Our Bloggin' Business

I got some interesting insights from an event I attended yesterday evening, Europe, America and the Blogosphere. Two Europeans and two Americans talked about why Europe has not developed as vibrant an Internet culture as the U.S. Some key points.

Blogs in America are powerful. The panel considered how blogs brought down Dan Rather. The mainstream media (MSM) would have accepted the National Guard story or at least not attacked it. In this case, the blogosphere certainly influenced the outcome of the presidential election. Another example is Trent Lott’s comment about Strom Thurmond, which the MSM ignored until they grew in intensity in the blogosphere. Currently opinion on the Alito hearings is blog directed, as each statement by Alito or any of the Senators is instantly analyzed and vetted. The news can go through several cycles before the evening news or the morning papers.

One important blog function is to package the news. With so much information available, people can't take it all in. They look to bloggers for "premastication" of their information. This is a function previously filled by Sunday morning talk shows or talk radio. The situation is different in Europe.

Even in places where Europe is as connected as the U.S., Internet based information is not as important to opinion making and agenda setting. Gerard Baker from the "Times of London" and Helen Szamuely, who runs a blog on the EU mentioned that more than half their Internet visitors came from the U.S. Baker said he believed this was true of most UK media, even those covering mostly UK topics. Europeans are more attuned to elite opinion makers. Outsiders run Blogs almost by definition.

European (in this case specifically UK) MSM is ideologically diverse, while U.S. media, Baker mentioned, pretends to be neutral and is almost always an urban based near monopoly. Many people can't identify with them. Blogs started because people thought their voices were not being heard, and almost all Americans are convinced that their views are not being properly represented. In a place like the UK, where particular media is more overtly political so everybody has "his/her" paper, this is less the case.

Mark Tapscott, who works at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Media and Public Policy, thought that it might also be that every American has an opinion and thinks he is entitled to it. The panel generally agreed that Europeans were still more hierarchical and credential based when it came to seeking news. Not all opinions are considered equally valid.

Asked about a case where European blogs had impact, Ms. Szamuely mentioned the EU referendum in the Netherlands. Elite opinion makers and Dutch MSM stood firmly behind a yes vote on the EU Constitution, but bloggers’ counter arguments that swayed the vote. We don't know whether or not Europe will develop an electronic opinion making culture like the U.S. The places most likely are Scandinavia, Netherlands and UK. Although they have some home grown blogs, they are often consumers of U.S. Internet media. As much probably has to do with the high level of English as with the high level of connectivity.

I know this is not really partisan politics (although I am sure something is George Bush's fault), but I am interested in comments.

Posted by Jack at January 12, 2006 5:09 PM
Comment #112617

I for one blame Bush. Now someone blame the liberals so we can get that out of the way.

Posted by: chantico at January 12, 2006 5:43 PM
Comment #112623

I for two blame the liberals.

All done…

Posted by: Cliff at January 12, 2006 6:02 PM
Comment #112627

I give immense credit to Bush for my blog being read around the world. I was so stunned by the locales of visitors from one sequential 500 visitor group, that I had to post a notice that PoliWatch.Org has truly become an international site.

I owe it much of it to President Bush, and of course, the inventor of the internet, Gore somebody! :-)

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 12, 2006 6:11 PM
Comment #112629

Blogs is good.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at January 12, 2006 6:23 PM
Comment #112631

Wasn’t there a brief moment when those higher up were considering shutting us down? or at least controlling what we can say?
It must really be scary … the fact that we are actually speaking to each other.
Now. If only we could learn to work together and stop acting like them.
That would REALLY make the ‘powers that be’ nervous!

Posted by: dawn at January 12, 2006 6:32 PM
Comment #112633

I find it somewhat ironic that the U.S., the country typically blamed for agression nowadays, is more willing culturally to engage in peaceful discourse via alternative networks, whereas Europe, the so-called bastion of peace, is still stuck in hierarchical systems that prevent open and honest discourse. Perhaps our freedoms and willingness to engage in those freedoms cause our wars…..? :)

Posted by: ant at January 12, 2006 6:33 PM
Comment #112658

Jack, it seems likely that the discrepancy exists for many of the reasons you name. There is something very entrepreneurial and—for good as well as ill—a little self-absorbed about establishing and maintaining a blog (blogs like this which contain a multiltude of voices being the exception).

