Let's engage in some omphaloskepsis, shall we?
It's Friday, many peeps are coming off the YearlyKos wave (not me, I was chained to my desk), and an explosion of kinetic energy has hit blogtopia (yes, skippy coined that phrase). Actually, that's quite presumptive of me to say, isn't it? I should clarify that my role has seemingly been shifted into a higher gear. I'll get to the specifics in a jif, but want to begin with some thoughts that are stewing in my head.
Blogito Ergo Sum
What is a blogger? The simple answer is: someone who blogs; but, does that mean solely someone who owns their own blog? What about the myriad commenters and faithful readers that drive the counter hits that make this worth the time invested? I recall the year spent lurking at DailyKos before getting the courage to sign up for my own account. Throughout that time, I was a faithful reader and considered myself a blogger even though I never made that move from passive to active participant. I'm sure it was fear that kept me from clicking on the 'Create New User' link - but, thankfully, got over it when Booman Tribune was launched. The rest, as the townfolk like to say, is history.
I mention my progression of involvement because I think it's important to unlocking the power that the blogging movement can have in the realm of real life. As I sit here, I'm cognizant of the fact that I went from web-surfer to devoted reader to content provider to facilitator to my emerging role as activist coordinator.
From megaphone-wielding pundit to empowered citizen
As the online political movement grows in size and accumulates some history, it's amusing to see the reaction from the various political campaigns and mainstream media evolve. With the latter there's a good deal of hostility, but what does one expect when new and vibrant competition enters the water? Many blogs were born out of frustration with traditional media voices who were/are blatant tools of propaganda or, at best, really really ignorant of how embarrasing their dismount from the shark was viewed by the watching crowd.
A curious thing has happened to change the equation, though. The blogs are attracting droves of readers that read messages and analysis that resonate with their experience, and therein lies our power. A blog with no readers will wither on the vine; but when a measly website can work the magic of congealing a community where like-minded people can gather to analyze, rant and rave on the issues del día - watch out. Which is exactly the lesson that has been learned from the official political class of this country.
In true instinctive form, they began a relationship with the blogosphere as they often do with people in real life - by letting the Almighty Dollar conduct the train. Well, after six years of appeasement and passive resistance to the Bush Administration, it was only a matter of time when a train wreck would occur under hyrda-like names of Bankruptcy Bill, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Alberto Gonzales, Military Commissions Act, and most recently - FISA.
Despite electoral successes in 2006 by the Democratic Party, many of which can be directly attributed to the GOTV and fundraising efforts of emerging leaders in the netroots, there are many important/central campaign promises being left unfulfilled [cough...Iraq....cough]. Speaking from my personal headspace, I (unfortunately) often find myself operating on a steady diet of outrage and resentment towards politicians that are supposedly on my side. Since life's narrative is a series of natural dips, cliffs, mesas, and climbs - there's a decision to be made: what's next?
The birth of an Accidental Activist
I suppose one good word to describe what we're now seeing is infiltration. It is infiltration by influence - calling, writing and engaging politicians directly; protesting in the streets (not nearly enough of it, in my opinion); and getting some type of response from the mainstream media when we coordinate a counter-message against any truthiness or outright manipulation of the facts by the pundits; direct assault - bloggers running for elected offices at local, state and national levels; joining campaigns as media and strategy consultants; and the emerging ability for bloggers to get their voices/analysis on television, radio and other traditional forms of media without any middle parties; and finally - changing the entire equation altogether.
Built on a foundation of sound analysis of policy and a growing sense of empowerment, blogs are learning that those two ingredients, topped with a cherry of community-building snark, can create a situation which is totally catching the status-quo inside-the-beltway modus operandi off guard. The days of political blogging just for the sake of blogging is transforming into a catalyst for an engaged and informed citizenry that is not afraid to demand accountability from its government.
Rants now come attached with updates bearing the contact information for an offending politico, dear causes are written and wedded with links to petitions that will be delivered to legislators, and most importantly - we're starting to organize.
Blogs United and the currency of the internet
Thanks to the effort of kid oakland, a coalition of online activists is growing that is aimed at shaking up the political landscape of the United States. The group, Blogs United, has already spent months laying groundwork via email; developed a wiki with links all over the web and a clearinghouse of great blogging how-tos; and recently launched a Soapbox community blog to make networking and coordinating more efficient.
Moving beyond the blogosphere, Blogs United also has a presence on Facebook and MySpace. It is this mixing of worlds - political blogs and social networks - that will allow the progressive movement (note: this is much bigger than the progressive blogtopia) to grow in quantity and, hopefully, quality. Coupling the efforts of these networks with our own such as Party Builder and Democracy for America, our hope for an engaged citizenry moves towards reality.
Links, as we all know, are the currency of this medium. Blogrolls are a great thing because they provide some permanence to the support of another site, but even better is to write a post directing traffic to local bloggers who are writing about races in their area. It allows us all to see the issues through their eyes and hopefully gain them allies in whatever action they are seeking.
It also opens up the opportunity for us to find each other. I think we take for granted the fact that everyone knows about so-and-so writer. We should never assume anything (insert cliché here) - we could be missing an opportunity to spin a new cord of silk in the web.
The idea is to connect activists with one another to the point that some form of coordination is achieved to reach our goals. Some examples: forcing the permanent retirement of a Congressman, gathering local bloggers within a state to target state legislative races, or even inspiring someone to create an aggregator of blogs that target a specific community. We should be liberal [ahem] in our efforts to seek out and highlight writers that resonate with us. Every contact helps.
Empowering each other for a better future
Political blogging is not a spectator sport, at least in my view, it shouldn't be. Through storytelling - how is my family going to pay for abuelito's chemotherapy? - information gathering and sharing - which candidate is going to offer a healthcare plan that benefits us? - and a pulse on how to go about changing dynamics - Candidate X hasn't offered a plan, let's put pressure on him to do so - we can change this country for the better.
In order to slay the dragon that goes by the name Apathy, we must learn to use the sword of Results. It's human nature to want to see something change as a consequence of our actions. When that doesn't happen, stagnation can set in. So - let's empower each other to bring about the greatest effects of our writing. Encourage one another, link to one another, and most of all, lets take our messages away from the computers and into our homes, workplaces and communities. A fire has been sparked already in the short history of the online netroots, let's pour some gasoline on it and burn down the status quo that has left far too many people without a chance to realize their potentional.
We, The People - it was always meant to be this way.
Crossposted at Blogs United, DailyKos, and Booman Tribune