By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Sick of political blogs? Too bad! The 2008 campaign is unavoidable; if you know what superdelegates are, or who said "God damn America," you're already a victim. Thanks to the curse of modern technology, you'll be hearing what top Internet buffoons are saying about the candidates—whether you want to or not. So you might as well prepare yourself. Herewith, a rundown of 10 conservative Web scribblers who, by virtue of their high readership or annoyance factor, are likely to invade your casual conversations until the gruesome finale of our Celebration of Democracy drives us all back to our blessed, customary ignorance.
FUN FACT: Briefly lived in Washington, D.C. ("where I heard every voice on the globe" and "the world's crossroads of disease"), in a "blaring, trash-strewn enclave" where he "lived in a constant state of nervous dread." Currently resides in a house he calls "Jasperwood," complete with a "water feature" (fountain), in a Minneapolis neighborhood that he describes as "urban."
CANDIDATE: Undeclared, leaning toward George Wallace
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 60/40
HISTORY: Writer for various papers, including The Washington Post; longtime employee of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, for whom he blogs and supplies columns. Books include humorous, affectionate tweakings of ads, recipes and photographs from the mid-20th century, which also constituted the centerpiece of the Bleat when it started in 1997, along with scrupulous coverage of Lileks' daily routine (dog-walking, conversations with daughter, unsatisfying encounters with store clerks). Conservative themes emerged tentatively at first, with grumpy-old-man swipes at graffiti ("When I see that thicket of cryptic squibbles plastered on a sign, I want to bring back the chain gang") and Monica Lewinsky ("I no more care how she feels about Ken Starr than I care how Al Capone felt about Eliot Ness"). September 11 exacerbated these to a hallucinogenic degree. Predicted New York would be "nuked," compared a Chock Full O' Nuts Coffee can to "an urn from Atlantis" and imagined his daughter attacked by Osama bin Laden ("Give me a gun; show me the cave") and feminists ("I cannot possibly think of any good reason to ever strike a woman, unless it's the one in the uniform who wants to pry my daughter's arms from my neck because the state has decided all men must leave the household for the good of the People").
MODUS OPERANDI: The Bleat remained thick with such fist-shakings until the 2006 elections, which seem to have thrown Lileks for a loop. Now, he mainly weaves weird culture-war demurrers into his ripely worded chronicles of shopping and child-rearing. So far he's been quiet about McCain and even Hillary, but he refers to Obama as "Cool Brother," which, given his longstanding antipathy to The Boondocks, is dispositive. Also: "Hillary and Obama; put them together, and what do you have? White. Male."
WHAT TO EXPECT: Long, maudlin reminiscences of Ye Olden Tymes (croquet lawns, village greens) contrasted with fantasies of the Brave New Worlds affected by Hillary (forced repatriations of girlchilds and slut-servicings of Bill) or Obama (forced integration of Target, Wal-Mart).
ORIENTATION: Glibertarian (sex, drugs, guns, endless wars)
FUN FACT: Self-described "transhumanist": "Once human technology passes a certain threshold...human beings will potentially enjoy the kind of powers and pleasures traditionally assigned to gods or beings in heaven."
CANDIDATE: A transparent mystery (see Modus Operandi)
STUPID/EVIL RATIO: 5/95
HISTORY: Law degree from Yale. Currently a professor at the University of Tennessee. Many books and papers, mostly legal perspectives on firearms ("Kids, Guns and the Commerce Clause") and outer space ("International Space Law: Into the Twenty-First Century"). Began online career as commenter A.G. Android at Slate ("The groupies I've seen backstage at rock shows are generally not especially attractive"), where he was praised as "the Pride of the Fray." Founded Instapundit in 2001, with a stance both libertarian ("GLOWSTICKS AND BOTTLED WATER: DRUG PARAPHERNALIA?") and pro-Bush. September 11 boosted his readership (thanks in part to publicity from Fox News) and dramatically reduced the libertarian content. Reynolds cautioned citizens against "being stampeded into giving up their freedom," but also intensified his identification with Bush ("It's clear that adults are in charge") and denounced leftists with increasing frequency and anger ("more than a little in common with Osama bin Laden"). As anti-war sentiment grew, he attacked "Big Media's bias in favor of the left," calling for a "guerrilla media" of bloggers to combat it.
MODUS OPERANDI: Expresses overt support only rarely, mostly in reviews of cars and consumer goods. Otherwise cites other (mostly right-wing) writers, adding a few words—or one word (usually heh, indeed, or ouch)—to denote approval. This style is, probably purposely, hard to engage. For example, after a lengthy quote in defense of the 1980s Salvadoran death squads, Reynolds adds this: "makes me wonder if making comparisons to Central America will help the Left, or simply bring up a lot of things that a lot of people would rather gloss over today." Inquiries as to meaning are unlikely to be answered, as Instapundit has no comments feature.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Quotes denunciatory of Democratic candidates, followed by snotty asides involving Walter Mondale, Robert Heinlein and Osama bin Laden. Also, heh.