But I wonder if there isn’t also a far simpler explanation.

Blogs seem to have really have taken off in the US over the past few years, and this has coincided with the relatively cheap and widespread availability of high-speed internet.

I’ve travelled pretty extensively in Europe over the past six years, and only recently have they seemed to catch up in making this technology available. It’s there now but ong after I had DSL on my computers, which I left on all day, many the Europeans I knew were still using dial-up and paying very high per-minute rates for their torturously slow connections.

I know that this has changed and changed rapidly in the big Western-European cities, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the smaller towns and relatively isolated places are still catching up.

Posted by: sanger at January 12, 2006 8:10 PM
Comment #112673

I think one reason why US Blogs have the influence they do is because our 1st Admendment gives us the freedom of speech. And the one freedom ALL Americans practice is our freedom of speech.

Posted by: Ron Brown at January 12, 2006 8:53 PM
Comment #112674

As long as the blogosphere continues to put heat down on the MSM, blogs will be worth it in the long run. That Rathergate fiasco is a true indication that the MSM was either too lazy or too biased to do their job. It also makes one wonder how many times prior to the blogosphere that they got away with something like that?!

Anyway, good for the blog; let’s keep them on their toes…

Posted by: rahdigly at January 12, 2006 8:58 PM
Comment #112681

I blame the lack of an honest and independent media in America as it forces people to look elsewhere. Rather had his mistake, nearly everyone else worth trusting is dead, retired, or sidelined by the big money bosses.

Posted by: Dave at January 12, 2006 9:26 PM
Comment #112684

It’s definitely interesting to think about the effect of blogs and the internet on the political landscape and wonder if something like what’s happened in the US might take root in Europe, where the dominance of a power elite and their allies in the media is even more entrenched than it is here.

I think it’s pretty well established (whether you think it a good thing or bad) that the influence of blogs and alternative internet-based media made the crucial difference in the 2004 presidential election. Could such a revolution take place in Europe?

Here, it wasn’t just one event, but a whole series of them. And it wasn’t for any lack of left-wing bloggers. Why is it, then, that the rise of blogs and internet-based news has so far disproportionatly benefitted conservatives?

Consider the record of the 2004 election.

The TANG forgeries were exposed by conservative bloggers, leading to the collapse of an anti-Bush story and the firing and discrediting of a very prominent liberal news anchor.

On the opposite side of things, the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth were heavily promoted by the conservative blogs while the MSM ignored them completely for over a month.

It was only after their story caught fire on the internet, where bloggers directed readers and donors to the Swiftvets site and helped them raise revenue for tv ads, that enough interest was built up that the mainstream media was forced to take notice. Kerry was incredibly damaged by this story, and this one factor alone might have made the final difference. In fact, a number of commentators have said that it DID make the final difference.

This is surprising, considering that 2004 also saw the rise of the first “internet candidacy,” that of Howard Dean. Using the internet, he was able to gather huge donations and become a front-runner for awhile—something an obscure Vermont governor would never have managed otherwise.

But his candidacy was a disaster for the Democrats. A disaster which continues to this day as he’s assumed the party chairmanship and candidates of his own party live in terror of being linked to him and in a number of cases even refuse to appear on the same stage with him. He’s dragged the whole party even farther to the left, forcing the other candidates to take ever more extreme and irresponsible positions which made the entire Democratic party increasingly unpalatable to mainstream voters.

Today, the process continues. Conservative websites and blogs provide a politically potent counterbalance to the mainstream media. Meanwhile, the most visible liberal websites and blogs, such as the virulent obscenity-filled hate-sites, Daily Kos, Democratic Underground and Atrios, drag the left further and further into the swamps of political irrelevance and obscurity.

Let’s hope this happens in Europe too. And in China for that matter.

Posted by: sanger at January 12, 2006 9:53 PM
Comment #112702

I agree that it not only has a culture to it but actually justifies a new political spectrum. Why because there are now so many free news papers and items onlne (keyword free—being of no monetary price outside of the ISP). This is the information super highway from which politics will never/may never be the same again, really.

I really cannot recall being this political before the internet (circa 1995 and before)—I just don’t. We had three tv channels essentially and if you had cable there was CNN and that was it.

