Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Blogging and the Control Paradox

One of the reasons that I suspect that well-meaning politicans like Russ Feingold want to put limits on blogging is the fear that the right-wing corporate clowns will use their money to dominate the blogosphere the way they do most other spheres of human activity. But there's no way that the right-wingers can pull this off. Why? It has to do what I think of as the control paradox. The secret to effective blogging is to give up some control to get back power and influence many-fold, and conservatives hate anything that isn't tightly controlled. True blogging -- which involves blogs that allow comments -- is two-way and participatory, with the commenters the equals or near-equals of the blogger or bloggers running the site. The GOP and their corporate masters (and their media lackeys) much prefer the top-down system, where they tell the peasants what to do and the peasants go do it. This is why most GOP blogs (especially the ones belonging to GOP politicians) are just glorified vanity sites: They exist because some RNC suit heard about this whole blog thing and wanted a site that he thought would attract the kidz, but is not in the least two-way because he's actually scared to death of the sort of participatory democracy that real blogging is all about. Furthermore, while the conservabloggers themselves may be in perfect command of the Republican Code Language, the right-wing blogs that do allow comments risk letting the commenters (such as Little Green Footballs' infamous "Iron Fist") blow the lid off what the code is meant to conceal: namely, the GOP's racist, sexist, corporatist agenda. (That's why the GOP will publicly embrace PowerLine, which has no comments, while ignoring Little Green Footballs.) Lefty blogs operate from a different premise. They welcome and seek out reader input. In fact, DailyKos is not only the biggest blog around by far (it has more readers than the four biggest conservablogs combined), it's also a way for progressives to communicate and organize, and it's a great way for an increasing number of elected officials to communicate directly with an alert and educated part of the citizenry. It's spawned a whole series of satellite blogs and message boards, and helped change how politics in America is done. This is simply impossible for righties to comprehend, let alone do, because it gives up far too much centralized control and lets in -- gasp! -- the people to the decision-making process. That is why Feingold is wrong to go after the blogs. He thinks that the right-wingers will use blogs better than we can, since they have more money than we do. But he misunderstands how blogs work. The right wing uses thuggery and money to solve its problems. But the Kossacks don't scare easily, and as for money, no righty blog is going to have the effect of DailyKos, no matter how much money is thrown at it, for the simple reason that Kos' strengths have very little to do with money and everything to do with people working together for the common good. Yes, the sheer number of Kossacks means that a ton of money can be raised in a short time. But it's the networking, and the ability to pass around information to a wide audience, that is DailyKos' real strength.

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