A Conversation with NetRightNation.com Editor Adam Bitely
By Robert Romano
Robert Romano (RR): Adam, thank you for joining us. I know you have a lot to do with the launch of NetRightNation.com. So, let me ask you, in a word, how would you describe NetRightNation.com?
Adam Bitely (AB): Revolutionary.
RR: That's a powerful word—one that can't be bandied about lightly. So, would you care to elucidate?
AB: Sure. When Americans for Limited Government began brainstorming ideas for , we knew we wanted a place conservative bloggers could call home and give them a forum they could essentially own and operate. Never before has that been fully accomplished in the private sector, the public sector, or in politics. So, really, NRN is a service bureau. We're here to provide a free service to the ever-growing community conservative bloggers. Thus far, we've identified some 60,000 bloggers, and that list continues to grow.
RR: NetRight Nation now has 60,000 conservative bloggers?
AB: That's right, 60,000. And growing. There has never before been anything quite like it.
RR: Could you tell our readers in your own words, Adam, why you felt it was so important to identify all of the bloggers from the Center to the Activist Right?
Adam Bitely (AB): NetRightNation.com has been a tremendous project. Our general goal from the outset was to coalesce all of the bloggers who identify with the principles of limited government. Our belief was that if all of the bloggers that embrace those tenets are able to network with each other, share material and easily coordinate action then success in bringing truly limited government that protects individual liberty is achievable. Bloggers are an early warning system, and an action system. And in the aggregate, they can be a very powerful determinant of government policy. So NRN is kind of like combining the canary in the mine with the 800-pound guerilla.
RR: There has been much published about how the political Right in America is deficient when it comes to the Internet, how it hasn't figured out to identify and activate those at the grassroots level. What do you feel are the conservative movement's weaknesses on the Internet, and how will NetRightNation.com address some of them?
AB: The trouble with the Right's online presence has certainly not been the bloggers, who are out there every day fighting for conservative principles and outcomes in government. One thing you learn reading through all of the blogs on NetRight is just how diverse the opinions and priorities of each individual blogger really are. The trouble has been a vacuum of leadership at the top, and providing the ability and opportunity for all of these unique voices to come together on generally-agreed upon items for action. Indeed, an opportunity to communicate with one another.
RR: So, there has been, to quote Struther Martin, “a failure to communicate”?
AB: Precisely. Something we've noticed right off the bat is a lot of people who share goals are not communicating with one another, or have not had the opportunity to work together. Instead, we'd like bloggers to think of themselves as part of a larger community. A movement. We believe the Net Right Nation will build that movement from the grassroots up, because we mean to still emphasize the individual blogger. Our message to bloggers is: Don't change a thing. You're not the problem. And now we, together, can create a solution.
RR: And what about its strengths? And how will NetRight emphasize those?
AB: NRN is most accurately described as a confederation. And really, the conservative blogosphere is self-coordinating. It operates of its own volition. NRN will bolster that, because functionally, it aggregates what the bloggers are saying of its own volition. Really, the strength of bloggers from inside the conservative movement is that there is a strong sense of individualism, as I alluded to above. Moderate to conservative bloggers tend to do a lot on their own. NetRightNation.com emphasizes this through posting every blog's material. We realize that not everyone who supports the principles of individual liberty and limited government would label themselves as conservative. And it is more important than ever in a time where Big Government has never been bigger that we work together rather than to worry about whether someone is moderate, conservative or libertarian. We collect material from all three of these groups and more, and seek to push it out across the internet because these voices need to be heard. Bloggers have the ability, and they have mastered this, which is to bring attention to items that Big Government politicians and their mainstream media handmaidens would rather not see made public.
RR: How do view the state of the conservative movement? What of its relationship to the Republican Party?
AB: The conservative movement is in trouble for a lack of leadership, and there is no doubt about that. Don't get me wrong. Talk radio has been at the forefront and has provided very strong leadership for some time now. Conservative media have been very good about getting the word out. We love what they have done to revitalize the conservative philosophy of governance. Really, the most critical failure has been in government itself, from our elected leaders. For too long, conservative principles have not been applied to actual policies.
RR: You're saying that the politicians have failed the people.
AB: That's right. There is a disconnect, and conservatives have found themselves merely being objectors with no shortage of policies to object to. At the same time, the leaders of the movement have too often supported poor policies that went against the tenets of the movement. Another problem was tying the movement to a political party. That led to the pragmatism that is common among political party organizations. For a movement to be successful it needs to be able to stand on its own.
