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Blogosphere and the Dissident Voice

November 30, 2007

Kristi Warren 11/29/2007 Blog Paper

Three years into my print journalism major and I have realized that I grimace every time a professor utters the word “blogosphere.” It’s an unconscious reaction. It’s not that I dislike the blogosphere. On the contrary, I think the blogging world has made the whole field of journalism incredibly exciting and dynamic. Unfortunately several of my past professors—stricken with fear of their field being driven obsolete by a writer professionally known as Gnarlygirl27—have rammed the negative aspects of the blog down my throat. Therefore I was very pleased to be able to form my own opinion about the value of the blogging medium.

Blogging is a valuable form of dissident media. According to Rodger Streitmatter’s Voices of Revolution, in order for a publication to be dissident “it not only had to offer a differing view of society but also had to seek to change society in some discernible way. … The publication’s primary purpose must have been, in short, to effect social change.” (Voices of Revolution, pp. xi) The blogosphere not only does this in a democratic way, but is convenient, uncensored and analytical. I’ve come to this conclusion through past knowledge, research and my own personal experience adding to the blogosphere on http://talkmonkey.blogspot.com/ .

As a form of dissident media, the universality of the blogosphere is unprecedented. The best thing about the internet is that anyone can write a blog. Unlike typical contributors to traditional forms of dissident media, someone’s age, experience and formal education are never an obstacle. All one needs is access to a computer. The internet provides a truly democratic forum for the average person to express themselves.

On the other hand, the worst thing about the internet is that anyone can write a blog. This has consequences to the quality of what is posted online. In Emerging Altenatives: Blogworld, a discussion of the merits of blogging as journalism, Matt Welch adds this qualifier, “Which is not to say that 90 percent of news-related blogs aren’t crap.” My internet-phobic professors drove this point home: Everyone’s airheaded little sister and cat-obsessed neighbor can start a blog. Posting your diary online is not news, nor is copying and pasting from the New York Times and writing snippy comments.

Welch puts this into perspective though, “First of all, 90 percent of any new form of expression tends to be mediocre (think of band demos, or the cringe-inducing underground papers of years gone by), and judging a medium by its worst practitioners is not very sporting.” I think if mainstream publications don’t have to be equated to tabloids then blogs should not be lumped into one category either.

And those who disregard the influence of the amateur blog writer must keep in mind the concept of “spheres of influence.” Just like dissident publications of yesteryear, blogs can push overlooked issues into the forefront of the public consciousness.

Advancements in technology have paved the way for the role of the internet in dissident coverage. Now anyone with a camera-phone can conveniently provide the public with first hand footage directly to the net. It’s easier to post articles, pictures, video and podcasts to the internet than trying to establish a dissident newspaper, radio program or public television station. One also reaches a wider audience and gains attention faster. James Kotecki began posting in early 2007 and he has already garnered enough attention to warrant his own Wikipedia entry . No longer does an aspiring journalist have to undergo years of schooling, internships and beat reporting to write something that will effect social change.

The lack of strict censorship rules decreases the sense of culpability but increases the likelihood of hearing both sides of a contentious issue. My first experience with a news blog was reading www.bartcop.com after the big media began pushing the white house’s agenda about weapons of mass destruction. Bartcop.com is a radically anti-conservative blog which would lead one to question its reliability if it was a traditional news source. Yet the website was very vocal and persuasive with its evidence of lack of WMD evidence. Websites like bartcop.com are examples of why blogging will continue to be a prevalent dissident form. There are always several sides to an issue and the internet makes it that much easier to hear what the other side has to say.

I was nervous about posting blogs to the talkmonkey site. Exposing my views to the world was daunting as the internet can be very permanent despite its transient reputation. I avoided posting anything about my personal political affiliations and focused on analyzing the behavior of prominent political figures and scholars. I don’t necessarily think what I wrote about was dissident to what the mainstream was putting out. I did try and go more into depth and explore areas that the mainstream didn’t cover, in particular with the snubbed minority-hosted republican debate.

I think I have come to appreciate the tenacity of the dissident blogger. It is difficult to be dissident. It requires more than shaking your head at everything the mainstream puts out. It requires analysis and an activist’s sensibility. One has to realize what the mainstream is not covering, point it out, and then go and cover it. It has motivated me to start my own blog and make it news worthy. It has also made me regain my appreciation for the word, “blogosphere”.

Works cited:

“Renewing Political Debate.” Talkmonkey.Blogspot.Com. 30 Nov. 2007. American University. 29 Nov. 2007 .

Welch, Matt. “Emerging Alternatives: Blogworld.” Cjrarchives.Org. 2007. Columbia University Review. 29 Nov. 2007 .

“Bartcop’s Most Recent Rants: Political Humor and Commentary.” Bartcop.Com. 30 Nov. 2007. 30 Nov. 2007 .

Streitmatter, Rodger. Voices of Revolution: the Dissident Press in America. New York: Columbia UP, 2001. xi.

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