volley of commercials; Kerry on stem cells; Bush on Kerry. The Washington Post, A08. Kurtz, H. (2005, September 5). At last, reporters' feelings rise to the surface. The Washington Post, C01. Lake, E. (2004 September 8). Conspiracy gains traction. The New York Sun. The left and the tsunami. (2004 December 31). The New York Sun. Melloan, G. (2003, April 15). Make oil a direct benefit to the Iraqi people. The Wall Street Journal, A11. Milbank, D. (2006, March 30). Baghdad on the Bosporus. The Washington Post, A21. Miniter, B. (2006, June 9). Can she be stopped? The Wall Street Journal, W6. Moynihan, K. (2004 May 5). More than basic changes needed in Iraq war strategy. Worchester Telegram & Gazette, A11. Pipes, D. (2005 July 19). The New York Sun. Rainie, L. (2005). The state of blogging. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved May 9, 2006, from Roelofs, T. (2004, May 9). Ex-state health director back in GR after 11 months in Iraq. The Grand Rapids Press, E1. Rutenberg, J. (2004, October 29). Bush campaign replaces ad that had doctored images. The New York Times, A22. Sigal, L. (1973). Reporters and officials. Lexington, MA: DC Heath and Company. Stewart's party. (2005 May 17). The New York Sun. Tuchman, G. (1978). Making news: A study in the construction of reality. New York: The Free Press. Young, C. (2005 July 18). The moral muddle on the left. The Boston Globe, A11. Zeller, T. (2006, May 12). Qwest goes from the goat to the hero. The New York Times, C05.


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Figure 1.1 - References to Juan Cole

Figure 1.2 - References to Daily Kos

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Figure 1.3 - References to Instapundit

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