Blogging as a Unique Example of Political Show in Cyberspace.

AUTHOR
Piotr Pawlak

ABSTRACT

Politics marks its presence in the cyberspace very distinctively. A frenzy of blogging has recently set in the political arena. To my mind, it is a relatively new, yet still underestimated, but very promising element of the political show. A blog is an Internet diary, which is based on the World Wide Web, that is one of the most popular web services. In other words, it is a website, the content of which is created by both its author and the Internet users, who enter it. It is the author, who decides (to a smaller or larger extent), what a blog looks like and submits new content with new diary entries (so called posts). The website visitors can also add posts and comment the author’s entries. It is the aim of this paper to prove that, on one hand, blogs take political debates to the next level and, on the other hand, in final calculation this phenomenon is positive for democracy development.

Nevertheless, it must be stated that despite the fact blogs are, at least in theory, private Internet political diaries (after all this is the main purpose behind the web quasi-service), in fact they merely constitute (more and more frequently) elements of sophisticated political game. In a blog you are free to air your opinions, which you would not or could not share in front of a TV camera, in a radio or newspaper interview. This is the domain where politicians could use specific rhetoric. Blogs tend to feature words and characteristics, which are harsh and extremely personal. Their form and style make blogs the most aggressive elements of political discourse. After any unsuccessful clash with another politician (for instance, in a popular TV or radio programme) or an unfavourable press release, it is the blog where the defeated take revenge (in a ruthless and unrefined manner). Furthermore, it is here that a blogger can retaliate easily and without any repercussions whatsoever. There seems to be a certain unwritten rule at work, which says that every blogger can blog back. In reality it means that if you happen to come into harsh criticism (insults, slanders, etc.) at the Internet diary, your rebuttal can take the same form and manner. It appears evident that representatives of various parts of the political arena entered into a certain agreement, by virtue of which they are at liberty to sling mud at one another without any consequences at an Internet website. If in fact this is the case, then in the political show (with the traditional mass media playing the key role) a blog is a crucial valve, thanks to which all problems are kept at bay. Interestingly enough this process is international and common for various cultural circles.

Blogging has undoubtedly become an element of mass culture, as it is fundamental to the World Wide Web, which is one of the most prevalent web services. However, bloggers do not necessarily fit the generally accepted paradigm of mass public. I would rather describe them as politically involved Internet users, who, from the point of view of Internet-related issues investigation, do not match the description of a regular Internet user – a consumer of the symbolic content of the cyberspace. They do not passively browse through popular Internet portals (as it is the case for millions of average users of the global computer network). They are more viewers and participants, who make contributions to the show. Posts submitted by Internet users are saved on a server of a particular blog and can be read at a website, unless they are removed by the author (and, most frequently, an administrator). By rule administrators do not intervene or act upon the content of discussion fora. Under extreme circumstances, they remove posts which violate the accepted rules and regulations or generally approved norms or standards. Hence, administration is not (or at least by definition, should not be) so much about censorship but about elimination of vulgar and widely understood inappropriate posts (among others, advertisements). However, the task is challenging as political discussions always come with extreme emotions. For many it is an opportunity of a lifetime – for the first time in the history of mass media, every participant of the political show can type his mind bluntly and juicily. He no longer has to shout at the top of his voice at a political rally (where additionally he could be pilloried), march in a manifestation (against or in favour of a given cause), leave his home or even an armchair. This entertainment is perfect for all those hungry for political sensations, who stand firmly by their beliefs. The extra perk is that it is all done anonymously. Particularly sly bloggers would even use their neighbours’ names to sign their posts. At this point, the illusion of anonymity will not be elaborated on. Recapitulating, an Internet diary of a public figure constitutes a unique place in the cyberspace, where particular (social or political) affiliations can be easily expressed. Furthermore, it is also a place to observe social moods and collective expectations.

It should be emphasized that the Internet is very different from other mass media. Reporters, rather than politicians, inform us about politicians‘ activities. Hundreds of people come to meet a politician, while thousands come to a rally. Several hundred thousand readers can read about the meeting in a newspaper, while several millions can watch a TV report about it. Traditional media mediate between politicians and the public in the political show. This middleman is required but not always favourable and criticised. By creating an Internet blog, a politician gives up the burdensome mediation service. Whatever he writes at a cyberspace blog directly reaches the public, and the other way round. As a consequence, this can be seen as a specific type of a media show.

This paper analyzes the influence of the Internet on the widely understood political culture. The influence is exerted, among others, by blogs, which are used as tools in political debates (often battles). This subject is a continuation of the problem I took up five years ago at the 2004 Ethicomp conference in Greece in “The direction of evolution of “the political culture” in times of violent expansion of informative techniques”. As a result, this will also be an interesting endeavour to make reference to the statements made by me back then, which pertained to the positive influence of the cutting-edge ICT on the political culture. To support my thesis I analyze blogs of Polish politicians from the 2007 parliamentary elections till now. The stormy character of the Polish political scene should deliver good and interesting arguments. I compare Polish blogging with examples from other countries. I perceive the notion of political culture as Marceli Kosman. I base my understanding of the term “blog” on definition given by Core Doctorow and Grzegorz Mazurek.

REFERENCES

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