Izrael Lecture: Blogging as Social/Political Commentary
Blogging as Social and Political Commentary by jimi izrael
In recent years, blogging has become more thanjournaling for the public – it’s come to replacetraditional newspaper writing as the place peopletrust for social commentary.
Bloggers use their online space to for communities. Most times these communities arepublic, but they often they have an “inside baseball,” exclusive feel that is inviting tocertain people but insulting to others – outsiders who may not share the sameworldview of the blog and its target community. These outsiders are bullied intosubmission or blocked out altogetherThis is something we call the “private playground” model for blogging: you invite KoolKids in, tolerate the Others and block, bully or exclude them when they do or saysomething that pushes back against the status quo. The playground actively controlsand limits the boundaries of its community. Online, the loudest argument wins.Whether this is good or bad is a subject for debate – but it is certainly democratic. It isalso just a byproduct of the social commentary that blogging invites.With enough numbers, bloggers share links to take conversations off of their own space into thewider blogosphere, build and mount arguments that make changes in the off-line world.
There was a time when people would write letters to the editor to push backon some issue or story they did not agree with. They were usually about 100-150 words long and sometimes, these letters could fire debates that last forweeks. Sometimes, the letters could even make change.There was also the “op-ed,” or “opposite editorial” essay, which was usuallylonger form – about 800 words. People still write these and they can be foundin the “Opinion” section of your local paper. However, blogging provides an immediacy and a direct pipeline to aconstituency who could be moved to action.
Gawker.com, a pop culture and media blog out of New York City,posted an entry about Republican congressman Christopher Lee, whowas apparently looking for love online, and sending women toplesspictures of himself.
It didn’t take long for Lee to resign his post, out of shame. The marriedpolitico considered this a private matter, which it was. But Lee could nolonger govern effectively with the blogosphere screaming for him to stepdown.
Kevin Rogers of Nashville wrote a note on his Facebook page to his friends aboutgoing to see comedian Tracy Morgan and hearing him make homophobic remarks. Heencouraged his friends to share his note.It didn’t even take a week before his note went viral and bloggers were calling for aboycott of Morgan and putting pressure on NBC Universal to fire him from the sitcom30 Rock. Rogers’ commentary resonated with a wide swath of people.
One day, Morgan (on the right) was just doing his routine. The next day, he washolding a press conference with a hereto unknown Facebook user, asking him and thepublic at large for forgiveness. Whatever you think of his comments, you can’t deny the power of blogging as socialcommentary for change. It nearly cost Tracy Morgan his job.
Recently, the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Organization, dedicated to women’s healthand other issues, came under fire for defunding mammograms for PlannedParenthood. Some felt it was politically motivated by the religious right, and many ofthose people blogged about it.That conversation went offline and became a major news story. It didn’t take long forthere to be an online outcry that went offline and began to disrupt the real world.People quit the organization in disgust. Komen’s reputation as a woman’s healhadvocate was devastated
Within days, Komen changed its stance. But this is a great, current example of howblogs and social media changed the world, if only just for a moment. Blogs bring asocial commentary to the zeitgeist that encourages debate, dissent and sometimes,action.