Why do bloggers blog?

November 13, 2007 by barbara

barbara writes

Cardinal rule of blogging: Do not regurgitate information from another blog.

Exception to rule: When a distinguished blogger (oh, yes, Virginia, there are distinguished bloggers!) encapsulates the blogging ethos in these times that try our hearts and souls and patience.

Point of the rule exception: America is in the throes of a journalism vacuum. Our local Star Tribune is an excellent example of a formerly fine publication that has opted to forfeit substance in favor of hyper-local mediocrity.

Net result (pun intended): Americans are in a semi-Pravda environment. We are being fed information and misinformation by a press that is often tightly controlled by government – both local and national. For those who really want to know the truth, it’s imperative to cast one’s news net beyond the MSM. But you already know that. It’s why you’re here on your daily round of the blogosphere. There’s more and it’s really good!

Who do you trust? (Oh, all right, whom?) This is a humongous issue. While it’s important to read widely what’s out there, it’s essential to home in on credible sources. Those few stellar journalists in the MSM, e.g., Bill Moyers, Paul Krugman. People like Joel Kramer, who are trying to create credible news sources (www.minnpost.com) Bloggers who research carefully, who ponder deeply, who aren’t afraid to ask hard questions and do – relentlessly. Whose readers smack ‘em down when they’re bloviating, and who keep them on their toes.

Please take time to read the following excerpts from Matt Stoller’s excellent comments on why and how the internet has become our best friend relative to ferreting out the truth of things. Then read Stoller’s whole speech. He blogs at Open Left and he’s been a strong presence in the blog world for a long time.

About the speech, Stoller says:

I gave a speech on Friday afternoon at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia on the rise of the Open Left and the emergence of internet politics (it's published on the flip). The audience was composed of a variety of scholars, including 30-40 Nobel laureates and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among others.

Here’s the excerpted version:

. . . I'm a liberal blogger, and I am one of the millions of people who are angry at George Bush, the Democratic leaders, the press, and at the Republican Party for their consistent failure to govern the country according to basic humane principles. I am not alone, there are many of us, about 1-4 million people read liberal blogs every day, with the primary age group being people in their forties and fifties. We exist because the top down structures premised on information scarcity and hierarchical control like Fox News and CNN have convinced us that we cannot rely on them and that a new type of politics is necessary. (snip)

The liberal blogosphere itself started in 2000 as a response to the recount. There were no good sources of updated information about what was happening, so a liberal journalism named Josh Marshall started a site called Talkingpointsmemo to chronicle the recount, updating it frequently and linking and clipping relevant news articles. Talkingpointsmemo is now a collection of sites with a staff of seven journalists, and was key to uncovering the Attorney General firings earlier this year that led to the downfall of Attorney General Gonzales. (snip)

In 2002, the largest activist liberal blogs - Atrios and Dailykos - started, one by a lawyer and one by an economist. These sites are now read by around ten million people a month. And very early on they had an impact. At a party celebrating former segregationist and Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday, then Majority leader of the Senate Trent Lott said that if Thurmond had been elected President when he ran on the segregationist platform that "we wouldn't have had all these problems." While this was reported in an offhand manner by ABC's the Note and dropped at the end of a long story, Atrios did research and found Lott's consistent record of racist affiliations and statements. Lott eventually resigned as Majority Leader. (snip)

These new communities are politically powerful, and they incorporate similar principles that underlie open source communities, at least compared to other parts of the political system. First of all, there's memory and accountability. My readers are smarter than I am, and I get called out all the time for errors. Inevitably on any issue, there's an engineer, a doctor, a plumber, or a statististician (sic) who knows more than the I do. There are skeptics who google what I wrote in the past and keep me honest. If my predictions are wrong or my arguments are bad, I lose credibility. And if I lie, they can comment right on my blog. There is a level playing field, and no gatekeepers. Don't like what I write? You can start your own site.

The structure creates a collaborative form of politics and an sort of immunity to bad faith. (snip)

Last year, I was exploring an the politics of an issue called network neutrality, which is the regulation that says that all packets of a certain type that go over the internet must be treated equally. Comcast or Verizon hasn't been allowed to slow video from one website because they don't like the content, because of net neutrality. (snip) Large cable and telecommunications companies have recently been caught blocking political content over phone networks and the internet itself. For instance, NARAL tried to send a pro-choice text messages to its members, and Verizon Wireless blocked it, calling the content 'unsavory'. There's a nightmare scenario here, of course, since this is not just a political attack but an attack on the free flow of information. (snip)

Just this year, a major campaign of the blogs was to ensure that the Democratic Party didn't do a Presidential debate on Fox News. Both the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and the Nevada State Democratic Party booked debates with Fox News, and we were very aggressive about getting those debates canceled through our influence with Democratic leaders, and getting Presidential candidates to refuse to attend them. The argument that we made was that Fox News is not a news outlet but a partisan outlet intent on misinforming the public. After the Nevada debate was canceled, Fox News sent out a press release attacking us as radical fringe elements who had taken over the Democratic Party, thus proving our point. (snip)

We are a political community that has a fundamentally different vision of the world, we began to organize in response to disinformation and bad faith, and we have grown because of the ability of everyone to participate and ruthless and relentless criticism and commentary. Many of the values of this community correspond to the values of the scientific community; the free flow of information and the continuous criticism. Both the liberal political space and the scientific community are what one Republican operative sneered at in 2004 as part of the 'reality-based community'.

We're facing a series of challenges to the basic underpinnings of the free flow of information, and net neutrality is just one example of how top down structures are threatening the very fabric of how science and politics are conducted.

So we're fighting to maintain the communities we've built, to expand the power of the new politics, and to build the political information systems on the internet that will actually be able to cope with the challenges we know are coming.

Building political information systems on the internet. Maintaining net neutrality. Digging for the truth. Expressing strong opinions. It’s a whole new day for anyone who gives a rip.

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Comments

paul miller (not verified) | November 18, 2007 - 9:58am

the mainstream news media picks up on what has been written about on the internet for a couple of weeks - once the story is established, then the mainstream media deems it safe to write about - the MSM doesn't break stories anymore

periodically the right wing hacks (Turd Blossom) and msm shills (David Gregory) go off on tirades because they recognize that people are finding the truth on the internet that they have a vested interest in keeping from the public

the Star Tribune is now on par with the Woodbury Bullitin and the Northfield News, featuring local stories and advertising but also, in the Strib's case, good crossword puzzles so we keep our subscription

you can't call what the STrib provides, journalism - fortunately people have taken journalism into their own hands and bypassed those that would con-troll the message

those that have followed TalkingPointsMemo for a while have seen Josh Marshall become more progressive/liberal/left as he investigates the actions of the Reich Wingers

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