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October 02, 2006

Comments

Charlie

It is interesting to see the role that blogs are already playing in terms of the 2008 election. There are a fair number of blogs out there dedicated to possible Presidential contenders in 2008 and many others commenting on the race to be. What kind of impact they will have is the big question that remains to be seen.

Sili Tarong

Blogs may not have the politcal impact in the Philippines that they have in the US, but txting is another new technology for communication for which just the opposite is true. And while I doubt blogs will determine the fate of the US Presidency, many have argued that txting already has for the RP President (Erap at least).

Perhaps a greater indicator of the power of political blogs: at the time I am writing this there are 11 comments on the more recent posting about ethnic facial features and only 1 comment on the power of political blogs.

torn

Good points! I agree that texting is more instantaneous and of course reaches a far, far higher percentage of the population than the Internet. The penetration here must be something like 90% cell phone, 5-10% Internet access.

Carla

It's not just Internet penetration rates that affect the way blogs influence politics, it's also the political arrangements in a specific country. China may have over 120 million Internet users, but because of the political and media systems it has, the blogs will not have as much "power" as those in a country with a much lower penetration rate like Malaysia. Singapore has one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the world, but political bloggers can hardly thrive in that repressive climate.

As for 'democracies' like the Philippines, let me put the question this way: assuming all Filipinos had an Internet connection tomorrow, will that solve issues of political participation by the poor majority? No, because other social and political cleavages exist that act as barriers to collective political action. Things like the use of English as the main language of the medium--this is not an issue for countries like the US or Malaysia, for that matter, where the Internet acts to mitigate class, gender and ethnic differences, allowing people to use it to cooperate and mobilize for political purposes.

Many studies on the Internet and political blogs in the US these days also show that there has to be an organic connection between online activity and on-the-ground political/social movements. One explanation for Dean's defeat, apart from the scream (Neil Kinnock was another screamer who lost, by the way), is that he attempted to build his movement through online media. It takes time and other sustaining mechanisms for such movements to mature and gain clout, however. What is clear is that traditional politics is sturdier than we think; it will take a lot more than thousands of people computing simultaneously to change it.

And another issue for political campaigning and blogs: won't blogs make it more difficult to cohere campaigns by diffusing a party/candidate's message? A spin doctor and campaign manager coordinating a campaign from HQ has certain advantages in terms of message control and campaign planning compared to 10,000 blogs by supporters all saying different things about how the campaign should be run.

torn

Hello Carla — I thought this would be your sort of subject. I agree with all that. In the end the internet, despite its omnipresence, is only a tool. It will be used and abused by the existing political actors and, while it may also facilitate new entrants into the political game, it will not create a wholly new universe. I also agree that along the way the message may get fractured but that’s inevitable in a process of decentralization—if it reduces the influence of obnoxious prats like Alastair Campbell that’s a plus as far as I am concerned.

Willy B Prilles, Jr.

Hi Torn. Your post reminded me of a related entry from the My Liberal Times blog on why Filipino politicians don't blog. If the average Pinoy politician is not keen on blogging as a tool, and our best probloggers are only able to reach a miniscule audience, I don't see how this medium can gain political power in this country. https://myliberaltimes.com/?p=111

I agree with you about the potentials of texting. Unlike a blog where there is luxury of space for one's thoughts, a practical limitation with texting is how to compress the message within a 180-character limit. Tougher, I think, that a TV soundbite.

Re Carla: Your line on Neil Kinnock is right on the mark. He was one of our panelists in London last July, representing the British Council which he chairs. But he simply went ballistic when an aspiring politician of Indian descent got his goat. Tony Blair, on the other hand, would surely have winged it. Right there and then we understood why never became prime minister.

Carla

About SMS: I see its usefulness as an organizing tool but not as one for deliberation. There's not much you can text except jokes, which are important (I believe in the political power of humor), but not sufficient for dialogue. And substantive dialogue and discussion are crucial for political movements, whether they be online or face-to-face. It remains to be seen if such dialogues can be facilitated effectively by Internet platforms. Notice how one hostile/offensive comment in a blog/Usenet forum will throw the discussion.

Willy: So Neil K. has a temper. Not always an asset for pols, though I prefer passionate, emphatic ones to bland, waffling ones. Incidentally, Neil Kinnock performed that embarrassing screech here in Labour bastion, Sheffield. :-)


Willy B Prilles, Jr.

Carla: Addressing a group of mostly Asians and Africans, Neil was actually doing very very well, especially when he took the anti-Iraq war position, putting him directly against Blair and Bush.

What piqued him was the the young politician's answer on the question of why England, through its banking system, is practically allowing the continuous plunder of Africa. Having recently toured Nigeria, he said something like Neil getting off his high horse and start feeling the pain of African children suffering because of this policy.

The guy obviously was grandstanding, and Neil didn't take it lightly that he was doing it at his expense.:)

torn

SMS: I agree about the limitations, but what an "organizing tool" text messaging can be! I remember watching the final impeachment session in January 2001 (the one where they voted not to open the envelope and Tessie did her silly little dance). Right after Pimentel’s emotional resignation speech the cell phones started to go off asking people to go to EDSA. Every message in Manila that night was a nail in Erap’s coffin (and a few pesos on the Globe and Smart profits of course).

But I take the general point, you are not going to put across much of a message in a three-line SMS.

Re Kinnock: basically the guy is bit thick and, as Willy points out, he can’t control himself. Although I have always been a Labour voter (until Blair came in and I gave up in disgust) I was never happy with the Welsh waffler as leader. Carla’s right about the scream, but that wasn’t the only thing that went wrong at that disastrous Sheffield rally. The spectacle of 20 middle-aged Labour trapos bouncing up on the stage to Queen’s “We are the champions” must rank among the most cringe-making political events ever. The whole ghastly affair was supposed to say “Look how modern and trendy we are” but it was actually more like watching a drunk uncle make a fool of himself on the dancefloor.

Willi — Thanks for the link to your interesting blog. As for why Philippine politicians don’t blog, I wonder whether politicians anywhere blog much. My guess is that those politicians in the West who are supposed to have blogs probably have little to do with them, I bet they are run by bright young staffers or supporters. As an example of what I mean, check out the first comment in this thread from Charlie, which takes you to a blog dedicated to Chuck Hagel.

Willy B Prilles, Jr.

Torn - actually that blog is not mine; it's by Ronald Meinardus, former head of the Friedrich Neumann Foundation in the Philippines who left recently for a new posting in the Middle East. I have my own, but it's more about the place I come from.

An exception to the Western countries you mentioned might France, as this entry by Meinardus shows. https://myliberaltimes.com/?p=126

But then again, those French blogs could have been written by the politician's staffers, only that they are more discreet than the Chuck Hagel fan Charlie.:)

Carla

Yeah, pols everywhere hardly blog-- there are the obvious time constraints, and also, blogs are not well-targetted towards constituents. Unless a pol has national ambitions, it doesn't make sense to blog for a wide group of people who are not going to vote for her. Most have websites, which they pass off as "blogs" because that's supposed to be hip. Few are genuine online journals.

I like Boris Johnson's blog, God help me. It's written mostly by staffers but does reflect much of his personality. Also, they tried to do an interesting thing: host discussions on the Tory leadership race. David Cameron has a blog and something called "webcameron", good Lord.

Emedgeseism


Once it hits the fan, the only rational choice is to sweep it up, package it,
and sell it as fertilizer.


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