One of the more amusing things about this campaign season has been the struggle of politicians and the mainstream media to come to grips with the blogosphere. They try to define it, contain it, co-opt it, manipulate it, yet despite their best efforts, it keeps slipping away. I laughed out loud when I heard a commentary by Mickey Kaus of Slate magazine on NPRâ€™s Day to Day introduced as a â€œradio blogâ€?. Donâ€™t blogs by definition live on the Internet? Kausâ€™ piece sounded just like any other radio dispatch, except that it happened to be done by a well-known blogger over the telephone.
Both of the major party presidential candidates have official blogs (links: Kerry, Bush). As you might expect, theyâ€™re not written by the candidates themselves, but by campaign staffers. Ho-hum (to be honest, I didnâ€™t bother reading either blog. I just wanted to verify that the front page of each had no content purportedly authored by either candidate). While these blogs may serve a useful purpose, they donâ€™t seem to catch the spirit of blogging.
This state of affairs will not last. Blogging and politics go hand in hand, and itâ€™s only a matter of time before some candidate for a major office emerges who has a presence in the blogosphere. And I predict American politics will change when that happens, because one thing the blogosphere has going for it is that it never forgets.
One of the more infuriating things about following an election campaign is trying to get an accurate bead on where candidates stand on issues, both historically and at present. Bloggers work to dig up information from various sources and publicize it, but lots of material goes unnoticed.
A blogger candidate would have a rich history of recorded statements on various issues, indexed and searchable, for the entire world to see, along with contemporaneous commentary by other bloggers. How great would it be to have a real blog of Bush or Kerryâ€™s from the past four years? How might that change our perceptions of these candidates?
Therein lies the danger of blogging. Once you click that â€œpostâ€? button, your words are there for the whole world to see. Sure, you could delete a post if necessary, but anyone who has read it can pick it out of the browser cache. Google caches pages as well. What you say now can come back decades later to haunt you. Unfortunately, on political blogs, the tenor of discourse is often less than civil, and things may get said that the poster later regrets. Too bad.
There are other problems, of course â€“ commenters on blogs that do not require registration can pretend to be someone they are not, and blogs can be hacked. But the real worry I see for bloggers is not what others may do to us, but what we may do to ourselves.
What does this mean for the bloggernacle? I started thinking about this when I saw Kaimiâ€™s link to Outer Boroughs, written by Chris Williams. Since Bishop Williams is currently a bishop (reportedly, no mention of this at the blog), he presumably is aware that his blog may be read by members of his ward, and may possibly choose what he says and how he says it accordingly.
But what of those of us who may yet become bishops? Or Relief Society presidents? Seminary teachers? For that matter, what will my children think about what I write when they are old enough to want to read what I have said? I donâ€™t generally write with my future readers in mind. Perhaps I should. I certainly donâ€™t want what I say now to become a stumbling block to someone I may have influence over years from now.
Of course, the problem is that no matter how careful I am about what I write now, my thinking on certain issues will change over time, and that in itself may cause problems. Since there is not much I can do about this (except to stubbornly refuse to ever change my position on any issue), perhaps I worry too much.
The bloggernacle is young, a wild and woolly place. I think (despite the inelegance of the name) that it may play an important role in the building of Zion. It also can be a dangerous place as well. I hope that we can avoid the pitfalls as we explore its potential.