Everybody’s doing it now. Blogging – or web-logging – has taken the world by storm. According to a recent New York Times article, almost 80,000 blogs are created daily. With such a volume available, a growing number of people are turning to blogs for their news; more specifically politics. One would think that this readily available information would help readers be better informed, but that is not the case. What seems to be helpful information is only limiting our horizons, if it is even accurate at all.
During my summer internship, one of my assignments was to monitor the political blogs that focused on Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. I had never read a blog before, and I, like many others, became hooked. No more sifting through news articles to find what I felt to be most relevant; everything that I was interested in politically was right at my fingertips.
I was working for a non-partisan organization, so I read blogs from both sides of the political spectrum. Some blogs prompted from me an immediate, ‘Couldn’t have said it better myself!’ but for a number of others it was more of a ‘How could you think that?’ You can guess which blogs I returned to.
Most people only read blogs of the same ideology as their own and gain no new information, but only the satisfaction of feeling justified in their beliefs. We think we are informing ourselves by reading blogs, but we’re not. We’re only making ourselves feel good.
It would be great if everyone really could learn from blogs by gaining new perspectives, but it is just not natural to seek out the opposition.
Reading political blogs written by people of the opposite ideological leaning did nothing but infuriate me. There were the brief moments when I wrote potent responses to the entries that got my goat, but then of course I never returned to those sites again.
If we were to read political blogs with viewpoints different than our own it could help us to better understand how our opponents think – disturbing as the workings of their minds may be.
It is not going to happen, though, because people do not like the feeling of getting worked up and defensive, which is how they feel when someone is attacking their beliefs. And because we avoid even indirect confrontation with the opposition, blogs do nothing to help us learn anything new.
The other main problem with receiving your political news from blogs is that bloggers have no limitations. A blogger could just as easily be a psych ward patient (who just happens to be handy with a computer) posing as a political analyst, and no one would know.
There are no blog editors overseeing the bloggers making sure that their information is accurate and their T’s are crossed. Bloggers can be anyone, can write anything and people believe it.
Bloggers are not just writing for the betterment of the community either. They have an agenda. Take any two blogs written by people of opposing political viewpoints and compare.
Depending on the blog you read, President Bush either saved us from Hurricane Katrina or was behind it and Bob Casey, Jr. (who is running against Rick Santorum for the U.S. Senate) is either Satan or the second coming of Jesus. The problem is that people believe what they read.
None of the material is fact; it’s all spin, and yet some people are going to go out and say, “I’m not going to vote for Casey because Satan is bad.” Thank you, bloggers.
My love affair with blogs was brief. Reading whiny political blogs can be even more tedious than listening to emo music. I do not want to get my political information from some guy sitting in his living room all day with the shades drawn, alternately playing solitaire and writing scathing reports on our current administration.
Whether I agree with him or not isn’t the point. Who is Joe Schmoe to tell me how to think? Whatever happened to journalists, people actually trained and experienced enough to cover the news?
I would rather receive the facts and decide what to think myself, or, if I must consult someone, let it be an expert.
So I have returned to my original source of news. I never thought I would say this, but the newspaper is just less biased.
Emilie Haertsch can be reached at email@example.com.