Thursday, November 02, 2006


This post was written by Edie, who writes one of my all time favorite blogs Annotated Life. Her post deals with a question we all ask ourselves. I started my blog because I was angry about the Terry Schiavo affair. I thought science and rationality was under attack. Please visit Edie's blog. She is a great writer, whether she writes about art, current politics or history. Edie is associated with World Socialist Web Site, the most widely read socialist news site.

Why blog? This question is inevitably broached, at least privately, by every serious-minded blogger seeking to clarify or justify the activity.

Many intelligent people take a cynical view of the blogging phenomenon, saying that the reality of the situation is that most bloggers are simply ignorant and shallow. I have been confronted with this position from personal acquaintances who consider themselves to be very leftist, very realistic, very objective about the political climate. Let's face it, they say, bloggers can barely snap their gum and linkjack at the same time.

I think that it is in fact impossible to be realistic with the attitude that most people are just irrecoverably stupid. Far from realistic or objective, it is entirely subjective. One must look at mass activities objectively in order to understand them and recognize their full potential.

So let's be realistic. Blogs are inlets and outlets. Blogs are non-profits or infinitesimal business ventures. They are diaries or megaphones for confessions, creative and political expressions, individualism and romance. Blogs are powerful communication and social networking tools. A blog is a place to work through personal thoughts or dilemmas, often seeking the collaboration, understanding, and disinterested friendship of strangers.

But beyond these explanations, there is the larger trend. Regardless of the rationale for or content of individual blogs, the act of blogging is representative of a trend toward expression and interaction and discussion beyond established media--even as the governing body and structure of our society constricts against this. The Internet is a medium unparalleled in history for the exercise and transmission of free speech.

Currently Technorati tracks around 58 million blogs. MySpace lists more than 105 million blogs. Most of these are no doubt deeply personal. However, a great majority of these, never mind the content, are intricately linked personal forums, and this lends itself to free speech in times of political crisis.

This is why the political and media establishment perpetuates the cynical view of bloggers and more generally, youth, as irretrievably shallow, stupid, consumed by consumerism. It is behavior condemned out of one side of the mouth and encouraged out of the other.

And, more importantly, because social networking has flourished to an extent that was almost inconceivable even a decade ago, the military establishment has expressed concern over what it has termed the "uncontrolled networking" of "the Information Battlespace." Information flows through like a sieve, unapproved in its content and its carriers, unauthorized, instantaneous.

Blogs and user-submitted news sites have proven time after time that they have the capacity to cover world-shaping events with more rapidity and humanity than the embedded media outlets--from riots to tsunamis, elections to hurricanes, war crimes to military coups. Videos and photographs that have surfaced on file-sharing networks have changed public opinion virtually overnight, and have the power to destabilize governments anywhere in the world.

Attempts to rein in this networking have so far focused on corporatizing--buying out, bullying with lawsuits, constructing monolithic rip-offs. The next step, tiering the Internet, is an effort to cede web supremacy to military traffic whenever a crisis is declared. Corporate traffic would get second "tier," and the rest of us could conceivably be cut off altogether if it is deemed necessary for security purposes. Given the political climate of the endless "War on Terror," it almost goes without saying that security purposes for the military can mean the opposite of security for us.

Yet, for all the tough talk, shutting down the Internet is not really a practical option for the government in any circumstance. This is because the integration and simultaneity of global financial markets are also by-products of the telecommunications system, and without it, world capitalism--so overwhelmingly inflated by speculation in the place of real productive power--would collapse.

Why does the political establishment, the government as well as the mainstream media, detest the blog? Why blog?

Blogging is oppositional because it is an alternative vehicle for the dissemination of information. It represents a small but significant cultural evolution of the working class without the sanction of the ruling elite. The establishment fears and dismisses it because the system at large has reached such a state of decay and is now so sclerotic that alternative modes of communication are now recognized as threats.

Similarly, such modest alternatives as third parties and public free speech areas--historically the safety valves of capitalist democracy--are now being suppressed, not because the government is in a position of strength, but because it is vulnerable. The threat of terrorism is invoked, terrorist plots are concocted by the intelligence agencies and heralded by the media as often as necessary not because the position of the ruling elite is stable but precisely the opposite, because the power structure has deteriorated to such an extent that an informed population, living without fear, now represents a threat to capitalism rather than a bulwark of democracy. Capitalism and democracy have been revealed to be incompatible.

Giving legal sanction for torture, information operations including Internet and phone surveillance, development of weaponry intended for domestic crowd control, and record funding for military and police forces are also direct symptoms of this decay.

Why blog? The most politically developed within the working class have a tremendous responsibility set out by history to lead society in a new direction. The Internet offers us a wealth of potential which would be foolish and even tragic to forgo. This is why I blog.


steven rix said...

