The Power of Blogs After Ten Years

When I first got involved in blogging in 2003 I realized that blogs weren’t brand new, but I didn’t realize how old they were. The Wall Steet Journal calls this the tenth anniversary of blogs:

We are approaching a decade since the first blogger — regarded by many to be Jorn Barger — began his business of hunting and gathering links to items that tickled his fancy, to which he appended some of his own commentary. On Dec. 23, 1997, on his site, Robot Wisdom, Mr. Barger wrote: “I decided to start my own webpage logging the best stuff I find as I surf, on a daily basis,” and the Oxford English Dictionary regards this as the primordial root of the word “weblog.”

The blogosphere has grown tremendously in the past ten years, and even, as is observed in my previous post, since last fall. Not only are there more blogs, but there is more attention paid to them:

The daily reading of virtually everyone under 40 — and a fair few folk over that age — now includes a blog or two, and this reflects as much the quality of today’s bloggers as it does a techno-psychological revolution among readers of news and opinion.

The Wall Street Journal provides a number of opinions on blogs, including a number which I suspect would never be published sould Rupert Murdoch succeed in taking over the paper. Harold Evans, former editor of The Times of London writes:

Some blogs have become the best check on monopoly mainstream journalism, and they provide a surprisingly frequent source of initiative reporting. As an example, the only hope of staying sane in the lockstep stereotyped reporting of the 2000 presidential campaign was to look up Eric Alterman on MSNBC.com and the Daily Howler hilariously documenting the false narrative into which every story about Al Gore was fitted.

Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake shows the value of the blogs in overcoming the right wing noise machine:

Probably nothing better contrasts the pre- and postblogospheric worlds than the Whitewater and CIA leak stories. In one, the endless repetition of meaningless gibberish was allowed to take root and become conventional wisdom. In the other, despite the constant reiteration of abject fantasies like “no underlying crime was committed,” the public seemed to realize that it’s not okay to perjure yourself in front of a grand jury and obstruct justice on behalf of your boss. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was allowed to try his case in court before GOP spinmeisters could try it in the press, and a recent Gallup poll shows that 66% of the country thinks Bush should’ve left Scooter alone to do his time.

Newt Gingrich examines how blogs are affecting grass roots politics:

In politics, supporters of a candidate or party are increasingly dissatisfied with simply putting up yard signs or making scripted phone calls; they want those in power to listen and respond to them as well. They also don’t trust professional politicians to do what is right without constant supervision.

In many ways, these are the characteristics of any insurgent political movement, but blogging is enabling particularly rapid mobilization and organization.

We’ve already seen the effects on the Democratic Party. Web sites such as Daily Kos and MoveOn.org — which I find fascinating as models of online activism — have made it quite clear that their aim goes beyond stopping President Bush; they’re also targeting leaders in their own party viewed as unresponsive to the grassroots. Sen. Joe Lieberman’s primary loss is the most visible example. If Republicans remain out of step with their base for too long, expect a similar insurgency on the right.

Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craig’s List, sees the value of “citizen journalists” in protecting us against abuse of power:

I read blogs every day, for all sorts of reasons, but I turn to blogs especially when I want to hear alternative viewpoints — for example, information on a particular medical treatment from the viewpoint of patients receiving it, rather than doctors administering it; reports from the battlefield seen through the eyes of soldiers rather than politicians; thoughts on a particular technology from the standpoint of engineers rather than executives.

Consider the Iraq occupation — or colonization. Corporate media provide saturation coverage, but often manage to leave all the most interesting bits for bloggers, such as what our government is actually trying to accomplish by occupying Iraq (blog.zmag.org/ttt), what Iraqis think about the occupation so far (afamilyinbaghdad.blogspot.com, iraqblogcount.blogspot.com), how our soldiers feel about it (cbftw.blogspot.com), and how taxes being appropriated for it are being doled out (www.huffingtonpost.com). On global warming and reducing our reliance on oil imports, stories in corporate media tend to reinforce the status quo, dwell on political impracticalities of making changes, or focus on pork-barrel nonsolutions like ethanol. Turn instead to quality blogs on the subject (like cleantechblog.com, or Amory Lovins’s blog at green.yahoo.com) and you quickly learn that excellent solutions are at hand, but are being mostly ignored because they aren’t popular with certain large corporations and their representatives in Washington.

With millions of private citizens now blogging, there is a diverse and not-easily-censorable chorus to sound alarms, something the corporate media often will not do. In fact, I think our “citizen journalists” in the blogosphere protect us against abuse of power to a far greater degree than the much ballyhooed “citizen militia” afforded by gun ownership — without the daily carnage of accidental and impulse shootings.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    BeachBum says:

    Well researched post. I prefer to read blogs. People tend to write more personal and the information is almost always freshly written.

    BeachBum

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