Now here’s something to think about: THE DIVIDE THAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT IN MODERN POLITICS AND ASCRIBING TO DEMS OR REPUBLICANS, IS IT NOT ALMOST SOLELY THE RESULT OF THE INTERNET? Think about it. The divides are information based and I would say actually a healthy thing to have—contrast with varying degrees of starkness.

Because of the internet we may never vote the same way again with only rehashed newspaper articles guiding us but dozens of sites and sources and resources before we make out decision. And happily this is only the beginning really.

THere are more democrat blogs than republican blogs, fact, which is contrary to the MSM spin. Why is it that they make that myth (CNN, MSNBC and the like) that there are more right-wing blogs? there aren’t. That MSM assumption has had me puzzled since 2004 when the 60 minutes thing about the typewriter gaffe came about. The truth is the blogosphere is overwhelmingly leftist and atleast seven to ten percent outlandish (if not conspiratorial) with strange spins in both party directions, that is of neither party. The right wing has Free Republic (FReeper) and a handfull of smaller republican post sites and that’s it reallistically. (Enough on that subject—left right etc.)

I personally see a transformation in the knowledgability of voters right now as a result of the advent of the internet (Yes I know the topic was blogs and blogging). Some may chalk-it up to being because of CNN but it really isn’t, people want a spin that agrees with them and that is what political sites and blogs provide them. This may sound phony or smack of the dramatic, but to the electorate this has been the greatest advent in American history, the means to get greater amounts of information on any political subject/topic you wish at the punch of a few keys. I find myself rarely reflective on that but it’s absolutely true—never before have we had so much informational availability in our nation’s history.

I’ll end with this, why was it that throughout the middle ages and other historical eras did the smaller countries evolve faster (Greece, Italy, Spain, Britain)? Because of communication, now we don’t need shorter roads. the greatest advent was not neccessarily the blog entirely but a free space of endless electronic communication (protected by the first amendment of our US constitution) that may very well one day constitute it’s own political party to deal with the new informational reallities that unfettered informational space gives us.

The left-wing of the 80’s are not the left-wing of today, we via ‘interenet osmosis’ know a great deal more and even hold some outside the box political leanings as a result of the internet. I don’t know about the left in these regards but I assume it’s probably quite similar.

Posted by: Novenge at January 13, 2006 1:09 AM
Comment #112711

It seems like blogging is going to make this years elections extremely hard considering that President Bush just lost the argument over the leacking of America’s ability to listen in on Americans. Seems like a quick web search shows that Philip Chien talked about it in Apirl of 1999 and in May of 1999 Business Week explains about Echelon and how it might be used to violate the law. Thats what I am starting to like about the web. Stupidity is quickly laid to waste by all of us. Care to give odds on the next set of excuses to be used to explain his actions. Think that MSM will ever get the hang of the internet?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 13, 2006 2:07 AM
Comment #112713

—Sanger, The Swiftboat Vetereans for Truth A) had GOP backing and TV commercials and B) They were exposed as atleast partially fraudulent in their claims as it pertained to Kerry. the MSM ignores us all the damn time, quit the whiney-baby about the astroturf oraganization they had full GOP backing with millions of dollars in the warchest—whaa! Oh poor poor multi-million dollar GOP backed juntas who can afford television airtime will they ever get heard? ‘Nuff said.

Dean is, I agree, a Public Relations disaster. I was surfing through some political pages the other night and came across DEAN doing a photo-op of him submitting a Stack of FIOA petitions for the FISA court records. And man oh man did he look like a half-wit (must that be a photo-op can’t he submit that stuff remotely like a competant adult and see where that gets him). Where the hell is Terry McCauliffe as lousy as he was? We need him back if not Eddie Rendel if available. Terry made loooooads of mistakes especially misappropriating money on thousands of friggin’ $200 blackberries in 2004 for local canvassers (our money mind you) but Dean is so loose in his information and comments I really have to question his intellectual gravity altogether. Dean is the worst choice for DNC chair I think I have ever seen—not a bright bulb. We aren’t coming back unless we have the leadership that actually represents democrats (by this I mean not treating us like simple populist rabble to be roused by insulting bimbo logic and unsubstantive jingoisms—like, “Hope is awn tha’ way” and “The Real Deal”, What the hell does that even mean? Or “Bush just doesn’t get it” ooh great ad guys now get off my chess team). Sorry Sanger you said “Howard Dean” and it set me off.

