The New Political Battleground
David Perlmutter’s book on how blogging is changing American politics.
David Perlmutter’s Blogwars looks at how blogging has moved from the domain of Internet start-ups to part of the mainstream media. He specifically is interested in its effect on the political process in the United States over the last decade and a half. He sees this in three ways: blogging’s ability to create a personal relationship with readers– an important part of effective communications, blogging has become part of the mass media and blogging has become part of political campaigns.
Blogging, by its informal style, creates an important personal relationship with readers. Perlmutter talks a lot about ‘commilito,’ a Latin word meaning “fellow solider” (to the point you think it should have ended up in the title!). He explains the word was used to describe how a leader could earn respect by the ability to relate (or appear to) with those below him. In blogging, he sees the informal nature of blogging, plus the ability for readers and writers to interact much more than in traditional media as important qualities that create this feeling of comradely between the blogger and their readers. Readers might wonder if Perlmutter is arguing that good delivery is more important than the message, and I think he is, but no more so than in any other media. What might be missing is that, with blogging, there is less of a hierarchy between the creator and their audience, hence back and forth communications between the two is less formal and both parties have a hand in ultimately creating the message, whatever that might be. In this way, it creates a bond (or negative) between the blogger and their audience. It is this interactive nature, supported through bloggings informal style that gives blogging its personal relationship with readers.
Blogging has become part of the mass-media. When it first emerged in the mid-1990s, blogger and the traditional media had an antagonistic relationship, each side discounting the other as obsolete or unprofessional, but they also resented the other because they saw things they wanted in the other; bloggers wanted the respectability the traditional media had and they, in turn, liked the speed which blogging worked. Perlmutter gives an example of The Drudge Report, a blog started in the mid-1990 that became famous for breaking the Monica Lewinsky Scandal ahead of Newsweek magazine. Drudge Report creator Matt Drudge was able to do so because he ignored the modern journalistic practice of trying to confirm stories before publishing. By essentially taking Newsweek’s story, Drudge also demonstrated another criticism of blogging: it doesn’t create new information, just re-publishes. However, Perlmutter also gives examples of bloggers who cover local politics, or experts who report on areas where they are experts in, an example being a former solider who travels to Iraq (Perlmutter called these “Wisebots”). Further, he shows examples of early American newspapers (p. 40) that, he says, read much like an opinionated blog rather than balanced news reporting. Later on he points out how some bloggers like Drudge have crossed-over into other media such as hosting radio shows. On the other hand, it’s not unusual for reporters to have their own blogs and blogs have become part of many mainstream news sites. Outside of politics, many companies (especially “web 2.0”) now have a company blog, written by an employee. So blogging has become part of the mass media.
Blogging has become part of the political process. Perlmutter gives examples of how blogs have moved from outside to becoming employed as part of political campaign. He writes about the disconnect between bloggers and politics, especially in the case of the Howard Dean campaign– which was held up as a good example of integrating blogging into a campaign. He devotes a whole chapter to an analysis of the Dean campaign, pointing out the ways it failed to take advantage of bloggers as well as pointing out that Dean’s, like other campaigns that lacked financial resources, was not the first to try new techniques to get their message out to a larger audience. He draws parallels with fellow-Democrat — and under-financed too — John Edwards’ own blogging adventures. So blogging has become part of the political process, but joining the blogosphere and traditional political has not been entirely successful.
Blogwars looks at blogging as it relates to politics in America. He sees this in three ways: blogging’s ability to create a personal relationship with readers– an important part of effective communications, blogging has become part of the mass media and blogging has become part of political campaigns.