Posted from the U.S.
Tonight Nightline ran an interesting piece on bloggers and the blogosphere. The hosts, Chris Bury and John Donvan, were quite respectful of us unwashed blogger hordes. They even had on Rebecca MacKinnon and her lively bunch of Berkman Center Bloggers, who were blogging while being filmed (freaking the Nightline guys out a bit). Go Harvard! The vibe seems very much in line with the 1970's Homebrew Computer Club, which spawned Apple and helped to spark the PC revolution (yes, the MIT hackers mattered too). These are the idealistic, heady days of blogging. Don't worry, in a few years it will all be one giant corporate machine with no more pesky freethinkers to worry about.
I wonder if Nightline was worried, as many mainstream media types are these days, about pissing off the wrong bloggers and ending up "gated". They discussed what has become the holy trinity of blogging scalps: Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, and Jeff Gannon (who has his own blog now - the gay porn exposure and constant Jon Stewart ribbings have not slowed him down one bit). They also highlighted a liberal blogger, Maura, who helped stick it to a Republican Congressman when he tried to introduce a kooky bill that really, truly pissed off many women around the country (A Republican not understanding the needs of women? How odd!). Congressman Cosgrove, who still looked like he had no idea what hit him, was pretty darn miffed. Cosgrove expected traditional media courtesy from Maura. Pre-blogging days he always had the chance to review the pieces on him before they aired or were published (how convenient). He also said that because she had a wide audience, that she now had to play by traditional media rules (kiss a Congressman's ass for favors?). What's going on? My constituents telling me what to do! How terribly wrong!
Unfortunately for him, a blogging mob shredded his bill with a blogswarm. Congress Cosgrove did say that all of the holes in the bill that the bloggers caught would have surely been rectified and tweaked in some committee meeting. Yup. So why did he trash the bill and not just fix the holes?
It must have been that crazy right wing, conservative blogging mob that so many liberals talk about....no wait! It was a liberal mob! Hmm. When required, the Left can also come together and do what it needs to do. Or does this have nothing much to do with the traditional Left and Right, but a lot to do with the "long tail" part of the population that does not have power or access to the media, but now has a voice? Maybe it's an issue by issue affair, and not always Left vs. Right, even though the old guard keeps trying to color it that way.
Nightline was also fascinated with the basics of the internet, which has been around since the 1960's!. Hyperlinking, which they described as these magical portals/doorways to a whole new world, was emphasized several times. Where have these people been? Maybe next week we'll see a piece discovering for the first time a magical tool called e-mail. To give Nightline some credit, the simplified blogging packages now make it easy for anyone to utilize standard web tools (writing, editing, posting, linking) to publish. The mainstream media has now officially blessed and baptized blogging as A New Thing Which Can Do Good But Is Scary Too. Welcome to Blogger Convergence, that period of time VC's loves to invest in and the media loves to blab about.
What all of this hooplah tells me is that the powers that be are so rotted that almost any light shone on them results in all kinds of unexpected, nonlinear outcomes. The big media, politicians, corporations, bankers - they have all had their collective hand in the cookie jar, together, for so long, that they are beginning to freak out when they see the public show up, unedited, unfiltered, asking hard questions. Who let them in to our party?
Bloggers will have a field day for years because I believe that those in power have had it so good for so long, and they have run amok, largely unchecked (except by others in power). There is an Old Boys Network, and it is going down, or at least changing, fast. The Old Boys will resist, but they simply can not stop what is becoming billions of connected people. It will be. Call it The Great Leveling, or the Normalization of Power. The internet is first connecting society, but it may actually reshape it entirely.
Democracy meant that a citizen spoke with a vote, but an elected official actually spoke for the wide masses. That elected official gets to live in an elite world, a closed door world, a world of privilege and luxury. It is good to be the king. Blogging eliminates the middleman. Blogging is a Dangerous Idea. It may not only upheave journalism, it may do the same thing to politics and many systems of government. The idea of I speak for myself from now on is mighty powerful. If we could get blogging up and running in North Korea, and wire them to the web, it may be a quick hop and a skip to chase their Dr. Evil psycho dictator out of power. A bloodless, quick blogger invasion. South Korea - the most wired country in the world - hello! wake up! Do something. Hook up your northern brothers - it will be cheaper than bombs. Smuggle in wi-fi and cheap mobile devices. Let them know that their Dear Leader is completely insane and to stop letting this nutball ruin their country. Stop drinking his Kool-Aid! Blog! (Of course, many Democrats would say the same thing about the U.S.!).
The great Bob Marley sang: I shot the sheriff, But I didn't shoot no deputy. I think that he would appreciate the shift from shooting to blogging, because he was overall a peaceful guy. Maybe the fall of Babylon can be soft, electronic, and come in an unexpected wave. Words can, and should be, more powerful than guns. Let's fight with words. Put the guns away. If you need to shoot, play Quake or Counterstrike.
I blogged the sheriff, But I didn't blog no deputy.
Unlike the Huns, bloggers are often meek. But don't the meek inherit the earth? We didn't physically assault mainstream media. We used cheap, mostly open source technology and ideas. This is a soft, comfortable, couch potato revolution. It should be a model for all revolutions. Stay at home with your family. Don't lose your life, don't kill, don't hurt anyone. Blog away. A mind over matter revolution. A battle of ideas and thoughts - and everyone, anyone, can join in. That's pretty cool.
Maybe we don't need a sheriff anymore. We need our laws, our rules, our glues of society. We need freedom, free markets, and the ability to pursue our goals and dreams. But do we need a sheriff? Does humanity always need to be led, like sheep, or can we one day think for ourselves and somehow work together. Not communism, not any of the failed -isms, but real democracy. The democracy that the founders of the U.S. understood could not be with the education level, people, mindset, and technology of their day. But what about today? What would our Founding Fathers say about what is possible today? This goes well beyond blogging, but blogging begs the question - it urges us to ask these questions.
I blogged the sheriff, But I didn't blog no deputy.