Back in 2008, the New York Times published an article titled “The Year of the Political Blogger.” The article focused on the inclusion of online “partisan” bloggers into the electoral process via political conventions and meetings. The director of the Democratic National Convention Committee told the NYT that “Credentialing more bloggers opens up all sorts of new audiences.” Yet, many bloggers felt that they were, to quote, “on the low-end of the totem pole” when it came to their inclusion vis-à-vis other members of the media.
Bloggers today have changed the nature of politics. Take the primaries. Calderone of the Huffington Post writes: “Blogs first significantly affected campaign coverage in 2004, with the increase in the number of traditional outlets blogging and greater online output the change in 2008. Live-tweeting the campaign is the signature new development so far in 2012.” And, blogs and bloggers have been an important part of the Occupy Movement. For example, this excerpt from Greg Mitchell’s hourly postings on January 10th’(The Nation’s OccupyUSA blog):
9:00 Party continuing at Zuccotti
6:40 Wow, barricades have finally come down at Zuccotti Park and there’s a rumor that it’s due to an ACLU lawsuit…. People’s Library returns there amid celebrations. How long will it all last?
10:30 Prediction: Romney not releasing tax returns will be enormous issue from here on out. True or not, suspicion will be: paid little. Occupy impact everywhere in this election year, even if OWS does not actively join in much.
Bloggers – from all walks of life – help make news instant, often to an international audience of “followers.” Blogs are not only a way of providing up-to-date information, they also bring like-minded people together (at least virtually), persuade and activate people, provide both mainstream and offbeat perspectives on persons and events – all which can facilitate mobilization around an issue. In fact, a certain sense of community emerges among bloggers and followers. A recent University of Buffalo study finds that bloggers and other social network users are more likely to share knowledge online where the qualities of trust, strong social ties and reciprocity are present, particularly among female bloggers.
But how might blogs and bloggers directly influence political elites? Recently, the Prime Minister of Canada, as well as pro-oil lobby group, Ethical Oil, has used a blog to back claims that American environmental groups are financing Canadian environmentalists who have protested the Northern Gateway oil pipeline. According to a Jan 9th Globe and Mail article, the Harper government has referred to these groups as “radical” and that US financial support serves to “undermine Canada’s national economic interests.” The authors of the article write that “The ammunition for Ottawa’s broadside against the pipeline’s opponents is drawn in part from the work of a relatively little-known blogger from North Vancouver. In the last 15 months, independent blogger and single mother Vivian Krause has become a one-person clearinghouse on how U.S. money is helping finance Canadian environmental activism.” Specifically, Krause’s blog has been documenting the Tides Foundation which she alleges has sent over 10 million dollars to Canadian environmentalists and that overall, about 50 million dollars from south of the border has been funnelled to the Canadian environmental movement.
This blogger has become the focus of a battle between environmentalists, oil lobbyists, and the Conservative government. Canadian environmental groups like the Sierra Club have criticized Krause for exaggerating the amount of money and have accused her of being the government’s puppet. Krause tells the Globe and Mail that “What the Prime Minister here is talking about was unveiled by an unpaid blogger,” and that she is “fighting for something here: it’s not the government; not the industry, it’s the poor communities that are trying to have the same standard of living that the rest of us have in the more comfortable parts of Canada.”
In this case, blogging went beyond just connecting with, and influencing, readers. The blog has been used by pro-oil lobbyists and the Conservative government as a way to further their cause. Indeed, the Natural Resources Minister specifically cited the Tides Foundation which was the focus of Krause’s blog. Environmental groups argue that the blog has been used to shift attention away from the negative environmental effects of the pipeline to American meddling in Canadian affairs. It has created a new opportunity for mobilization on both sides, especially environmental groups which have framed the role of the blog as part of the government’s attempt at “painting a target on green activists.”