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The Marriage of Activism and Blogging

November 30, 2007

The use of blogging as dissident media has the capacity to be a powerful force within activist movements and an incredibly useful tool in raising awareness and recruiting other like-minded people to one’s cause. In this paper I describe why I think activists should embrace blogging and why they are especially suited to it.
Blogging certainly has the capacity to be a form of dissident media, but the Talkmonkey blog that our class maintained was not truly dissident media. As Streitmatter defines it, “in order for a publication to merit the mantle of ‘dissident’ it not only had to offer a differing view of society but also had to seek to change society in some discernable way…The publication’s primary purpose must have been, in short, to effect social change” (Streitmatter, xi). As I view it, our blog did not champion social change at all. It focused on the 2008 presidential election and generally stayed within the two-party dichotomy of our political system.
Although I do not think our blog was a form of dissident media, I do think that blogging has the best capacity out of any other media source to be used as a tool for social change. This is for several reasons. First, activists are more knowledgeable than the general population about a wide array of issues. It is first our responsibility to educate ourselves around an issue, accomplished through talking with our friends and other activists, gathering information online, reading zines, and examining the issues from a mainstream as well as radical perspective. We don’t view this as academic or forced because it is motivated by our passion for justice. One must learn before one can teach others.
Second, groups and individuals are always looking to raise awareness about the causes they’re passionate about. This mindset lends itself very well to blogging. They can create a blog, for free, that enables more people to become exposed to the injustices in the system and learn strategies for creating change.
Third, activists in general are not afraid to speak their minds. They denounce government repression, corporate domination of culture, and fight for every oppressed person and animal around the world. Since we spend so much time speaking about these issues within our communities and in the outside environment as well, it is only natural that we take our arguments and post them in a blog for people to read on a national scale. It would strengthen and increase the influence we are able to have, thereby helping our causes. Since other activists would probably be our target audience, I think that some good debate could ensue in the comments between those who disagree on tactics or approaches to change. I would have loved for our site to be more interactive and feature “news as a conversation” which the Poynter article talked about.
Fourth, activists are always on the lookout for reliable and quality news sources not owned and exploited by the corporate media. We are wary of speaking to mainstream media about our planned actions because we are afraid of the way they will portray us and pigeonhole us. Yet a blogger who is unapologetically more progressive and less corporate is less intimidating and activists would feel more comfortable being interviewed by them. A well-maintained blog with a wide or specific focus that is operated by a collective of like-minded radicals will appeal to those who are tired of the same opinions from every mainstream media source.
The experience of posting my writing on the internet drew mixed emotions. At first I was really nervous about the whole class and many potential strangers reading what I had to say. Before my first blog post I was scared that I would have nothing to write about or that what I did have to say would sound stupid. However, once that first post was done all the nervousness and pressure seemed to melt away. I often discuss my views on various issues with friends and this helped me to overcome what lingering shyness existed within me to make the weekly blog posts. I feel that this class has given me the confidence to possibly start my own blog in the near future. I have definitely been reading others’ blogs much more due to this experience as well.
What I accomplished from posting on the blog was mostly gaining confidence in my blogging ability and writing. I wish I had not been so confined in what to post about, but I know that parameters are necessary for cohesion and structure. I actually really enjoyed posting about Radical Cheerleading, one of my passions. I got to include cheers and pictures of our squad, which was fun. One of the most valuable things I have gained from this class and our blogging experience is a deeper knowledge of critical theory. I plan to use elements of that approach in activist work in the future.

Sources:
Outing, Steve. “What Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers.” Poynter Online. 20 December, 2004.
Streitmatter, Rodger. Voices of Revolution: The Dissident Press in America. New York: Columbia, 2001.

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