Blogging Is Dissident
30 November 2007
Blogging is Dissident
Blogging has been around since the early days of the Internet, but during the new millennium it has become quite the phenomenon and has gained tremendous power and influence. Today, there are upwards of 27 million blogs in the world (Luman). This is a vast increase from the mere dozens that existed less than 10 years ago. (Welch 22). There are few reasons as to why this phenomenon has become so popular. Mainstream media is no longer delivering quality news. Mainstream journalists are not doing the investigative reporting that is necessary, and people are unsatisfied with what they are reading and hearing. Many feel as though they are not getting all the facts. This is especially true after September 11 (Welch 24). A Pew Research center poll showed that more than half of Americans say U.S. news organizations are politically biased, inaccurate, and don’t care about the people they report on (“Poll:”). True dissident blogging came about as this disapproval and distrust with mainstream media peaked after 9/11. Blogs are dissident when they offer views that are different from those found in mainstream media. According to Rodger Streitmatter, author of Voices of Revolution-The Dissident Press in America, for something to be dissident it also needs to “seek to change society in some discernible way” (xi). It can be argued that many blogs are in fact dissident because they promote social change and advocate a certain cause. Many bloggers are new-age activists, and blogging is a great example of modern day dissident media.
Many people believe that blogging is not a form of journalism or dissident media. I boldly disagree. Of course not all blogs are accurate, but this also applies to mainstream media sources. Henry R. Luce defined journalism as the “art of collecting varying kinds of information (commonly called ‘news’), which a few people possess, and of transmitting it to a much larger number of people who are supposed to desire to share it” (Walker). This definition defies the claim that blogging is not journalism. Daily, even hourly, bloggers are collecting accurate information and posting it on their blogs for millions of people to read. Many bloggers refuse to be labeled a journalist, however, for the reason that it relates too closely to mainstream media. Many prefer the term citizen journalist because it reflects their standing in society and also their purpose. As Jose Antonio Vargas explains, “Citizen journalism is bringing folks, young and old, into the public square, giving voice to those who, in the pre-Internet era, may have felt voiceless” (Vargas). Blogging has provided an outlet, a voice and a tool to connect and inform people across the world with accurate information. This characteristic makes blogging both a form of journalism and dissident media.
Blogging came about not only as trust in mainstream media decreased, but while a hunger for connection and community increased. Like many other things, the blogosphere was forever changed on September 11, 2001. In that weary time, many people wanted to share their personal stories. This country was divided, and blogging allowed people to share intelligent discourse and to connect. Furthermore, people were not satisfied with what mainstream media was reporting. People wanted context, personable and accurate news. Blogs are an alternative source and have contributed personality, eyewitness testimony, editorial filtering and uncounted gigabytes of new knowledge to journalism (Welch 24).
It can be argued that some blogs are inaccurate or too opinionated, but just like with anything that you read, you must look at the sources and decipher fact from opinion. Michael Skube, a journalism professor at Elon University, believes a blogger’s sole interest is in expressing an opinion quickly and pungently (Skube). Skube claims that blogs don’t do: “the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgement that assertion is not evidence… the depiction of real life” (Rosen). This is an ignorant statement. NYU professor Jay Rosen provides evidence of numerous dissident blogs that have tediously reported on critical issues. Several examples include the national network of sites for pet owners who were frustrated with the limitations of the news media, and wanted to share news about tainted foods during the pet-food scandal of June 2007; former Green Beret and independent journalist Michael Yon’s blog report from Iraq; and the gourmet food blog, DallasFood.org, which provided the only in-depth investigation into Noka Chocolate’s deceptive marketing practices (Rosen). Our class blog is another perfect example where bloggers did original reporting and posted accurate information. Bloggers do not necessarily care what you call them, but as Rosen says, “They do care if their story stands up” (“Journalism”). This is a true characteristic of dissident media; to represent a lone voice and to seek change.
There are numerous other examples and reasons why blogging is a form of dissident media. Political blogs, for instance, have tremendous power when it comes to the upcoming presidential election. Blogging is an expression of dissident action. Intelligent political discourse on blogs is opening up the floor to debate and getting the attention from candidates and mainstream media. For example, take alternative political video blogger James Kotecki. He began video blogging on Youtube in late 2007 about the Democratic and Republican forerunners in the race for the White House. Through video blogging, Kotecki was hoping to establish a “two-way” conversation between voters and candidates. To date, Dennis Kucinich, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo, John Edwards and John McCain have responded online to Kotecki’s blog. Mainstream news outlets like CNN and Fox News have picked up on his success (“James Kotecki”). Voters are interacting with candidates at an unprecedented level due to the Internet. There are blogs that support candidates, and there are blogs that oppose candidates. There are also blogs that report on and advocate for certain issues; the Iraq war, illegal immigration, etc.
It is true that many political blogs are mostly rants and opinions. But like some of the dissident blogs already mentioned, there are a fair share of political bloggers that do their own original investigating and report accurate news. Citizen journalist Faye Anderson says that blogging is “her entry into the political process, a way for ‘an outsider like me to play some sort of role’” (Vargas). Anderson blogs about illegal immigration, and more recently about the Jena Six case. She began blogging about the racial conflict surrounding the small Louisiana town long before mainstream media picked up the story. She praises black bloggers and black radio for closely following the case (Vargas). Without black bloggers and black radio following it, who knows if that story would have ever made its way to mainstream media? Her dissident blog is a modern day version of Robert S. Abbot’s Chicago Defender. Both revealed uncompromising documentation of acts of racial persecution in the South.
Blogging has really just begun to take hold, and only time will tell how successful it will be. It is without a doubt, however, a modern day dissident media source. It provides a platform for alternative ideas, and many people use blogging to try and change society in a discernible way. I began this course weary about blogging. I had no idea what it was, or its vast influence. After spending a semester blogging and reading other blogs, I now see why they are influential and can be considered dissident. I think it is ignorant to believe all blogs are not accurate because every blog, like all mainstream media sources, varies in accuracy. “They are diaries and soapboxes, where people can post everything from daily minutiae to manifestoes to sophisticated political and cultural commentary and reporting” (Welch 22). Blogs are dissident when they offer views different from those of the conventional press and when they seek to change society. Many blogs out there have a purpose. Take our class blog, for instance, which is seeking to renew political debate and change politics as we know it. Faye Anderson’s blog, Anderson at Large, also has a purpose. She blogs about important issues such as illegal immigration and the Jena Six case. These blogs are revealing, candid and seek to change society by presenting facts and offering proposals to improve conditions.
The loss of variation and corporate bias surrounding mainstream media today has driven many people to the blogosphere to find their news. A journalist is one who brings news to the public, and that is exactly what bloggers are doing. They have become the new watchdogs of democracy as they act as defenders and a voice for the common man. Bloggers label themselves as citizen journalists. It is not just by coincidence that citizen journalism can be linked back to the antiwar, counterculture dissident presses that flourished in the 1960s (Vargas). Blogging is dissident media’s shape and form in the 21st century. The good thing is that it looks like it is here to stay. Publishing dissident presses in the past has proven to be both difficult to produce and distribute due to expenses. There are limitless boundaries on the Internet. Blogs are affordable, easily accessible and simple to create.
*I tried to post the works cited, but every time it wouldn’t let me publish the post due to an error.