I blog so am I. It is not necessarly an opposition against political junta.
Blogging is also a cultural phenomenom that has the right to speak out loud, especially since the US are cut off from the rest of the world. Or the right to exist is very diversified in this world, especially since the US is a lone superpower, there is a crisis of existentialism, and a crisis of culture inside globalization exchanges.

Blogging is just a print at a such time, far from TV culture that immerges us :)

SecondComingOfBast said...

Blogging is freedom of expression on steroids. Anytime something becomes trendy, there will arise a class of people that despise it. In the case of blogging, they come in two categories.

One, those who themselves have nothing to say of any valid interest, and wouldn't have a clue how to say it if they did, so they resent those that do, most especially those that do it well.

Two, of couse, are those who feel they can not control it, and so fear it.

Incidentally, out of those 58,000,000 blogs on Technorati, I come in about at 120,000 or so, and just a couple of days ago shot up to a ranking of something like number 83,000. So I must be doing something right, though damned if I know what it is.

Yeah, I know, I've just given some people the opportunity to say, "damned if we know either, PT."

troutsky said...

Very well put renegade.When we all have a voice, the "official" voice is diminished. Add to that the source sharing, people telling me where they get new ideas, it is the opposite of the "media" where everything is self-referential and only recycled old ideas can appear.We may find out if there is anything to the theory that memes can develop and then "leap" exponentially.

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...

For me the creative outlet is the key. And in this key comes the diary of our times. If we collectively stood back, or had the ability to review our writings a hundred years from now we may see that indeed our words meant more than we imagined. As in the theatre or poetry or prose writings that we peruse thousands of years later so to shall ours, if they are put in some form of print and not left prey to the whims of the electronic age, be perused by future residents and debated and mulled over in an attempt to justify and make sense of the world as it is then, which is why it is important in many respects to forego the spin and lies and pen what is to us honest and fair to the day. A Poetic Justice may be ranked such and such out of the millions on Technocrati, but this will mean little if I am not telling my truth as I see it and not diligent in my approach for me.

Great post, renegade!


Frederick said...

It's a goddamn double edged sword, blogging. Makes you think though. What do we expect from others? Consistancy. No, hypocrisies. It's a tough line to toe, your own standards. It makes us all better though.

Arturo Vasquez said...

Gosh, I blog just because it's fun. I can share all of my strange interests and tastes with others. It's cool when people in France, Korea, and other parts of the world read and comment on what you write. But I am very superficial about it and try not to take myself seriously. I am trying to share my shallow and profound vision of the universe with others. Most of all, I like posting stuff that looks and sounds cool.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
beatroot said...

Just because there are more networks to communicate in does not really mean that something meaningful will be communicated. Without a meaningful message the communication will be what it mostly is: Babel.

She mentions that the ‘ruling elites’ are weak. And that is right: not because capitalism is under threat – there is no threat (either ideological or economic) but because it doesn’t know what its mission is any longer. It finds it difficult to justify itself because it too doesn’t really believe in it either (hence Green capitalism, ‘low growth’ economics ‘sustainable development’ etc.

But just because they are confused and weak does not mean they are under threat. Politically, they have won the argument. The world has changed. The ideological threat, and movements that sustained it, are gone, finished.

Apart, that is, for a few politically lonely souls ‘social networking’ on the internet.

mullet said...

I just want to say that through all of these blogs, you guys are writing history as it you see it. and that is revolutionary

you report as you see fit. Of course this makes a difference - we now have options as to what we believe.

(love the blog as always, renegade eye)

Modern Pitung said...

I'm glad to see that Edie has come around to writing a manifesto of sorts. I'm of the type that needs to start out a project with a manifesto (hence, my first post) rather than just getting around to it, but to each their own.

Some general critique of Edie's analysis. While heartfelt and sincere, in a world where blogging has become as insincere as the corporate media, I think there's some stuff that is factually wrong.

I think Edie manages to go especially wrong on the idea that governments are taking to suppressing blogs. There is always a temptation to think that every new technological wrinkle is inherently an advance for the working class (or at the very least, against the status quo) -- this goes back to Marinetti and the Futurists in interwar Italy, when they were writing on the revolutionary potential (see the Futurist Manifesto. There is a lesson in looking at how Marinetti's ideas were co-opted by Mussolini and the Fascists.

The error of the Futurists in Italy, that ended up in ostensible revolutionaries giving bullet points to the fascists, is the matter of technological determinism -- looking at technology in a one-sided way. This is why Lenin's formulation, "Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country," is so important to understand and to grasp: the importance is the message, not the medium, and the two should not be confused for one another.

To relate this to today's context: blogs are just as much tools of American-led Western imperialism as they are tools of revolution. Myspace has been bought out by Rupert Murdoch/News Corp., and in my estimation he is just seeking to extend the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie conquering the social networking/blogging medium in the same way he did newspapers and then television -- first presenting it as innocuous entertainment, then getting down to the brass tacks of giving neoliberal/neoconservative hacks jobs behind news anchor desks. Bourgeois free speech always ends up becoming the right of the bourgeoisie to lie.

