The Punditocracy and the Bloggers

A competition such as this one also re-asks the question about how much influence the blogosphere can exert over the politcal narrative. To my mind, it is inconceivable that Obama’s web-savvy campaign does not have people assigned to keep an eye on what Sullivan and his cohorts are discussing online.

As we know, a great deal of blogging, and commenting on blogs, is venting. Firing off a post stops me writing angry letters to newspapers and MPs every week, as I was doing before 2005. Its also a kind of constructive wish-fulfilment – “Here is the article they should have published.” Fisking is the transcript of the imaginary conversation that you have with a journalist, after you’ve read something particularly misguided.

Now we have YouTube, this wish-fulfilment applies to TV programmes and adverts, as well as print journalism. The highly trafficked Daily Dish has posted a call for user-generated presidential campaign adverts, aimed at rebutting some adverts, and highlighting the worst excesses of the ‘official campaigns’.

Liberal Conspiracy provided a good outlet for mayoral campaign videos during the London elections earlier this year, but with an unapologetic anti-Boris leaning. I think it is doubtful that the videos themselves had much of an effect, since British political campaigns are not run via TV advertising in the same manner as the American races are. Over there, each TV spot is carefully analysed, and the most audacious quickly become memes to be parodied. Hillary Clinton’s “3am” advert was the most memorable example during the primary season, and John McCain’s “celebrity” advert has already inspired a high-profile rebuttal from Paris Hilton:

(Hilariously, Hilton’s energy policy seems to be more detailed than McCain’s, an observation which the pundits have seized upon, and which could ultimately mean that the original advert does more harm than good to the Arizona Sentaor’s campaign.)

What is interesting about the user-generated campaign adverts, and the exposure that a high-profile blog like Sullivan’s can give them, is that the wish-fulfilment excercise actually becomes real (leave aside Paris Hilton’s advert, which is presumably professionally made and taps into an entirely different type of wish-fulfilment).

A competition such as this one also re-asks the question about how much influence the blogosphere can exert over the politcal narrative. To my mind, it is inconceivable that Obama’s web-savvy campaign does not have people assigned to keep an eye on what Sullivan and his cohorts are discussing online. I am sure that the main news outlets monitor the larger blogs too, to gauge the consensus on a given policy announcement, campaign stop, or gaffe. It is certain that much of the comment from British journalists on US politics is recycled from t’blogs.

So the point is, that if the campaign “narratives” are largely determined by what the media reports, and well trodden blogs like the Daily Dish do indeed feed into that media… then something like the campaign advert competition will allow a whole new set of voices to have an impact on the campaign. And better still, since these voices are not celebrity ‘names’ (and often operate under a pseudonym or online ‘handle’), they only gain exposure through the strength of the idea. Surely a good thing.

Apologies – This is all old ground. But worth re-treading, given the expense and importance of the election to come. In the aftermath, it will be interesting to pin-point where the centre of gravity of the race came to rest. If it proves to be somewhere online, then that’s a paradigm shift in the way humans conduct their business.

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