Saturday, February 10, 2007

Are we (bloggers) giving ourselves an unnecessary air of importance ?

Bloggers are everywhere - they seem to be coming out of the woodwork, literally! With millions of blogs out there, and with the mainstream media playing catch up, bloggers at times are at the forefront of information dispersal. A blogger was the first to break the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, another was the first to find evidence of air-brushing in Reuters photos, and so on. Some even credit themselves with being instrumental in Joe Lieberman's loss to Ned Lamont in the Democratic primaries.

It looks like the politicians are also taking note. John Edwards and family have been actively blogging and trying to cultivate bloggers for their cause; McCain and Hillary have bloggers on their payroll, and each activity, speech and personal history of the candidates is a serious topic of discussion on the blogosphere.

And this is an international phenomenon - we see Chinese bloggers writing under the guise of anonymity, Indian bloggers writing about everything the failures of the cricket team to raising funds for tsunami victims and British bloggers criticizing the Blair administration for the mess that is the Iraq War.

Over a period of time, we (bloggers, i.e.) have come to believe that our opinions really count and that we are making a difference, especially when it comes to politics - I mean, isn't that the best way to ensure that we're making the world a better place? We can make sure that "good" candidates win and hence solve the world's problems.

I sometimes wonder...are we giving ourselves too much importance as bloggers ? Do our opinions matter as much as we'd like them to, especially in the real world ?

A classic case in point, is that of the Lieberman-Lamont Senate race. "Liberal bloggers" (as they were termed by the media) were influential in ensuring that Lieberman lost the democratic primary. This was hailed as a great success; it is as though the following message was sent out to the world - "Beware : we're bloggers and we have arrived!" But then, what happened in the actual election ? Lamont loses to Lieberman, and now the Democrats are short of an experienced senator!

I have a feeling that while many people out there read a large variety of blogs and form opinions or gain knowledge from them, come election day, the main stream media (msm) will still rule the roost. Honestly, the reach of television, radio or newspapers is far greater than that of the blogosphere - admittedly many urban households have computers and internet access, but how many people really log on and gain political know-how from the internet ? Most people would stick to email, music, videos, chatting and of course, searching for porn.

Television and radio, on the other hand, are far more pervasive - some of the poorest people have access to televisions and radios and often gain information about their elected representatives from these traditional media. The msm may pick up occasional stories from the blogosphere, thus giving that particular blog/writer his/her 15 minutes of fame, but present their own views and opinions about candidates that the nation generally listens to.

They choose which facts to present and which ones to leave out. While tech-savvy people will go online and look around for the remaining details, chances are that they are an insignificant minority.

Not that the politicians will acknowledge this of course - if there exists any possibility of damage to their image, then they will work on appeasing bloggers, just as much as they work on forming good "relationships" with the msm. So we see John Edwards and co. scrambling to fix problems with bloggers on their payroll.

But in the larger scheme of things, will blogs and bloggers be influential in the '08 presidential race ? Can we make/break candidates based on what we write ? We would like to think so, but I believe that the blogosphere is far from being that influential...unless we are able to reach a large majority of the citizens that matters - i.e. the ones that vote on election day, we will lag considerably behind traditional media...

Meanwhile, one is left to ask about the fact that conservative bloggers do not like John McCain - who cares ?



GreenSmile said...

In spite of my contention that MSM is [1] not clued in to the impact of blogging (even when, like TIME or NYTimes, they hire a token blogger) [2] the very real differences of controlled-content media [and it MUST be controlled as the sponsors may not pay otherwise] that are MSM vs the uncontrolled or "for-cause" rather than "for-profit" media that is blogging have given rise to two media cultures...the newer one can double check a reported fact in seconds so if they are not hearing the truth, its is strictly because they dont' want spite of these factors, I can not presently refute your possibility that MSM shapes more opinions. But there are layers. Do some blogs [myDD and TPM in my case] shape the opinions of some MSM writers?

And how fast is it changing? The number of new blogs continues a somewhat slowing growth but the number of abandoned blogs is growing as well. and most of them are useful only to the ego of their authors.

My bias is that everybody to opens his mouth without being asked to do so is at great hazzard of thinking his words more significant than anyone else actually finds them.

Sib said...

My bias is that everybody to opens his mouth without being asked to do so is at great hazzard of thinking his words more significant than anyone else actually finds them.

Fantastic...makes a alot of sense - couldn't agree more.

I agree on the fact that we choose what we want to hear and ignore everything else - we always look for affirmation and read/hear only what we choose - something that backs up our convictions. Unforunately, I doubt if any media (MSM/blogs) can change that - people to the left will read the NY Times and people to the right will watch FOX news...