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Blogs will not tranform politics 

One of the final questions at our blogging panel Saturday concerned the exciting possibilities for blogging to transform politics. We didn't really get a chance to address it, but Courtney Lowery starts to in her outstanding wrap-up of the event. But please allow me to express skepticism.

For me Courtney's most impressive point is:
I have a myriad of ideas on how we can avoid the "parrot sphere" of people shouting at each other online (thus failing to elevate the discussion)

I look forward to those ideas, but I've yet to see many in practice. Numerous blogs can give you the Democratic or Republican spin on a day's news. Occasionally I find them well-written, but even then I often find them a waste of time. And, frankly, I rarely read the ones I disagree with. I think most readers turn to such blogs for confirmation of their worldview. Yet a sound political process requires compromise on those views, and right now the blogosphere is hampering it.

It gets back to the first question of the panel, which came from Jim Robbins. Unfortunately he asked a two-part question, the second part of which addressed the future of blogging, and we never got back to the first part. It was: doesn't blogging take away from personal contact, and mightn't that be a bad thing? Robbins is writing a book on brain neurochemistry, and I suspect he's learned something about how we process information when it comes from online vs. in person. If my suspicions are correct, it will verify my view, that it's rare for a blog to change your mind. It might broaden your world, but it won't change what you think you already know. That has to come from personal interaction.

I am especially concerned about comments on Courtney's post, including one that reads:
blogging is just a more efficient way of reading the news

Having spent the weekend listening to several area journalists, I came to a better understanding of their legitimate concerns about blogs. To take one example, it appears that a famous Montana blogger posted some cocktail-party gossip and probably-imagined stories about his neighbors. This hardly promotes sound politics. (Thanks to Andrea Peacock for the link.)

Bloggers are not journalists. (Most journalists are not bloggers, either, as demonstrated by Courtney's comments about the counterexample Ed Kemmick.) I believe most bloggers would eventually be able to accept that -- but not if their readers never do.

Blogs can and will serve a role in the political process, as Governor Schweitzer tells Courtney. But they will not transform it, at least not for the better. That will only come from the hard work of sitting down with each other and listening.

I'm always interested in feedback, via info at johnclaytonbooks...

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