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November 14, 2008

Basement Bloggers

As Gelf has recently documented, Sarah Palin is the latest in a long list of well-known people to dismiss bloggers as basement-dwelling malcontents. She told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News, "I'm going to characterize them as those bloggers in their parents' basement just talking garbage" (is it necessary to include [sic] when the speaker is Sarah Palin, or is it just implied by this point?). Not surprisingly, the bloggers struck back.

Jane Hamsher, in a post at Firedoglake titled, "Uh, Sarah…are you sure you want to go there?" lists the credentials of some popular bloggers—which are more impressive than the Alaskan governor's. Blue Tidal Wave notes the irony (and the ungratefulness) of Palin turning on bloggers, when it was conservative blogger Adam Brinkley who first raised the idea of Palin's candidacy. And lastly, Rachel Maddow, who described herself as a "blogger on TV," appeared on MSNBC in her pajamas to show support for the much-maligned Movable Type set.

The "Parents' Basement" line of attack is a favorite of the traditional sports media (of which Palin was once a member), when trying to dismiss the un-credentialed sports bloggers who they feel are threatening the printed word. It's an easy cliché for journalism's uncreative overclass to rely on, when faced with, you know, accountability. In the same vein, it has also caught on among conservative pundits and oh-so-many others, but where did it come from?

Information Week's Mitch Wagner traces the old chestnut back to a 1986 Saturday Night Live skit, in which William Shatner implores a group of overenthusiastic Trekkies to "Get a life." He berates Jon Lovtiz's character, saying "You must be almost 30, have you ever kissed a girl?" Finally, he snaps and delivers the familiar line, "Move out of your parents' basements! And get your own apartments and grow the hell up!"

In addition to insulting Trekkies, the line became a frequent refrain in mocking nerds of all stripes—particularly those with a passion for the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. But how did it come to describe bloggers? Wagner, a blogger and a nerd (though he prefers the term geek), explains it to Gelf as such: "Bloggers are a subspecies of nerd—as are gamers, and Twitter users, and science-fiction fans, and comic-book fans, and people who dress up as characters from Japanese anime."

With the current prevalence of supposed nerdy activities and interests, Wagner suggests that "Maybe the nerds—the so-called people living in their mothers' basements—are the mainstream and the regular people are the minority."

This might be true, but what does he know? He may be married and own his own basement-free house, but deep down he's just another blogger living in his parents' basement. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go—my mother has to do a load of whites.

(Photo of basement courtesy crazytales562's Flickr.)

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