So says The Fix’s Chris Cillizza over the Washington Post. Apparently, Cillizza found out that there are funny politically-inspired memes on Tumblr this week. So, he solicited the opinions of his Twitter followers and Fix readers about “the best political Tumblrs” and apparently he got … next to nothing.
But, since he was determined to write something about Tumblr, he wrote this … which amounts to saying, “I didn’t do any research.”
Tumblr isn’t ”a relatively new thing in politics” and there isn’t “a relative dearth of great ones.” And Cillizza actually got a bunch of responses that he actively decided not to put on his list. You can find them in the comments on his first post, where he asks for suggestions. Maybe he looked the 10-20 Tumblr blogs and decided they weren’t very good. Maybe he combed through the Editors and Top Contributors of the Politics tag and decided against them because their content was sufficiently “great.” But I’m pretty willing to bet he didn’t bother.
Personally, my problem is the way Cillizza cast his net. He asked for the best political blogs on Tumblr. But that wasn’t really what he was interested in. He liked Texts From Hillary; he thought the Paul Ryan Tumblr was funny. He wanted pictures that people would hit and spend a couple seconds chuckling about (and then share with their friends). There’s nothing at all wrong with that … but it’s not really political blogging, at least not to my mind.
When Cillizza originally asked for recommendations, I immediately suggested that he look at the Politics tag for thoughtful political blogging. The reason I suggested the tag (and not my own blog) is that the bloggers who are frequently featured on the Politics tag are mixed-media bloggers, which I think is central to what Tumblr is about. They post photos, video, and commentary, they reblog, they argue with other Tumblr users. And they write long-form, traditional blog posts too.
But no one really cares about the long-form pieces, even though they take a lot of time and thought. The pictures get the lion’s share of attention when people talk about and pass around links to Tumblr sites (and even internally in the Tumblr blogging community); getting someone to read and engage with long-form political writing is impossible compared with cleverly-captioned pictures of Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, and Hillary Clinton.
I’m not sure about others, but I use Tumblr as my blogging platform for a variety of reasons. I chose — and stick with — Tumblr because it’s easy to use, because I can use it quickly from anywhere on any device, and because I have built relationships with other bloggers here. The dozen Tumblr users with whom I regularly interact are careful, thoughtful readers and writers. But they don’t get nearly the attention they should, from the wide world outside Tumblr, because of this weird perception of Tumblr as nothing but a silly internet toy. Tumblr blogs can be blogs in the same way that Wordpress or Blogger blogs can be blogs. But if people presume that Tumblr equates with memes and nothing else, then a lot of interesting blogs will get ignored by readers who would probably find them very engaging. And Cillizza’s post perpetuates precisely this idea about Tumblr … but he even goes so far as to ignore blogs that were specifically recommended to him.
Having said all of that, if The Fix wants to focus on the memes, that’s fine. Cillizza just shouldn’t ask about “the best political blogs on Tumblr” if he already knows he wants to feature pictures with comedic captions.