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Blogs for the Politicians

By Agent000 in Media
Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 11:51:22 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

More and more everyday, it seems that large news media outlets have a great amount of power over what the public knows about their government. In attempts for sensationalism, the media often glosses over the real truth of a story. Many people feel disconnected from their politicians, in turn leading to low voter turnouts.

The personal weblog (or blog, as it's more popularly known) has been boasted as the next big revolution in media, where individuals are empowered with the abilities once only held by large news media outlets. There is some truth behind the hype, however, Joe Average talking about his stamp collection, however interesting, isn't going to change the world; important, respected and well-known people talking about items of general interest will. Put these two issues together, and I think a problem has just been solved.

In case you didn't catch on, my concept is simple: politicians should make blogs.

Yes, most governments post proceedings on websites, easily accessible for the public, but does the average person really want to sift through a large amount of government mumbo-jumbo to find information on their topic of interest? Every day or two (or three, even weekly), your local government representative could write up a little something, talking about what they've done recently, sharing issues that have been raised, copying and pasting speeches they've given, and asking for citizen opinions. In essence, translating what the government websites already say into language and concepts people would use in typical conversation.

Think of elections. When election time rolls around, you receive a one-page pamphlet in your mailbox telling you what the candidate is like, and what they stand for. Can you really summarize your whole personality on one page? That's where the blog comes in.

Ideally, this would work best with local representatives, either municipal or state/provincial. It would be a joke for George W. Bush to have his own blog. I'm not ruling out federal representatives, but the bigger of a scope you get, the less relevant the information would be to the average person. Also, it needs a personal touch; to have a public relations writer do it would spoil the politician-citizen bond.

I realize that politicians are inherently busy people, and there would be some issues with politicians putting their own spin on things, however, I believe that a small time investment could create very high quality public relations. The Internet, if used to share information with the public strictly for the betterment of society, has the potential to revolutionize modern democracy.

If this concept seems intriguing to you, perhaps forward it to your local representative.

What are your thoughts? What are some possible benefits or issues that I haven't raised? Has this been done before?


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Blogs for the Politicians | 23 comments (23 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Sounds like a great idea. (3.80 / 5) (#1)
by nr0mx on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:52:42 AM EST

Worthy of being thought about.

If we can convince a few ( relatively ) honest, public-spirited politicians to get going with idea, I honestly believe the others could be pressurised into doing the same. Because I don't for a moment think that the ones who really want to work the people, would want the people to know what they are working at, really.

Of course, we can expect several questions regarding impropriety and secrecy to be raised.

Blogs (3.50 / 8) (#2)
by enterfornone on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:55:41 AM EST

Harry Browne for one keeps a regularly updated site of new articles and links. I'm sure he's not the only one.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
on the other hand (4.40 / 5) (#3)
by Delirium on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 02:58:05 AM EST

Not very many politicians in office have them...

[ Parent ]
Yes (3.50 / 2) (#4)
by binaryalchemy on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 03:41:11 AM EST

But that would make a nice statement about their effectiveness, wouldn't it? :)
Defending the GPL from a commercial perspective is like defending the Microsft EULA from a moral perspective. - quartz
[ Parent ]
Here's one (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by dennis on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 09:38:49 AM EST

Ron Paul has a weekly column online. (Not quite a daily blog but I imagine he's pretty busy.)

[ Parent ]
Re: Blogs (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by rajivvarma on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 10:11:59 AM EST

Your link points to this submission (or to Kuro5hin.org in some instances); can an editor please fix it?
Rajiv Varma
Mirror of DeCSS.

[ Parent ]
Your link points to K5 (4.00 / 3) (#16)
by Wondertoad on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 10:12:50 AM EST

The real link is harrybrowne.org. But it is NOT a blog at all, but a pointer to articles that Mr. Browne has written, updated about once a week. A blog would contain many more offsite links and be updated much more often.

[ Parent ]
Actually... (none / 0) (#21)
by BubbaFett on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 02:17:07 PM EST

I remember seeing a day-to-day journal during his 2000 campaign. I'm not sure if it's still on-line. If I find it, I'll post it.

[ Parent ]
Found it! Harry Browne's 2000 Campaign Journal (none / 0) (#22)
by BubbaFett on Sun Mar 10, 2002 at 02:21:09 PM EST

It's at http://www.harrybrowne2000.org/journal/index.htm.

