The Insider: Jane Hamsher

By: Garrett M. Graff

Jane Hamsher is the founder of FireDogLake.com, the first top-tier blog led by a woman to emerge on the left. (The name comes from Hamsher’s favorite pastime: sitting by the fire with her dog watching the LA Lakers.) As part of the Scooter Libby trial, Hamsher became the first blogger admitted to cover a federal trial. Before blogging, Hamsher had an interesting film career, including helping to produce the movie Natural Born Killers.

• Getting into politics was an accident. I was on the beach in Oregon right before the 2004 election, and I saw the New York Times Magazine cover story on blogging and the election. I started poking around and found DailyKos.com, where I started writing diaries. Then I started my own blog so my friends and family could read my diaries more easily.

• There was something about blogging that was instantly appealing. I was always interested in what Ralph Reed had done with the Christian churches in the 1980s, and it seemed like the Internet could have the same organizing impact on the left. 

• I was living out west and traveling around covering things for the blog; I felt I wanted to be here through the election. This would be the place to be. I’ve liked it. I think I’ll stay.

• Every once in a while the cultural energy will coalesce around a movement or a place. It tends to happen when the barriers to entry are really low—the way it did in San Francisco with the punk-rock era. All the cultural energy flew to this place. It was very alive and vital, and its repercussions radiated out through politics, fashion, and literature.

• In the 1980s, I got into the indie movie era when Sex, Lies, and Videotape, all those freewheeling, anyone-can-pick-up-a-camera-and-make-a-movie, Jim Jarmusch stuff was happening.

• When blogging started to take off, I got hooked on it. It tends to draw the best and the brightest—there’s a lot of energy around it and a lot of people who care about change. That’s very intoxicating. It won’t last forever.

• I wanted to be Hunter Thompson. Over time I discovered that if I wanted to be Hunter Thompson I wasn’t going to make any money at it, so I went to Southern California, poked around, and decided I wanted to be a film producer.

• There’s still a sense of theater in a lot of what we do in blogging. We recently filed an FEC complaint against John McCain. I took a camera and recorded us delivering the boxes of signatures, and we put it up on YouTube. There was a real sense of fun and spectacle around it.

• Part of what got the blogs interested in the Valerie Plame story was how poorly covered it was by the press, and yet the press was such a large part of the story. Online, people were lifting up the hood and seeing how the media worked. Journalists were really freaked out by that. Suddenly all these people were saying to the media, “You’re not doing your jobs very well.”

• FireDogLake has about 20 people who write for it, maybe a dozen site administrators who watch what’s happening on the blog.

• Most of the blogosphere when it came down to Hillary or Obama became very vitriolic about Hillary. I think a lot of that came from the misogynist, right-wing critiques of the 1990s. We were dealing with incredible pie fights on our own blog. It was the first time that I felt it was difficult to do what I do.

• We’ve reached critical mass. Something has to happen—healthcare, global warming, energy—and Washington, DC, is alive with that right now. Something could really happen. It’s got that spirit right now.

Related:

The Insider: Russell Vought 

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