15.9.08

bloggers!!

Bloggers are the new champions of democracy. Blogs and online journals function as a new medium for political dissent at an individual level, letting the ease with which people express themselves provide new forums for speech, while simultaneously giving them the freedom to be in control of the news and various events. Groups like Facebook.com and Blogspot.com offer their users the potential to organize and mobilize members to further a cause or agenda at a greater pace than has ever been reached before. Even presidential candidates are using websites and bloggers to contribute to their various campaigns, raising millions of dollars in a matter of hours. As use of the Internet transcends age differences, economic inequalities, and national boundaries, the global community becomes more and more likely to refine and compare their ideas to better adopt a single mentality that encompasses everyone together- freedom.

Unlike newspapers, magazines, and television spots that maintain a monopoly on information reported, bloggers become available to comment on the political milieu in less than five minutes, and user accounts are most often free.

“They are relatively inexpensive to produce and have the power to reach large audiences quickly in a way more traditionally associated with the large, complex news organizations that were considered essential for disseminating messages under the traditional definition of “mass communication.” (Hendrickson 188)

Though this certainly allows for less reliable sources to infiltrate spheres of knowledge, the massive blogger community is able to quickly identify and correct untrue information on web-based fact checks and online encyclopedias. And more importantly, blogs represent a point of view not always reported by media controlled by corporate interests.

“On May 6 Iranian girl posted an article titled ‘Blogging for Revolution’ by Pejman Yousefzadeh who expressed his hope that blogging might overcome the government’s efforts to suppress free expression.” (Keren 60)

The expansion of blogs has increased dramatically as well, as technology enters a free market and is distributed worldwide.

Web log service providers (or web log farms) in Iran have emerged as part of the rapid changes in Iran’s communications industries, economic liberalization, and the growing demand for communications channels.” (Khiabany and Sreberny 566)

 As political dissenters are murdered, civilians, journalists, and reporters can turn to the Internet in order to more effectively combine facts and create a common understanding of the events transpired. Boycotts can be orchestrated as young activists are given a platform to openly call for an end to the Islamic Republic while jumping around government Internet filters from server to server.  In this way, many otherwise unheard of ideologies are given a chance to be recognized.

For instance, at a lecture during Palestinian awareness week, the professor gave out his Blogspot as angryarab.blogspot.com. Because the idea of Palestinian liberation is equated with terrorist ideologies, the Internet serves as a safe space for any and all discussion that is likely to take place. This example serves as a blueprint for the anti-colonization movement as a whole, as the land used for the homeland of Israel displaced thousands of people who now live in refugee camps. When oppressive regimes try to suppress voices of dissent or try to marginalize them, groups often times will coalesce to oppose such authoritarianism. David Horowitz, a neoconservative author, after declaring UCSC to be the worst school in the country, is giving a speech this week in one of the engineering classrooms. To point attention to this, students have organized (using Facebook) a leafleting and poster-making  activity, protests, and teach-ins to state their dissatisfaction with the kind of attitudes that this man has- for instance, his desire to rid schools of thought that is “anti-American” in nature. This Facebook group is similar to other blogs that oppose restrictions of free speech in places like China.

Simply by reading such open forums like Wikipedia.com, the average Internet user can find out that Horowitz’s institution, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, is funded by conservative powerhouses like the F.W. Olin Center (founded by the man who created the Western Cartridge Company- an ammunitions manufacturer which played a major role in WW2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam conflict), the Bradley Foundation (which funded a group designed to discredit Bill Clinton and also funds the Project for a New American Century- a neoconservative think tank justifying the various military coups around the world), and the Sarah Sciafe Foundation (which also funds the Project for a New American Century and also aims to discredit global warming). This helps the public to understand the hundreds of millions of dollars that are funding a specific agenda, so they can be more aware of whom his ideas will ultimately appeal too.

Just as free-thinking is discredited in America by powerful and influential institutions, the Chinese government does much to outlaw political dissent as well. By accessing another blog linked to the Oppose David Horowitz Facebook group, you can see the human rights abuses on a video demonstrating the prohibition of freedom of speech (theworstschool.blogspot.com). The site shows the atrocities that have been committed against such peaceful groups as the Falun Gong who, because the media has so often been used as a tool in the service of the state for so long, are not very well known. Here, truly, the freedom of the Internet allows for a new and uncontrolled flow of information by anyone at all.

“Blogs are much faster to write than posters laboriously made by hand, easily updated, readily disseminated to a broad national (or international) readership, and contain multi-media content that appeals to a diverse readership.” (Esarey and Qiang 16)

The ability for specific blogger ideologies to campaign has only intensified as well. Media strategies of protest movements since the 60s have become easier than ever as protestors no longer have to organize themselves in “real space,” avoiding the danger of standing up to those “authorities” with guns.

“Radical Democrats of various persuasions believe that the Internet continues to provide space for ‘radical democratic practice,’ including resistance to the dominant relations of power that are structuring the Internet to reproduce status quo social relations. Through the Internet’s various technologies of communications and interaction, marginalized groups are able to develop counter-discourses (including practices and cultures) that can challenge and resist domination.” (Dahlberg and Siapera 6)

This creates an environment where Hackers become the newest activists who fight to maintain freedom and openness. Manifestos present a code of ethics for people who use their computers to access previously inaccessible files and folders, opposing large and authoritarian institutions with general mistrust.

All in all, the governments of the world seem to be preoccupied with controlling the morality of the world. Anything deemed “offensive,” or “obscene,” or “objectionable,” or considered to be without redeeming qualities are labeled as such and often times removed from the general arena of the information market. This places a huge amount of responsibility on institutions that should not exert control over civilian privacy, but do so anyway.

“First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.” (Batra 201)

Though filtering technology itself is certainly nonmoral, the potential to regulate thought certainly infringes upon those boundaries, setting the stage for bloggers, hackers, and political dissidents of the world to serve as real actors in a global play for power. As more and more people test the limits of what is “acceptable” action and what is not, lines become blurred and reevaluated, redefining such terms as “freedom” and “truth” towards a more civilian friendly way. 

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