Trimmer Essay 1

Taking Political Action by Blogging

The history of America is shrouded in political activism. Political activism is intentional action to bring about change. American colonists took things to the extreme when they revolted against the British. More common forms of activism have been enlisted by those seeking to be involved in the shaping of this country. The 1st Amendment of the Constitution grants the people the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Americans inherent obligation to political action thus gives them the ability to write letters to their congressman about their feelings on the events happening on Capital Hill, protest social wrongs, campaign for political office and vote for the man or woman they believe best represents them. In this sense, political activism in American takes on a wide array of forms. Since the Internet has come about, political activism has reached a wider breadth. This medium has made it easier for individuals to contact their representatives and most importantly voice their opinions.

Blogging has become a very popular means of political activism. Through this mode of communication, individuals can simply state their opinion or allow interaction from viewers. Interaction takes place in the form of comments from readers to which the blogger can either respond or simply leave to be read by the next reader. In some cases, bloggers take down comments that were posted. This creates an ethical dilemma because opinions are opinions and it always helps to know all sides of an issue before passing judgment. Blogging in and of itself though enables writers to reach out and feel that they are contributing to the American political drive, but most of the blogs reach out without real care if it makes a difference. It is as if the blogger’s voice if floating through space waiting to reach an audience. The Internet has enabled those voices to float and for other voices to come to them and speak their thoughts in an interactive manner.

The blog Bipolar Nation claims to be “political/news blog” and “a message board dedicated to political/random talk.” There is one blogger and it is mostly an opinion based than factual blog and attempts to elicit no action. The featured political post for February 2010, “The Myth of Obama the Orator” is about the president’s oratory skills, in which the blogger compares Obama to former President Reagan. The comments made were simple and had more to do with the blogger’s political beliefs than the issue at hand. Another post entitled “What They Don’t Teach You in Public Schools: Lesson 1” under the topic of “Domestic Policy” addresses issues with public schools not teaching students about financial matters. This post, while it inherently has nothing to do with politics, evokes comments of greater length and personal involvement. The comments are made by teachers, students and parents – some agreeing and some disagreeing with the blogger. In truth the majority of this blogger’s posts have nothing to do with politics in and of themselves, but they do look into some of the effects of law-making that affect the population at large. The key is that in this situation, individuals come together to voice their opinions about a topic of concern to them.

Archives from September 2006 have more direct political involvement simply based on the fact that they political figures. Very few of his posts actually discuss policy or important political matters, except education. Instead the blogger attacks political figures or supports them. An additional exception is the section dedicated to the 2008 presidential campaign. Many of these posts speak out about then presidential candidate Barack Obama, moderates and Europeans. What is most interesting is that there are no posts about the health care reform bill. For any person interested in politics this would seem like a juicy topic to discuss. This proves that for bloggers the only issues that get heard are those that are important to them. This is an obvious observation, but what does it mean for the rest of the Americans out there who may read it? It is either going to be up their alley or not and they will either voice there approval or disapproval or simply move on. Then it comes to question what the main purpose of the blog is then if it is not to help educate and inspire man to do something different, to evoke change. It would seem that it “political” blogs are simply opinion soapboxes for those who write them.

This is not the case for all blogs though. Whereistand.com is an interactive blog site that allows anyone to voice their opinion about whatever political topic they choose and readers can either agree or disagree with their comments and leave a statement of their own in response to it. Each issue is listed and accompanied by a short sentence. By clicking on the post, it is then possible to see comments that agree and disagree in juxtaposition. In this manner, readers get the full sense of the issue at hand, provided that people are making intelligent comments and not simply just writing things like “yes!” or “That’s a dumb idea.” This also increases political awareness and education. This allows for more educated voters who can then vote appropriately and choose the candidate that best meets their needs as constituents. That is the political action that bloggers should be going for. This website is not the best though for doing this. People again just state opinions about issues, not information with opinion attached to it. This can create confusion and instead of action inspires only more talk. Talk, however, is a form of action because if a congress aid were to look at such a site they could get real opinions about an issue from constituents without having to poll. This also leads to more in-depth answers and insights than a simple “yes” or “no” question.

The blog PoliWatch, provides ample information and is set up like a news page and gives relatively bi-partisan information about an issue. In this way, the blogger serves as a citizen reporter. It is interesting to note that in comparison with Bipolar Nation, this blogger is much older than the latter. This brings into question whether opinionated blogging is a trait of the youth. This is an unfair assessment because it is too narrow in focus. Anyone can write an opinionated blog or a well researched, bi-partisan one. Again, the direction of the blog rests in the hands of the blogger themselves. The issue with reading blogs, is that it is hard to separate fact from opinion or misconstrued information taken out of context. It must be trusted that blog readers know this and are either fortifying their own opinion or trying to discover a different one.

All of these bloggers are political activists, although hidden ones. Typically, when people think of political activism they think of directly they think of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech or protesters during the Vietnam War, those who evoked immediate change, not bloggers. Bloggers importance to the world of political activism is that they are working to change opinion even if inadvertently. They do this by causing people to want to find out more about a topic and see if the person’s opinion is correct or even just out of curiosity about the issue. Political activism does not have to be out in the open for everyone to see. By stating their opinions and providing information, bloggers are showing their dissent for the government and practicing their political right to do so based on the Constitution. There are thousands of blogs and bloggers and even more commentators. It is unknown whether they will have any real effect on what goes on in Washington, but at least they are voicing their opinions and possibly changing others.

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