I'm far from the first person to say this kind of thing -- actually, Thomas Friedman, the neoliberal asshole at the Times, is actually quite prescient with his work in The World Is Flat (he always tends to be a step ahead of the policy curve). His basic thesis is that the convergence of technology like wireless network devices with the ideology of neoliberalism will finally bust down the doors of the "barbarian" nations (really, everything he writes is Cliff's Notes Marx, as interpreted from the other side).

The real fight won't just be to put up our posts at some prodigious rate (though it is a struggle). The real fight is still with the forces of capitalism that's happening on the ground in the workplace and campus -- in other words, the meatspace. We radicals can propagandize about it, and give it an intellectual skeleton upon which to grow and reflect, but the real muscular action is still in the real world.

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Tina said...

My blog was born out of the rage and depression I felt in 2004 after Bush was re-elected. I had just thrown 100s of hrs of my time into GOTV and campaigning for Kerry, and I needed to do something about my sadness, anger, and despair. Besides... I felt I owed it to my then 2 yr old daughter to try to wake up Americans to the fact that our nation is being driven over a giant cliff at 100mph. Connecting with so many other like-minded and frustrated people around the world was the best therapy money didn't have to buy.

LeftyHenry said...

Good post. I think I blog sorta as a way of just writing down my toughts about various issues. Almost like an outlet. It's a way of promoting my views and of publicly commenting on issues that I couldn't otherwise.

IG said...

The reason I started blogging? I am a young Xicano militant who is sick and tired of all the eurocentric and racist shit I see and hear everyday. I want to show the peeps that Latinos see the world differently and that our way of looking at things is in no way less correct or valid as anyone elses. Its a way for La Raza to get its voices heard. Thats also why so many young gente do the myspace thing.

I blog for La Raza and for liberation. Para un mundo Socialista. I blog to get the ideas of my indeginous ancestors a place to be heard. For the Carnales and especially for the Xicanas who struggle through so much. Viva La Causa!!! Hasta La Victoria Siempre!!! Venceremos!!

troutsky said...

For Margaret Thatcher, beatroot and the rest of the end of history crowd I think a little Twain is in order: The news of my demise has been greatly exaggerated.

steven rix said...

Completely off topics.
The USAID is hiring people in Egypt and Lebanon and Palestine to know more about the avian flu. I received this stuff in my email on Friday...

steven rix said...

Please could somebody continue this "intelligent" convo after my name in this thread:)

Everything's alright Captain, this country is going to shipwreck anytime soon because of the Republicans with their idea of individual liberty that is taking over the rest of the world (these motherfuckers oppose neocons against liberals).

Even if this country was going to fall apart, my personal freedom is more important than the ideals of freedom in this country. Who do they think they are fooling?

It is going to take a revolution to reverse the spirit of american freedom; it is going to take a 2nd american revolution to go back where we were at, in the name of independence, in the name of individual liberties, in the name of individual liberties against the church too. This is how this country was built on. These are the values of the USA against the Englishmen. These are our liberties to make the american dream alive or dead.

Brian said...

RYN: You are absolutely right. One of the great flaws of far left is that the first concern doesn't seem to be whatever positive principles they claim to advance. The first concern seems to be opposing anything Bush and the rest of the far right says.

Their apologias for Chavez, Castro and Mugabe are pathetic. The first two have done a few good things, but overall, they are nothing more than populist autocrats built around their cult of personality. Mugabe's the same way without the few good things.

But because the neo-cons opposes these guys, they are transformed into some sort of anti-imperialist saints. The left should be more concerned with the people, not the leaders.

I loathe imperialist neo-conservativism with every fibre of my being but someone like Mugabe is inflicting just as much damage (witness the stats I posed about the death rate in Zim being higher than in occupied Iraq).

You are right about the void left by the left's failure to go after these guys. I look at what they're doing and I'm appalled. Not because Bush or Cheney or Coulter say so. But because I'm a progressive and what's going on in those places goes against everything I believe.

You are absolutely right. This mindless 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' nonsense has gone too far. While we're at it, the left also needs to acknowledge that Islamism is just as antithetical to progressive ideals than the Christian Theocracy Brigade, if not more so. There really is negligible difference between Christian and Islamic religious extremism and we need to be raising this issue.

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?" -Gandhi

sokari said...

What a brilliant post - I have written and spoken about why I started blogging many times. Why I continue after over 2 1/2 years is more to the point. Because I believe many of the issues I report or write on are, at least in Africa, not spoken about or dismissed. Without blogging my voice and those of whom I often speak would never be heard. My mission is to get as many voiceless African women blogging from Africa about their lives, their apinions and their aspirations. The next mission is blogging as activism - we can make changes which is why social networking and linking to each others stories is so important. The downside is the time it takes to do all these things!

Anonymous said...