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A rifle in one hand, a laptop in the other. Behind the scene with pro-gun bloggers

"Cowboy Blob" and other online commentators fill the press box at the National Rifle Association convention.

By Staff writer / May 16, 2009

Sen. John McCain speaks during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Phoenix on Friday.

Matt York/AP

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Phoenix

While many old-school beat reporters stayed in New York or Washington this weekend to write about conventional political and social events, the pseudonymous “Sebastian” live-blogged GOP head Michael Steele’s fiery speech from the press box at the National Rifle Association convention in Phoenix.

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“01:26: Steele is done and the crowd erupts in thunderous applause,” he tapped. “Make that a standing ovation. He deserves it. It was a good speech. I was skeptical. I even argued with ILA over the choice privately, someone there told me ‘He’ll get it right. Trust me on this.’ I will admit, I was wrong

“01:27: Saxby Chambliss is up, but he’s phoning it in.”

With some 55,000 readers a month, Sebastian, an “IT guy” from Pennsylvania who writes the snowflakesinhell.com blog, is part of a contrarian gang of gun bloggers attending the 2nd Annual Second Amendment Blog Bash here.

But here's the real news: In the press box, bloggers outnumbered national reporters by a good margin. And officially, nearly 50 bloggers -- compared to 100 mainstream print journalists -- were accredited by the NRA press office to attend the 138th annual convention.

Experts say that ratio at a major national news event featuring a panoply of GOP stars -- including John McCain and Mitt Romney -- presents a stunning affirmation of the rise of a mix of both partisan and fiercely independent and sometimes downright cranky “New Media,” marking its growing power to not only cover breaking news, but set the tone for political policy -- and, in the case of Second Amendment rights, even the direction of the NRA itself.

“Mass media has an audience where news goes in one ear and out the other,” says Brian Anse Patrick, professor of communications at the University of Toledo in Ohio, and author of the upcoming book, “Rise of the Anti-Media.” For gun-bloggers, “this is an identity issue, a behavioral thing, instead of mere attitude and a piece of news,” he says. “You have these communities all over the places that’s essentially gun culture: autonomous, but coordinated, very powerful and very effective.”

No matter where you look on the Internet these days, bloggers are mucking it up, taking on the big bad “mainstream media” with a mad mix of polarization, cheerleading, and snark. But just as lefty bloggers got the word out about the promise of Barack Obama during last year's election, the rightosphere is pulling out its big guns, too. And in few places is the keyboard jockey scene as fast-growing or as influential as the world of firearms and Second Amendment rights.

While their standard battle stance is from an underdog position, the pro-gun forces are, for now at least, winning the battle for hearts and minds, even gun control advocates concede.