I’ve been half-heartedly watching – and quietly thinking about – the whole John Edwards/Bloggers brew-ha-ha for a while now. Since I don’t personally have any desire to be a campaign blogger or proximity thereof, at first, I didn’t feel as though I had anything to add to the debate, particularly.
Still, something about this whole deal bugged me. Reading the post linked to below, it dawned on me what that was:
Amanda leaving Pandagon to blog for Edwards is a bit like the late Molly Ivins giving up writing her column to do press for Hillary — a big waste! Amanda writes pointed, opinionated, viciously satirical and clearly controversial commentary. Anyone with any familiarity with her writing would know that she would need to be defanged if not muzzled entirely in the role of campaign blogger.
My worry was that she would kind of fade away into the kind of boring “the candidate was at (insert boring early state event here) and his message of blah blah blah really resonated with the fine voters of Des Moines/Manchester/Las Vegas/Charleston” stuff that campaign bloggers have to write and Pandagon would limp along without her.
Instead she became the story and a lightening rod for criticism and outright thuggery from the right wing. The progressive blogosphere circled the wagons and everyone came out looking bad.
What worries me about this is the trickle-down effect it has on political blogging and free speech.
There are a lot of bloggers out there impressed with the blogosphere’s ability to “have an impact.” There are more and more politicians out there impressed with the blogosphere’s ability to “get the message out.” To some extent, these worlds are – and always have been – mutually exclusive.
The “difference” that blogs have made has largely been owing to the freedom with which we are able to speak. Politicians are kept quiet by political concerns; journalists are largely cowed by the corporate entities that own them, by political correctness and by an superabundant desire to remain “objective,” whatever that means. Bloggers are free to look into little stories and find the big ones, and we’re free to ignore the big stories in search of the little ones. And we can say whatever we like in the meanwhile.
But as the two bloggers on the Edwards campaign found out, jumping ship and moving into the actual political world means changing everything you do online and hoping no one digs into what you’ve said in the past. Not only that, but disavowing any relationships (or blogroll affiliations) with unseemly blogs that dare to speak their minds contrary to the best interest of the politician or political party for which you now work.
And that’s the real trap, because as bloggers get ambitious about their political blogging, they will fail to endorse those who just want to speak lest they be associated with the rabble; those who do what blogging actually is and what made it so powerful, that is. Bloggers who consistently carry the message (and the water) will see their Google and Technorati rankings soar while those of us who choose to speak unpleasant political truths get marginalized.
Eventually, there really isn’t much more reason to check the blogs than there was to check the politicians websites. The “blog” becomes the same old “news” section that every corporate or political website has.
It is, of course, just one more growth cycle for one more new technology in this world. In fact, it may be yet another inevitability in life that this, too, will disappear into the mainstream. I do still very much hope that those of us interested in providing an alternative can still have a voice.
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