Thoughts on Political Blogs

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Do Blogs Polarize Us?

  • It seems that America has become very deeply divided along partisan lines in the last 5 years. How has the existence of political blogs contributed to this phenomenon?
  • If you think the partisan divide is a bad thing, how might blogs be used to ameliorate the problem?
  • Maybe instead of polarizing, blogs simply change the way we define citizenship -- so that it's less important that I'm a member of the US community, which is sharply divided between RED and BLUE, and more important that I'm part of a community that believes in X thing. Isn't THAT Appiah's cosmopolitanism -- many citizenships, a world view that can both entertain local/physical bonds but also cultural, ideological, and cyber bonds, too?

Subsidiary question: who is "us"?

  • Jared Leto (see below) might be right that blogs-as-gossip are annoying/useless, but what about in countries where BLOGGER = 1st Amendment? See Alaa, an Egyptian blogger who organizes protests, discusses state politics, and generally expresses himself despite the lack of a free press -- and all thanks to an offshore blogging account.

Are Blogs a Force for Democratization?

  • Does the rise of political blogging as a tool of the masses present an opportunity that has never before existed in America to have a viable third party?
  • Assuming internet censorship is imperfect, how might political blogs contribute to the demise of authoritarianism?
  • Does widespread authorship and readership of political blogs (uncontrolled by the regular media giants) represent a true "marketplace of ideas"? What effect might that have on American-style democracy?
  • Is it good or bad that everybody with an opinion can make it heard? What might be the effects on politics, culture, religion etc?
  • Is every blog a political blog in countries run by authoritarian governments? Click here for the story of the disappearance of the most famous blogger in China, Stainless Steel Mouse.

Will the Blog Form Last? Should It?

"I think that blogging should die a sudden death. It's just ridiculous. It's like a playground for four-year-olds. People say and do things in the world of blogs that they would never do in real life, and I think it's a false experience. You know, it's, like, eating too much candy. One of the things along those lines that bothers me about when people start citing blogs as news sources is that when people are writing on these blogs, they feel like they don't feel they need to do any research or back up their opinions with facts or anything, you know what I mean? Times have changed. It used to be, to be a writer you had to have experience and talent, and learn a craft. Now anybody with an opinion, which is anyone and everyone, feels that it's worthy. Technology is allowing people to have access to things where before it required very great skill. So there will be some interesting developments from that, and also some things that are pretty worthless. Pretty soon anybody with a cell phone is going to be able to be a news reporter. The blog is yesterday's parachute pants. It's here now but it's gone tomorrow."
  • However incoherent this rant may be, does he have a point?
  • Are blogs just a fad? What might cause their demise?
  • Perhaps copyright or libel issues?
  • Loss of "buzz?"
  • Usurpation of the space by another technology?
  • If blogs are not just a fad, how will they evolve over time? Will it be a different evolution than that of the regular news media?

Reliability of Blogs and Other Media

  • Do consumers assume bloggers are more or less truthful than the regular news media? Is that a problem? What might be the value in that? Consider the arguments that most major media outlets have a distinct partisan bias.
  • Are blogs only valuable for the opinions of the bloggers, or are they also a valid source of factual news?
  • Is it a problem that many bloggers have not "learned a craft" in journalism school or by working up the ranks in a regular news agency? Might there be benefits to giving such people a voice?
  • Is it good or bad that the traditional sources of news and opinion concerning politics now have competition in the form of blogs? Why?

Blogs By Politicians

  • For the time being, blogs do not seem to be a primary means of communication for politicians. While many candidates have a blog section on their websites, the content is often heavily edited and not arranged chronologically-- they are only blogs in the most superficial sense. Consider the following:
"Radio was around for a while before [President Franklin Roosevelt's] first fireside chat.... For the Internet, nobody's had that breakthrough moment yet." -- The Christian Science Monitor, Mark Sappenfield, "More Politicians Write Blogs to Bypass Mainstream Media", March 24, 2005.
Look at a few politicians' blogs and see if you agree.
  • If you agree that a successful politician is someone who can use lots of words to convey minimal content and sound good while doing it, you might not agree that the "fireside chat" moment is inevitable.
    • If you were a politician, would you want to immortalize your thoughts in the form of informal, spontaneous speech?
    • How much time does a blogger have to put in to sustain a decent blog?
    • Do blogs have to be constantly updated? Would you remember to read a blog that is updated once a month? Once a week?