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Blogs: A Unique Opportunity for Dissidence

November 30, 2007

Bryan Koenig
Dissident Media
Professor Walker

Blogs: A Unique Opportunity for Dissidence
Blogging is an extremely young concept, going back only as far as the origins of the internet. Dissident Media, the institution with which it is associated however has been around for centuries. The relation between these two is finicky and difficult to pin down. The problem with blogging is that we do not as yet have the luxury of historical perspective. We are looking at blogging in the here and now, and it is possible only to speculate how history will ultimately judge this fledgling media. The present perspective afforded us points to blogging as facilitating dissident press, not however as a dissident media in and of itself.
Blogging as a media of any kind, be it dissident, mainstream or otherwise, is like no form of communication anyone has ever seen. The power of the pen is more available to more people than at any point in history. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide have access to the internet, able to read blogs as well as create their own. Just fifty years ago, no one would have been able to conceive of such communicative abilities even in the wildest of their dreams.
People blog on every conceivable topic, and some that are well outside common conception. Such a huge diversity makes blogging a potential avenue for dissidence, but not by itself a part of the dissident press. The mainstream use dissident press just as much, if not more so than the dissident. Laymen and professionals alike clog the internet with blogs on comic books, movies, whale watching, firefighting, you name it and there is almost certainly a blog for it. Even professional journalists themselves are beginning to post blogs.
Some blogs and bloggers are decidedly dissident. The prime example are the citizen journalists who take the initiative to go out, gather information, conduct research and present detailed facts and persuasive arguments by which they fight for a myriad of causes, and from both sides of the political spectrum.
Whatever blogging is or is not, what can be said of it for certain is that without question, its power is growing rapidly. Faye Anderson’s acceptance into a presidential debate gives strong reason to agree with her postulation that “the debate about whether bloggers are journalists is over.”[1]
The single biggest problem with Anderson’s statement is that she is looking at blogging as a blogger invited to a presidential debate. Aside from being historical, the moment was also statistically insignificant. More blogs than anyone could ever hope to read in a single lifetime dot the internet, but only a sliver of a fraction of a percent were even considered as potential candidates for the debate. They are the citizen journalist bloggers like Anderson who bothered to take their role as far as possible, instead of the scantily researched and largely opinion based articles that constitute the vast majority of blogs.
As Steve Outing puts it, “with blogging, it’s up to the individual blogger. With no institution or organization watching over them and guiding their behavior, we can only hope that most bloggers adhere to a mission of accuracy and accountability.”[2] That is not to say that all journalists are respectable and truly of journalistic quality, only that a far greater percentage of them are considered as such as opposed to the blogging community.
For all its drawbacks, blogging as a dissident media outlet is a dream come true for every concerned citizen with internet access. An almost universal feature of dissident media is that from the labor papers of the 1800s to the feminist papers of the late 1900s, such publications were started by the disenfranchised and poorly funded outcasts of society and produced for little or no financial gain via cheap means of publication and distribution.[3]
In today’s day and age, there is no better example of such a financially lacking voice than that of blogs. Anyone who can afford a computer and internet access can blog. And their words can be distributed far beyond the walls of their home or hometown or even home country. The internet is the ultimate tool of distribution. Concerned, informed, well spoken and hard working people are taking notice and using this revolutionary tool. The internet allows people to undertake what Jay Rosen calls, “the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgement that assertion is not evidence…the depiction of real life.”[4]
Rosen goes on to describe numerous instances where bloggers contributed immensely to mainstream discussion from their dissident perch. In some instances, it has been bloggers that have shined a light on internationally spanning issues, acting as the ultimate ideal of dissidence. In those cases, ordinary men and women outside of the journalist community became whistle blowers. Their voice was for all to hear as a citizen journalist, creating widespread talk and even change among the mainstream.
Before I started this project, I had little knowledge, understanding, experience or even opinion of blogging. About all I could say is that blogs had never occurred to me to be a powerful tool for influencing the mainstream. They seemed distant, unimportant and irrelevant. My news came from professional journalists at newspapers and TV stations. Now I realize the enormous power and importance of blogs. I admit that my own career plan is one of a mainstream journalist, but I think it’s important to consider all aspects of media, especially one growing as quickly as blogging.
How much if at all I made a difference as a blogger, I really couldn’t say. To my knowledge no one has given serious thought or effort to further exploring or solving any of the problems I’ve highlighted in my blog posts. I can however say with pride that our blog post appears repeatedly under a Google search for dissident media, starting on the second page.[5]
I know outsiders have viewed our blogs, and that alone provides me with a great deal of comfort. If someone read our blogs and gained a new perspective or insight into the political world, I think we’re well on our way to becoming dissident journalists. Instead of getting paid, we pay huge sums of money for this privilege. We do so out of a genuine concern for the state of political debate in the United States using a cheap and easily accessible means of publication and distribution available to us, and we make our arguments using carefully considered discussion and research.
Works Cited
“Dissident Media.” Google. 30 Nov. 2007 .
Outing, Steve. “What Bloggers Can Learn From Journalists.” Poynter Online. 23 Dec. 2004. 30 Nov. 2007 .
Rosen, Jay. “The Journalism That Bloggers Actually Do.” LA Times 22 Aug. 2007. 30 Nov. 2007 .
Streitmatter, Roger. Voices of Revolution. New York: Columbia UP, 2001. 3-256.
Vargas, Jose A. “Storming the News Gatekeepers.” Washington Post 27 Nov. 2007. 30 Nov. 2007 .

[1] Vargas
[2] Outing
[3] Streitmatter
[4] Rosen
[5] “Dissident Media”

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