[ Parent ]
Card Bildt did this (4.80 / 5) (#5)
by LeftOfCentre on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 04:22:12 AM EST

Former leader of the Swedish conservatives Carl Bildt (formerly the UN's high representative for peace negotiations and rebuilding in places such as Bosnia) started to publish a weekly e-mail newsletter in 1994 or so where he would discuss his opinions and ponderings and recent events he participated in. It was all written in an informal, personal and fairly non-PR language. Subsequently several key politicians from his and other parties (such as his successor, and important members of the social democratic partyhave begun using this practice as well.

Blogs, email, phone are unimportant. (4.40 / 5) (#6)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 04:31:58 AM EST

Although I think it is a good think to use new tools to communicate with the electorate I think the main issue is what do we want from politicians, this weblog idea would suggest to me that we would prefer politicians that follow the whims of the electorate, politicians that govern and legislate by poll groups or popularity statistics. Weblogs would be only part of the same.

I would prefer a politician that states clearly what it stands for and if elected sticks to its guns and then goes on to work. It is nice if it gets some input from worried constituents in matters not stated in its political platform or its party's, or if some consultation is done while defining such platform.

What I don't want to see is a politician legislating or governing following ratings like in a beauty pageant. That is fine for pop singers and marketoids, not for politicians.
"At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look;
at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This kind of happens already... (4.42 / 7) (#7)
by m0rzo on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 05:23:28 AM EST

...by the 'trendier' politicians who are keen to project the image that they are in touch with technology. I can't think of any particular instances of this but I remember seeing a few 'blog' style entries on a number of U.K and Australian politicians' web-sites.

You'll find that they'll write anything that gets them votes. No politician who writes a blog will be projecting his or her's true feeling on a matter; instead they will be looking to please the masses who they ultimately would like to coerce into voting for them.

Politicians are PR machines these days. Last year I attended a conference in Paris and there were a number of British politicians there including former Minister for Sport, Tony Banks. When asked by a member of the audience his opinion on cannabis legalisation I seem to remember him revelling in the fact he was in front of a teen audience and answered accordingly.

They're notorious bullshiters and I wouldn't like to give them yet another medium to lie through.

My last sig was just plain offensive.

What is a blog anyway.... (4.00 / 5) (#8)
by enterfornone on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 05:34:06 AM EST

and how does it differ from a web site full of press releases.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
There's always Ann Widdecombe's site (4.33 / 3) (#9)
by rleyton on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 05:45:54 AM EST

British MP Anne Widdecombe has a website that's, well, at least interesting. ;-)

Did any other Brits on this site see Louis Theroux last night (on Ann Widdecombe)? Have to say, I thought he had a tough job there - she was very careful about what she said, and didn't really give anything away. Has Louis lost his touch!?

And did we even want to see her bedroom, other than because she didn't want to let us see it!?

Ooooooooooooooh! What does this button do!? - DeeDee, Dexters Lab.
My Website

Typical Entry (4.33 / 6) (#10)
by Elkor on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 08:56:26 AM EST

Dear Internet Readers,

Thank you for contacting me regarding [This weeks political issue]. Please rest assured that I take this issue as seriously as you do and doing all I can to ensure the proper outcome.

There are a myriad of proposed solutions to this daunting problem, and we in the government are working hard to determine which one will best suit the needs of Americans.

I know I can count on everyone from my home state of _______ for support as our country faces this latest crisis.

Your Congressional Representative

"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
One lie for another (4.00 / 5) (#11)
by Woundweavr on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 09:36:53 AM EST

Politicians are liars. If they weren't they wouldn't be politicians. Now I know there are a few exceptions, especially at lower levels, but its a good rule to remember when dealing with them.

A vast majority wouldn't have time for a blog, nor would they see much of the appeal. Web surfers who would go to such a site are an incredibly small part of his/her target voting group. Even if he/she did create one a post, it would be unheard of for the actual candidate to say anything unfiltered through PR and whatnot. Much more likely would be press release style posts. Even then, you must remember the rule. Just because the politician says something (I'm really posting myself!) or projects a personality trait (I feel for you!) doesn't mean that thats reflective of what they really think or feel.

When trying to get information on a bunch of liars, going to the liars themselves is often counterproductive.