I do agree with your point on some more liberal sites such as Democratic Underground and others that sublimate vitriol for substance. In their defense though they are playing a goalie role too within these more conservative climes where the point is to catch and deflect. Does it bring it to a place of greater irrelevancy? Honestly I don’t know, there’s alot of “gotcha-ism” (bush did this and Cheney did that— quintessential goalie stuff—sin finder) but not alot of policy although usually loaded with facts. That in itself is a very interesting topic, they have more substance that most right-leaning sites (obviously as evidenced)in alot of ways but there are alot of positions that don’t encompass the entire topic and bore only to one conclusion for one reason. Such as Israel is ‘bad’ (as is generalized), that in itself can be validated in SOME ways but now I hear bloggers into down-right anti-semitism under the flag of anti-zionism, that really in essense defeats the point of having such an anti-racist stance. American Jews are being singled out as ‘zionists’, which in America I’m guessing, is pretty much akin to bigfoot. That would really be the wrong direction. It is an interesting point.

Posted by: Novenge at January 13, 2006 3:22 AM
Comment #112781

Maybe the reason for the difference in blog popularity is this:
Europeans want to hear the news.
Americans want to hear the news they want to hear.

Posted by: Schwamp at January 13, 2006 10:33 AM
Comment #112784


Do you read Euro newspapers?

One reason given at the conference for lack of blogs in Europe was that news organization are more overtly partisan so that people in Europe get from THEIR media what we in America have to get from the blogs.

BTW - this blog is a little different than many others, but I have to say that I hear a lot of things I don’t want to hear (or more precisely disagree with). The blogosphere is more diverse than the MSM. You are more likely to encounter disconfirming information here than there.

Posted by: Jack at January 13, 2006 10:55 AM
Comment #112801

But Jack; That is what is great about this blog site. We can all give our own opinions and we do NOT have to agree with all we read here.
I certainly don’t agree with all you post and I know you don’t agree with the mine, but we all have the ability to read, digest and, hopefully make up our own minds on what to accept.
I DO like your ideas of bloggery. I believe,as several others do, that blogs are making a difference in the political arena and there will be many politicians paying attention to what is being said.
jack p

Posted by: jack p at January 13, 2006 11:38 AM
Comment #112803

Blogs in general are of little consequence. That small percentage of blogs that spur people to action, rallies, letters to editors, and letters to Congress, are the blogs that are making a difference. The rest of the vast majority of blogs are inconsequential demonstrations of one’s ability to type, copy, paste, and chew gum at the same time.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 13, 2006 11:46 AM
Comment #112925

It also makes one wonder how many times prior to the blogosphere that they got away with something like that?! rahdigly

They got away with it in GHWB’s second election. They insisted the economy was in the toilet, “IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!”, and the ecomomy was growing over 4%

This may sound phony or smack of the dramatic, but to the electorate this has been the greatest advent in American history, the means to get greater amounts of information on any political subject/topic you wish at the punch of a few keys. Novenge

This is true. I was reading the lead story on my Yahoo Insider. I clicked on the Highlighted link Iran and there was a map. From there I got the entire encyclopedia presentation of Iran’s history, politics, economy yada yada yada.

I remember trying to call long distance to hook up to CompuServe. Then having to navigate thru there just to get to the internet, and then being overwhelmed with information that was coming at a tedious pace. Maybe that’s what Europe is going thru now. It puts the Middle East’s access to information in perspective.

The rest of the vast majority of blogs are inconsequential demonstrations of one’s ability to type, copy, paste, and chew gum at the same time. David R. Remer

Or drink beer at the same time! Cut and paste is the greatest time saver since the cotton gin. The most beneficial course in my high school education was the typing class. Now when I talk I can keep my mouth shut.

Posted by: Weary Willie at January 13, 2006 3:28 PM
Comment #112954

Looks as if the Democrat,s only strong hold is abortion and with 41500 abortions each year in
Illinois ,there are very few christians in our democrat party. Anyone voteing for them should think about the next life frist.

Posted by: Walter H. Minch at January 13, 2006 4:52 PM
Comment #112967

frist? or first?

There was once I wrote a Letter to The Editor. My closing remarks started with “It is time we”, and what was was printed in my local newspaper was “It is time Me”. Caps and all.

frist would be a reference to current events. First would be more in link with what your point is.

