Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Blogs: The Politics and Journalism of Attatchment

Rough Draft: No Particular Format.

It's chic today to refer to blogs as a new media paradigm, the "blogosphere" is the current noxious buzz-word for it. Of course, primarily they're referring to politically oriented blogs, which serve to gather stories and like-minded political constituents into linking havens of homogeny. But also, in at least a few cases of people being none-too-discreet with their personal online blogs and internet activities, sometimes it happens that the private lives of individuals on the web get swepped up into the morass (Alan Keyes daughter is one example). Blogs indeed have quite a bit of social power, judging by the amount of time some people spend on them, and also by the fact that some people actually make a living from their blog. (Indeed, I'm using this blog as an opportunity to learn and improve my writing skills as to better my own opportunities.)

But with all this excitement, all this hype, I'd like to offer a simple caveat emptor. Blogs are inherently a progeny of Journalism of Attatchment (as opposed to "detatched reporting"), this is not a bad thing in and of itself. It simply means that they are by their nature partisan. They function as collective or individual filters of news, politics, oppinions, cultural, and socio-economic issues through an ideological lense. Even if a blog simply functioned as a news-wire, there exists the filter of "What do I/we Consider News?"

Of course, its not as if that hasn't been the case before blogs, quite the contrary. It's simply subtly and complexly different.

Blogs aren't Accountable

While that unfortunately resembles CBS' crappy appologeticism it also happens to be true. Because they are not accountable it means they are under no particular obligation to fact check or even report honestly. The objection to this is of course that the credibility of said blog is at stake should it not, but that belies the fact that political blogs primarily serve ideological functions, not news functions. That is to say, while it may lose some credibility among those visiting who are non-attatched to its ideology, it would not necissarily stir ideological diehards. The beliefs can be "wrong" and still hold a strong bond which promotes a defensive wall of disbelief of contrary evidence. Which brings us to my next point...

Blogs are Ideology First, News Second

This is probably the most important warning I have, blogs also serve to filter ideological homogeny among groups. Even I myself, am more likely to partake in a blog like DailyKos than I am to LittleGreenFootballs. That is, you're most likely going to participate in Blogs that allready mesh with your current perspectives, and most of the people there are going to echo those perspectives. And indeed, since anecdotally I have noticed that those that do not echo those same perspectives often instead seek to antagonize people on said blog, through name-calling or trolling, or whatnot; it serves to reinforce polarizing mentality. It is not bad to seek out people with similar ideas and perspectives, this can create social cohesion and solidarity, however it is important to be aware that these sites are built with pursuing a particular agenda, and its important to know you're actively participating in it. Remember: Wisdom is when you have ideas, Ideology is when Ideas have you.

Blogs and faux ami's

Since blogs are probably the ultimate merging of media and the populist expression of attatchment journalism since the collapse of the socio-political importance of the ye olde tavern, and ye olde townhall, and ye olde pamphlet it also means they are ripe pickings for false legitimacy. Grass roots groups are now often inundated with astro-turf groups, made by pro-government plants, industry plants, groups of one ideology masquerading as another, etc. Expect the same thing from Blogs. In fact, expect it now not in the future. PR and psychological operations is an increadibly fast and opportunistic field. If you find members of government, industry, etc. which direct you to specific blogs or "Fact-sites" you should be immediately skeptical. That does not neccisarily mean that those sites even contain false information, but you should also be immediately skeptical of why they might want to direct your attention there. As an example, I saw recently a member of the Bush government (I forget specifically which) tell a media representative that there's lots of support for American troops from the Iraqi people, and directed him to a blog of an Iraqi. What was left unsaid is that he was not telling the media rep to do this, he was telling the public that they could find his message reinforced at that particular blog. Also left unsaid was that this was two Iraqi Americans from Texas, and that their views are well in the minority, as compared to most Iraqi's. Its not necissary that even the website be faked, only that pertinant information be left out.

Blogs, Possibilities and Limitations

There is a great multitude of pleasant possibilites from blogs and grass-roots independant media, it can enliven the populace to new political awareness, and even unite disparate groups across the world, shattering their alienation and making it known that they are not alone. It can also serve as blatant engines of smear, hate, and demonization. Just think of anyone you've known that has had a really nieve and stupid or prejudiced oppinion on an issue ("We should just nuke 'em all." "All those niggers are lazy." "They come here and steal all of our jobs.") and think about those people consolidating their power into an ideologically re-affirming continuous stream of information. Soon they go from simple ignorant explainations to neigh religious proclaimation.

So in conclusion: Remember, your beliefs will always contain some element of falsehood, some element where they do not apply, and you should allways be aware of this. Because if you are, you'll be able to expand your mind, rather than turn it into a steel trap, from which none of your prejudices will ever escape, and which no light of reason can penetrate. Have fun, and happy surfing.



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