Monday, June 13, 2005

Huffington Post Review;
Predictions About Blogs in the Political Process

I admit, I was highly skeptical of the idea of the Huffington Post.  It was characterized as a "celebrity blog," and it was not at all clear to me why anyone would care.  I thought it was going to be the Blogosphere's equivalent of People magazine.  

The day it went online, I looked and was not impressed.  Sure, it is nicely done, from a technical standpoint.  It has well-structured xhtml-compliant code, and makes good use of css stylesheets.  It obviously is well-financed, because it loads quickly despite what must be a heavy server load.  It has an RSS feed, and a diversified blogroll.  But so what.  Interestingly, almost as soon as they went online, a number of parody blogs sprung up. (Huffington's Toast, Bluffington's Post)

In the last few days, though, there have been things posted there that I actually wanted to read.  And they've picked up on some news items that I had missed.  Which is not easy to do.  (I had missed the story about the investigation into Bill Frist's campaign finances.) And they have some posts written by Congresspersons, which I really appreciate.

For example, on Friday, Rep. John Tierney blogged about his proposed legislation that would tighten congressional oversight of spending for the War on Terrorism (I'm not sure where this war is, but I do know what it is against), as well as the parallel War in Iraq (I'm not sure what this war is against, but I do know where it is.)
Our ongoing efforts to pass our legislation -- which garnered the support of close to 200 Members when it was last considered on the House floor -- have been repeatedly blocked by the Republican Leadership in the House in an effort to simply avoid the embarrassment of having its members support legislation leadership opposes.
The Republican Party can ill-afford to have a public display of any kind of challenge to the popularity of its leaders.  The momentum is swinging away from them, what with the stem cell legislation, the lack of progress on Social Security privatization, investigations of DeLay's associates, and Frist himself, the filibuster compromise, the resignation of Philip Cooney, etc.

What is most interesting to me, though, about the Huffington Post, is the way in which it the blog itself, and the reaction to it, resembles the political process.  It's a lot like high school: everything is us against them.  Basically, a bunch of people get together and declare that they are popular.  Then another group of people get together and say "no, you're not."  One person in the bunch does something to grab the spotlight, then someone from the other group mocks them.  The antics are all silly and I wish it would all go away, but it's a persistent part of our culture; there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Clearly, it is more important to look at the content of the site, not argue about whether it is cool or hip or hot (or whatever today's adjective for popular things is), or not.  

Rep. Tierney's post is passable, by blogging standards.  He includes a couple of hyperlinks, which is good; but he does not link to the text of his proposed legislation, an oversight that betrays his blog-newbie status.  He links to the Downing Street Memo, which seems superfluous, but it makes it clear what clique he belongs to.  His post is well-written, on the sentence and paragraph levels, but the paragraphs don't all hang together.  That's OK, in my opinion, for a blog.  The point of a blog is to get the ideas out there, quickly.  Other people can organize the ideas in their own heads, if they want, or write their own posts.  Just get the ideas on the 'net.  That is even more important than the facts.  News organizations spew facts; the role of blogs is to promulgate ideas.

Everyone is wondering what role blogs will have in the political process.  That isn't really clear, yet.  Most people didn't know what a blog was during the last election cycle.  If I'm right, though, the impact that blogs will have on politics is similar to the impact that viewer voting would have on a Miss America contest.  All over the country, millions of viewers are watching the contestants signs and twirl their batons or whatever, voting and commenting continuously.  And while they are voting and commenting, they are looking to see what other people are doing.  If people they consider to be popular are voting one way, they will tend to vote that way, too.  If a popular blogger declares that Condi's piano routine is awful, then everyone in that clique will say it's awful, even if they actually liked it.

What a way to run a country that would be.

Category: sociological musings
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Gosh, I hope not. As far as it goes right now I think bloggers and readers tend to formulate their own opinions, albeit, with preformed biases, but, as they get more popular it may well be a popularity contest. ugh.
why are you so mean? and why do you feel the need to leave anonymous hateful blog comments on other peoples journals? I truly am wondering. If you could post your answer in your next blog i'd appreciate it.
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