Mediadiet (2.66 / 3) (#13)
by bobpence on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 09:44:38 AM EST

Quick note: I have sometimes imagines that, were I a public official, I would post a diary on a personal website so that people could see my honest thoughts and concerns on legislation being considered, completely untouched by PR flacks. One-term Bob, they'd call me.

When you say the media often glosses over the real truth you show some naiveté. About ten years ago I worked in one congressional district and lived in another, while redistricting was being considered that would have traded off some area in each district to the other. The two local papers reported exactly the same facts, the same "real truth," but the points of view were drastically different.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender

digital divide/ fed funding? (4.33 / 3) (#14)
by paf0 on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 09:56:26 AM EST

While I think this is a great idea, I do not think it will connect the politicians with all of their constituents. Only 56% of Americans have internet access. The rest are stuck learning about their representative's accomplishments (or lack there of) from the biased news media.

They should have blogs but perhaps the politicians should send out a news letter as well.

Should there be federal funding to keep the public connected with their representatives?
The real question is not whether machines think but whether men do. --B. F. Skinner
icq 3505006
Yeah, right... (3.66 / 3) (#17)
by Skippy on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 01:08:20 PM EST

I think this is a great idea. But I'm skeptical as to whether any politician would actually do this.

An anecdote: A friend of mine was asked to do the website for a candidate for U.S. Representative. He was very excited and went to consult with the candidate and those running the campaign. He was excited because he saw an opportunity to open up communications and spread information and said as much at the initial consultation. Their response was something along the lines of "Jesus Christ! Are you nuts? The last thing we want to do is share information! No, no, no! We aren't going to put any real information on the site." That's not word for word but it's pretty close. Sad, but true.

P.S. The candidate lost but it was very close.

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

Just read their speeches (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by jet_silver on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 03:02:17 PM EST

Quel can of annelids. My God, do you know what politicians do with soap boxes? "I sponsored rrm, and blah, and they are Good for America, and I worked to defeat foo and bar, which would have been a pernicious influence on the American maraschino cherry industry, and I petted Johnny Jones' kitten and helped an old lady across the street. Then I went to church with my nuclear family."

Politicians are in the business of getting elected, and using the power thereby gained to... get elected. Repeat after me: They are not in the business of representing your views. They are not interested in your views unless those views have something to do with their getting elected. Views accompanied by ca$h contributions (small non-sequential bills preferred) are another thing, those views represent things that are Good for America and its maraschino cherry industry.

There are exceptions, and those exceptions are the only reason I can think of to vote. As for the rest of them, read their speeches, or line bird-cages with their speeches, they are all words writ in water.

Federal -funding- of blogs? Come on, every blog would be a non-stop campaign site, and it would be giving more power and money to incumbents, which is a Bad Thing.
"What they really fear is machine-gunning politicians becoming a popular sport, like skate-boarding." -Nicolas Freeling

Politics And Blogging (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by the trinidad kid on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 06:44:07 PM EST

Given that the K5 diary is a 'blog', I suppose I am partly doing this.

Me and some colleagues are working on a internet strategy for Scottish politics and policy.

The first project is now live.

I was also a Labour Candidate for the Scottish Parliament, so from a professional point of view...

The internet is both a persistent and a searchable medium which makes a lot of political activity difficult. One of the key things a politician has to do is to hold 5 incompatible opinions and manage them across different sets of people and mediate an outcome which is kinda hard to do in public. (That's why you hate us (and why you can't do without us)

Proper links (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by the trinidad kid on Wed Mar 06, 2002 at 06:52:56 PM EST

I don't know what happened there (apart from me being in too much of a hurry to preview)...

The strategy
The first project

[ Parent ]
Heaven Forbid! (none / 0) (#23)
by opendna on Tue Mar 12, 2002 at 07:59:33 PM EST

A politician who has principles, creativity and an interesting personality?!

In order for this idea to be worthwhile we'd need a slightly higher caliber than we see now. I'd love to read a weblog by Webster or Clay, but I seriously doubt most of our reps are that sophisticated.

If my reps had weblogs that showed virtue, intelligence, wisdom, creativity and enough bravery to *allow* all that to show, I'd vote for them even if I disagreed with their platform. Eloquence & Logic in an election campaign? What a concept!

Blogs for the Politicians | 23 comments (23 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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