10 February 2007

Blogs & Politics

I have been thinking for a while about the political uses and consequences of blogs. It is difficult to find one's footing on this topic. On the one hand there are overblown "theoretical" interventions like this one by Geert Lovink entitled "Blogging: The Nihilist Impulse," reprinted at Eurozine. The author announces that rather than "presenting blog entries as mere self-promotion, we should interpret them as decadent artefacts that remotely dismantle the broadcast model." I tried reading the essay to figure out what that might mean but never really was able to do so. As far as I can tell Lovink wants to claim that blogs are an outlet for cynicism. And he seems (again , as far as I can tell) vaguely worried about the ways that cynicism fuels apathy and resentment intead of political outrage and action. Havng said that, he also seems to have a pomo view of the media system in which blogs function as something like advanced scouts to identify what may or may not be hot enough to attract attention. Like most such functionalist views, his account lacks discrimination and lumps all blogs into one pile. We need a considerably more fine-grained account than Lovink offers.

By contrast one might consider accounts of the effects of blogs in inauspiscious circumstances. In that respect I would call your attention to a couple of recent essays. The first is Bill Berkeley, "Bloggers versus Mullahs: How the Internet Roils Iran," World Policy Journal (Spring 06). The second is Negar Azimi, "Bloggers Against Torture: How The Web has Changed Egypt's Political Terrain" in The Nation (19 Feb 07). Neither essay claims miracles. Each points out a simple truth - because it is difficult to monitor for purposes of control, blogging is a potentialy useful political tool. That is a nice start.

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