The conservative movement will rebound from these problems, because now they are well-known and there are enough good people at the grassroots level who are ready to step up and take on leadership roles. That's where the blogosphere comes into full play.
RR: So, with all those problems, why has nobody previously created something equivalent to NetRightNation.com?
AB: It's not that it hasn't been attempted before, though to a far lesser extent. The problem is that the current successful conservative organizations are more comfortable with exploiting those existing technologies that have previously brought them success--direct mail, telephony and such.
RR: So it's just a matter of technology.
AB: But only in part. Not to get esoteric, but it's also a function of a generation gap. NRN could not have come into being until those who grew up with the Internet technology were in a position to exploit it. Those over 30 understand it intellectually, whereas those under 30 understand it viscerally. And that makes all the difference in the world.
RR: Switching gears to the website itself, what are some of the features of NetRightNation.com that will be of interest to our readers and to bloggers? What can NetRight do?
AB: Well, as I mentioned, NRN aggregates material from over 60,000 blogs, and the number is constantly growing. The material is presented by issue and state. Anyone can come on to NRN and use any of the great features that we are providing for instant access to vital blogger information.
When we were creating the site, we felt that it would be important that each state have its own page. On this page, there is a listing of all the blogs from that state as well as all the posts that they aggregated. Also, the blog posts are broken down by issue. You can go to the issues page and click on an issue and see what the blogosphere is saying about that particular issue. There are some kinks here, as is to be expected at this initial stage, and we are working through them with the developer of the website. We're relying upon NRN blogger members to set us straight.
RR: What are some of the features?
AB: Well, for one, we have developed a search function that allows people to search through all of the content that is aggregated on the site. This works similar to Google and pulls up all the blog posts on a particular search query. The difference between this and conventional search engines is that it pulls queries from the universe of center to right bloggers we have aggregated. It's dynamite for anybody looking to see what the Right is saying about any given issue.
And that's the whole point. It was important to us when we developed the site that we help direct traffic to each of the blogs that we are aggregating. Whenever you click on a story that is aggregated on to NRN, you will be redirected to the blog of origin instantly. This helps make sure that you see their site. Some web people will discourage web developers from directing traffic away from your home page. At NetRight, we take pride that there are no hurdles to get the individual bloggers out there.
RR: Where do you see NetRight going in the next year? Do you expect it to improve?
AB: As we launch the site it is always important to look for areas where we can improve. We want to make sure that the site we have developed serves the needs of the center to right blogosphere. I know that there will be a lot of changes made over the next year that will improve what we have launched. Our goal is to meet full capacity prior to spring.
Currently, we are developing a system that emails a feed of blog posts on any given topic. This will help people know what the blogosphere is saying on particular issues of one's interest. This will be a particularly valuable service for the mainstream media. Remember what I said about the blogosphere being the canary and gorilla wrapped into one. Also, people will be able to sign up for NRN memberships that will allow them to have customizable homepages on the site. These features should be fully functional soon.
RR: Well, that is impressive. But you're not through yet, are you?
AB: Nope. Another project that we are working on is creating state email groups for the bloggers. Using these groups, bloggers will be connected to the other bloggers in their state and will have easy access to their fellow bloggers. This will help increase coordination on state and local issues, and help bloggers to network. These are critical components to developing a conservative movement in the digital, information age.
RR: Well, thank you, Adam, for your time. I believe our readers will have a unique understanding of what NetRight is, and why it was built. What message would you like to send to conservatives, moderates, and libertarians who may be feel disaffected by government during these times that will test our political beliefs?
AB: These are definitely tough times to fight for the principles of limited government. I think the best thing to say here is that we need to continue to fight. Now is the time to sharpen our swords and prepare for the coming battles. My message to the Right is that you have a home at NetRightNation.com. We need to work together to accomplish our goals and we need to be willing to fight for every inch of the field. For too long there has been too much compromise and not enough resistance to poor policies. We need to draw a line in the sand and say loudly, “We will not go past here.” And we need to make sure our elected leaders hear that message every day, because we see how quickly the politicians forget those who empower them with our consent to govern. Bloggers need to be working together to coordinate their message so that we will have a unified force to champion our cause. We will not fail.
Robert Romano is the Editor of ALG News.
Adam Bitely is the Director of New Media for Americans for Limited Government.