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The role of bloggers in a free society

October 18, 2013

There is no question that the internet is filled with content ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, with the latter in obvious proliferation. Somehow, the social mores, or you could even say the censorship, that restrained people from publishing pictures of their backsides (and more) in their local paper didn’t carry over to this new medium. Like kids let out of school, it’s running relatively free at the moment. Like any kind of overindulgence, at some point the ethernet hangovers that live on forever in the cloud may eventually bring some sort of temperance to what people put online.

The Obama administration will be remembered for at least two things. One is obviously Obamacare, and the other is the administration’s use of social media, aka the internet, to campaign for anything and everything. Given that social media as we know it today was not a compelling player until Facebook opened its site to everyone who swore they were over 13 years of age in 2006, the President and his team’s use of that medium of communication is understandable. You put your message out to where the people are, and that’s the internet.

Perhaps the President is learning about the other side of the internet. It can help you, but it also has the potential to hurt you. At no other time in history have more people had more freedom to express their views. People being what they are, it’s a pretty good bet that at least half of them will oppose the views of the other half. If you happen to be the most visible face of a policy that some people disagree with, it’s also a pretty safe bet that they will let you know they disagree.

What’s striking about the President’s off-handed slap at bloggers is that he himself has used the internet to such good advantage. What’s scary about it is that as the most visibly powerful official in the United States, he has the power to do something about controlling or censoring it. Since the government has the power to monitor everything on the internet, they are certainly able to use that power to shut down sites they feel are critical of their policies. We’ve seen other countries do that by simply shutting off transmission capabilities within their borders.

Is 99% of the non-commercial stuff on the internet simply one person’s opinion? Probably, but here’s the thing. That’s called freedom of speech. While freedom of speech doesn’t give you the right to yell fire in a crowded theater, or the right to bully others on the internet, it does give you the right to give voice to your opinion.

Very few bloggers are professional journalists, me included, but many of them are citizens of the United States.  Blogging and  it’s cousin tweeting is, in a way that no formal news media can provide, the voice of the people.

In many ways, Americans have less personal freedom now than at any time in our history. Challenging our right to give voice to our reasonable disagreement with the prevailing party’s goals might truly be a step too far. 

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