November 30, 2007

Blogging for Dissident Media:

Before taking Dissident Media, I had no interest in blogging. The only blogs I looked at were things my friends posted on facebook or myspace, and I rarely glanced at those. I was turned off to blogging more and more of my friends started to post diary entries on the web—I really did not care what they had for breakfast, how much they hated their parents, or what CD they just bought.
After having blogged for a while, I gained more respect for bloggers, and I realized that blogs can be more that rants and diary entries. Putting out opinions when they are contrary to the accepted beliefs is hard. Remembering to post regularly and trying to stay interesting is tricky as well. When writing blogs for class, I often found it hard to not say the same thing every blog. I wanted to try to say what I thought while staying on topic, without ranting about everything I believed for pages.
As a class, our goal was to change the structure of presidential elections so that debates would focus on the issues instead of which candidate can create the best sound byte for the evening news. While we have not seen any changes in the system directly linked to our blog, I bet we all developed a much deeper understanding the issue. We also learned how to blog and how bloggers influence the political arena. As we were studying dissident media, it was interesting that we were trying to participate in dissidence ourselves. Did we succeed and become part of dissident journalism in our blogging to promote political debate?
The topic of our blog, promoting political debate, in it of itself was not dissident. Most people would say that discussing issues before an election is beneficial. Free speech and open debate are part of America’s charm. The idea that a candidate can be elected based upon their ideas instead of their fame is quixotic, but still part of the ideal American dream. From Lincoln gaining status because of his debates with Douglas to Kennedy charming America with the first televised debate, we like that candidates can try to earn votes with good ideas. Therefore, trying to promote debate is not dissident because it is part of a widely accepted ideology.
What makes a publication dissident when the topic is not inherently dissident? Were we dissident by using a different form of communications than mainstream media? It could be that we were dissident simply by blogging—“the medium the message,” as Marshall McLuhan said (qtd. in Walker). If that is the case, even mainstream media is dissident because every news website from the New York Times to CBS has a blog to call their own.
The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies defined alternative a specific brand of liberal which included being “anti-church,” as Matt Welch examined in his article “Blogworld and its Gravity” (21). It could be that dissidence comes from supporting specific ideologies. I do not think that this applies to us because even though we were a fairly typical college class, we had enough variance in opinions that we would not fall under that definition of dissident. Also, this is an unsatisfactory definition of dissidence because among the dissident presses we studied, many of them disagreed on everything with each other.
In Streitmatter’s Voices of Revolution, the only common cause or uniting belief connecting dissident publications was that something was wrong with our world. All were trying to promote social change, in whatever way they thought was best. From the suffrage movement to gay rights and from forming unions to empowering blacks, the dissident journalists we looked at “labored on the social frontier, clearing new ground and sowing new ideas… to bring about the social change that drove their very being” (xiii).
If by our blogging, we were simply trying to promote political debate, we were not dissident. However, we were advocating changing the whole debate structure—we were trying to change the system. We were trying to find ways to change the debate system so that politicians would need to debate to be a viable candidate and that voters would want to watch the debates to make informed decisions for elections, thus making our nation a better place. Because we were trying to reform society, we were dissident.
We as a class were dissident, but that does not mean we were journalists. One of the main issues with blogs in today’s society is whether bloggers should be considered journalists. There is a tension between journalism and blogging. At times, the mainstream media tries to say that bloggers are not journalists. For example, Michael Skube’s described the blogosphere as “the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like posting and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined,” and implies that bloggers are incapable of reporting (Skube).
Skube does not offer the only viewpoint concerning bloggers. Bloggers have contributed “personality, eyewitness testimony, editorial filtering, and uncounted gigabytes of new knowledge” to journalism, according to Welsh (24).
As a class, I would say that we were not journalists regarding our blog. Most of our posts were either musings about our own ideas or commentary on news from the mainstream media. While our opinions were valid and our ideas worthwhile, we did not do our own investigations, with the exception of the long blog post. We added personality and editorial filtering, but very little eyewitness testimony or new knowledge. We were part of dissident media, but not journalists.
However, I think that us offering our dissident opinions fits very well into the world of blogging. We live in a postmodern world where the opinions of the average citizen is worth just as much as the opinion of an expert and Youtube and Wikipedia hold much more sway that a lot of other resources to the average citizen. For the purpose of our blog, discussing our experiences and current events was enough.

1 comment:

Richard said...

A heads-up regarding the following:

The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies defined alternative a specific brand of liberal which included being “anti-church,” as Matt Welch examined in his article “Blogworld and its Gravity”.

AAN never defined alternative as "a specific brand of liberal which included being 'anti-church.'"

This all stems from a joke I made in Matt Welch's presence. Matt forgot to mention the fact that is was said in jest, but even he never claimed that it was an official statement issued by our group.

Richard Karpel
Executive Director
Association of Alternative Newsweeklies