02. April 2005 · Comments Off on Diversity In Blogging · Categories: General

Heather Mac Donald at NRO takes apart the call for diversity among bloggers by Newsweek‘s Steven Levy:

Bad move, guys. The “diversity” mongers have just brought up the one thing that they should have stayed far far away from: the web. Newsweek‘s technology columnist Steven Levy has declared that the lack of “diversity” among the web’s most popular blogs requires corrective action. The goal? A blogosphere whose elite tier “reflects the actual population” — i.e., where female- and minority-written blogs are found among the top 100 blogs in the same proportion as females and minorities are found in the general population.

Levy’s complaint comes on the heels of Susan Estrich’s campaign against the Los Angeles Times for allegedly refusing to publish female op-ed writers, a campaign that has caused widespread wringing of editorial hands about male-dominated op-ed pages. For Levy to have mentioned the web at this moment is about as smart as inviting Stephen Hawking to an astrologers’ convention: The web demolishes the assumptions behind any possible quota crusade.

A Harvard conference on bloggers and the media triggered Levy’s concerns. Keith Jenkins, a Washington Post photo editor, had warned during the conference, via e-mail, that the growth of blogging threatened minority gains in journalism. Whereas the mainstream media have gotten to “the point of inclusion,” Jenkins wrote, the “overwhelmingly white and male American blogosphere [might] return us to a day where the dialogue about issues was a predominantly white-only one.”


No one has succeeded in closing the skills gap yet, but over the years we’ve developed numerous bureaucratic devices to paper it over. These devices will undoubtedly prove highly useful in addressing what Levy calls the web’s “diversity problem.” Levy proposes, as an initial matter, that the power-bloggers voluntarily link to some as yet unspecified number of non-male, non-white writers. The history of ‘voluntary’ affirmative action efforts need not be rehearsed here; suffice it to say, once ‘voluntary’ race- and gender-conscious policies are proposed, mandates are not far behind.

But even Levy’s “voluntary” regime calls out for regulation. How will the diversity-minded linker know the “identity” of a potential linkee? To be workable, a diversity-linkage program needs some sort of gatekeeper — precisely what the web has heretofore lacked. One can imagine something like a federal Digital Diversity Agency that would assign a diversity tattoo to each blog: a lavender pig, for example, signifying a white male blogger with an alternative sexual orientation. A mismatch between the diversity tattoo on a site and its content could trigger a federal audit to track down identity fraud. Let’s say an allegedly black female site (tattooed with a black halo) canvassed technologies for sending humans to Mars. Regulators might find such content highly suspicious, since everyone knows that black females are supposed to write about black females.

As absurd as such a regulatory regime would have to be, it still would not be enough to make a properly “diverse” blogosphere, for the web’s real diversity flaw is the role of readers. It is readers who determine which blogs zoom up to Alpha orbit, and until now they have been frustratingly outside any sort of regulatory reach. Only when Internet users are required to open up a representative sample of sites can we be confident that the web’s “diversity problem” will be solved.

Hat Tip: Eugene Volokh

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