Thursday, March 01, 2007

Blog Power (or not)

A busy week conferencing with 50 students has put me behind on my posting (at least that's my excuse this week). Over the weekend two blog news items caught my eye:

Jim Zumbo's astonishingly rapid fall from grace due to his blog comments about hunters who use assault rifles for hunting pocket gophers. Calling these guns "terrorist rifles" provoked an immediate avalanche of protest caused his apology (as posted on a pro-gun blog with critique) and firing from Outdoor Life. The NRA does not tolerate any division in ranks. All guns are good.

As reported by columnist Ellen Goodman, bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan resigned from from their jobs blogging for the John Edwards presidential campaign after opponents searched out critical comments from their past cyber writing. Says Goodman,

This may be the first certifiable staff flameout of the 2008 campaign. But it's also about a clash between two cultures and two languages.

We are living now in both the blogosphere and the mainstream. One is ironic and edgy, challenging and partisan. The other is cautious and modulated. Ms. Marcotte's and Ms. McEwan's fate raises the question about whether it's possible to move from the world of AnkleBitingPundits to presidential politics without every word sticking to your shoe.

We already know that in the digital world, the past is never past. As Simon Rosenberg of NDN, a progressive advocacy group bridging these two worlds, says, "All of us are going to be living every moment of our past lives. People are living with things they did and said in their youths in a way they never did before."

One of our graduate students told me that the reason he never posted his required discussion board comments on OSU's online Blackboard site was that he didn't want any words to haunt him later. His opinion echoes Goodman's comment that Postings come down but never really disappear. They sit, like land mines, in the digital archives. This sense of being watched - well, isn't that what a blog asks for? - can make people (like me, anyway) cautious.


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