Even as technologies of communication and writing improved with the invention of the printing press, the newspaper and the nation-state, the message, now nationalised for the publics to embrace as their totality, has remained in the hands of the newspaper barons, opinion-makers, talking heads and pundits on television.
But you say, the internet has changed everything... Technically yes, perhaps, but it is important to note when and how this came about. The revolution did not come with newsgroups, forums, webpages or chat channels; the technology that you credit for the revolution did not give birth to it, but merely provided a space for people with similar interests to engage with each other. It is the blog and the social internet that has given the masses a medium to participate, influence and set the direction of public discourse itself. This is an age where everyone now has the voice to speak to all and the ear to listen to everyone else, where public discourse is discursively formed by the public itself. It is also an age where the public exercise of this power, the public participation in public discourse, creates a situation where discourse is made impossible.
To wit: Yes, we have the technological conditions, but what are the social conditions, the habits of mind necessary to create a conducive environment where people want to share points and develop ideas with each other? It's not a silly question - I have pointed out the deterioration in the climate of discussions and annonymous comments on local blogs some time ago, as have other bloggers more recently (some of whom I understand have become ex-bloggers).
So yes. We are at an odd juncture of local blogosphere history. In one ring, we witness a power grab of the blogosphere by the whiteshirts and their keyboard commandoes, with dual central command posts at the P65 and ypap blogs, supported by mysterious anonymous posters who pop up seemingly everywhere. In the other ring, we witness a power grab of the blogosphere by the redshirts and their keyboard commandoes, with dual central command posts at a non-partisan blog fueled by reader contributions (the open secret is the editor meets up with his regular contributors every fortnight to discuss articles and editorial direction) and an unofficial redshirt supporters blog fueled by apparently the same editors and public contributors from the first blog, and of course supported by mysterious anonymous posters who pop up seemingly everywhere. A pox on both their houses! Or as someone else has put it, black sheep or white sheep, you are still sheep. And in yet another ring, a gang of wise men pontificate politely over whether the state has any obligation to subsidise healthcare for the aged poor...
When you create an atmosphere of escalating incivility, turn polite discourse into a parody of itself by abdicating common sense and responsible analysis, offer commentary from an inauthentic "non-partisan" position, you poison the well of discourse. And through demonstration, prove that public participation in public discourse cannot be guaranteed by just technology alone.
And hence the slow evaporation of the political blogosphere, the gradual exit of bloggers, the sight of Gresham's Law running its course here - where the local blogosphere has been a venue for the exchange of ideas, bad blogging drives out good blogging. The warning signs have been here for at least a year, the alarms sounded at least half a year ago, and the rush to the exits beginning in earnest.
Don't call us when the dust settles, when you know which party has grabbed the blogosphere for what it's worth. Don't call us when you're done with the mass identical anonymous postings, the ratcheting of angry rhetoric and namecalling, the insincere and dishonest argumentation. Don't call us, because political bloggers aren't going to rebuild the credibility of this medium once you decide you need us once again.
To wit: Yes, we have the technological conditions, but what are the social conditions, the habits of mind necessary to create a conducive environment where people want to share points and develop ideas with each other? What will you gain if the only way to gain a foothold - and then some - in the blogosphere, will destroy its credibility outright, as well as its position as a safe haven for public discourse?
- Surprisingly, the post questioning the public policy of state subsidised healthcare had no numbers - no breakdown of average healthcare costs for the aged, no breakdown of incomes. No shit, Sherlock! Isn't it obvious that healthcare has to be subsidised because most medical emergencies at that age cannot be afforded, even if the costs are shared by the family of the aged sick?! The farcial nature of the discussion was only added by the continuing commentary by the gang of wise commentors, who studiously ignored the big gaping flaw in front of their noses...