I’m going with the misspelling, fatfinger thing for now.

I think that if it weren’t a political football, no one would be talking about it.

If you were to equate the “Choice” with “drugs” there would be no difference. It is one’s choice to do drugs.

It’s one’s choice to rob someone.

What’s the difference between choice and crime.

Posted by: Weary Willie at January 13, 2006 5:22 PM
Comment #113183

Dan Rather brought himself down by insisting the story was more important than the truth. The media continues to operate in that vein. News stories are being made up in the office. The quick to run with a story are getting quicker.

Posted by: Reporting for Doody at January 14, 2006 12:16 PM
Comment #113267

I am not sure why Republicans would want to blog. Unless it is to “preach to the choir.”

I am sorry… I am not trying to be mean. I’m not. But, I love consistency in an argument and I never feel comfortable when I watch someone who isn’t true to their stated beliefs.

You see… Democrats welcome discussion. Some try to say that we don’t because of “political correctness” or our unwillingness to accept alternate theories for evolution which include God ID. Well, “political correctness” really just means that we don’t sit back and cringe anymore at racist or sexist jokes. We call people on their boorish behavior. As far as ID… it just isn’t ready for prime time high school. We don’t have to subject ourselves to either boorish behavior or poorly disguised attempt to circumvent the constitutional separtation of church and state.

Ok, with that out of the way. Democrats enjoy the debate. They love to match thier beliefs against those of others. When we are presented with new evidence we adjust to compensate… this often means changing our minds. We believe this is a sign of growth and integrity to the truth.

The Republican party prefers steadfastness and adherence to the party line. To change one’s mind it to be “two-faced” and lacking in integrity. This is not qualities wanted in a person in a position of leadership. I am just repeating the commercials of last election.

So, I do wonder why Republicans blog? If I change my mind based on the information you present me… I am weak and lack morals. Why would you ever respect me?

If you change your mind then you would also be weak and immoral. Would you not?

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 14, 2006 8:10 PM
Comment #113429


I love that you are able to diagnose all of us Republicans as narrow-minded so easily. You are so right, we do hate debate, and critical thinking. It really is all about doing what’s best for us and not advocating for what we think is best for the country. Good analysis, you broke the code.

Maybe we like to blog because we get to take on statements like this, “political correctness” really just means that we don’t sit back and cringe anymore at racist or sexist jokes. We call people on their boorish behavior.”

It doesn’t really mean that actually. It means instilling “codes of conduct” at universities that silences debate. If you love to debate, you should hate political correctness. It means trying to police speech in order to quiet the opposition no matter how ugly they are. If you truly love debate, you should hate that too. It means trying to purify thought, so that there is only one way to think about issues. If you love to debate, you should hate that too.

When I was in college at a major university in the north, a woman hung a rebel flag in her window. Groups across campus staged major protests asking the university to take it down. They condemed it as a racist statement. I can certainly see their point of view.

However, political correctness conventions mean that is the only way to think of such an act. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t her intention to make a racist statement. It doesn’t matter if the flag meant something entirely different to her.

It was a credit to the university that they didn’t bow to the pressure and censure that behavior, but then again, they didn’t have a “code of conduct” that govenered speech and ideas. On a campus with such a code, the student could have been forced to take it down or be expelled.

Political correctness means that you can see such an act and label it as “boorish, racist” behavior and the woman putting up the flag has no recourse to defend herself or perish the thought have a different set of ideals separate from yours. The rebel flag is only allowed to mean what it means to you and not to anyone else. That’s not advocating for debate. It’s advocating for conformity, single-mindedness, and silence.

And as to this line, “If you change your mind then you would also be weak and immoral. Would you not?”

Not in the least. I’m willing to second-guess myself and think about the issues. However, I’m not willing to change my mind when I’m told that because I disagree with you that I’m, “stupid, narrow-minded, or mean.” Just as I don’t expect to you change your mind if I tell you that “you are unpatriotic, liberal, or weak.”

I’ve never done that in response to one of the Democrat postings here. You’ve done it twice this weekend. Feel better about yourself?

Posted by: Rob at January 15, 2006 4:45 PM
Comment #113602

I can’t seem to get rid of these spam ads. Please don’t click on any of their products, or we will problaby get more of them.

Posted by: Jack at January 16, 2006 2:40 PM
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