Typing Politics: The Role of Blogs in American Politics

By Richard Davis | Go to book overview

Introduction

It was a time of intense partisanship across the nation. The United States was divided between two political parties with sharply divergent ideologies. The closeness of elections meant that the outcomes sometimes remained inconclusive for a long time after the people had voted. Essayists spent much of their time reviewing media accounts and then writing polemics attacking their opponents, including launching personal attacks on presidential candidates and other politicians in the opposition. Many of them did so under pseudonyms to hide their identity. Their essays circulated widely among the political elite of the day.

This was the state of American politics and media just over 200 years ago, when Republicans and Federalists dominated the political scene and partisan newspaper editors supported or attacked them. But it could just as easily describe our own age. Today those essayists are called “bloggers,” short for “webloggers.” They are people who maintain online journals that discuss politics. Like their early counterparts, they spend many hours each day collecting information and writing commentary; instead of publishing their essays in broadsheets circulated in taverns and other public places, though, they post them on their Web sites. Bloggers thrive on commentary, rumor, gossip, and satire. And, similar to the partisan press of that earlier day, they also collaborate with politicians who know their writing can be instrumental in reaching a politically interested and potentially active audience.

There is both old and new in the blog phenomenon. The use of writing to make political points to a broader audience is an ancient practice, but this particular form—“blogs,” short for “weblogs”—is a wholly new medium. Blogs are so new that Webster’s Dictionary didn’t include a definition for the term until 2005. The term weblog itself did not originate until 1997, and the shorter version, blog, came two years later.1

Blogging was not an activity ordinary people engaged in until 1999, when a user-friendly software by Pyra Labs for blogging could be downloaded for free.

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Typing Politics: The Role of Blogs in American Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Agenda Setting 9
  • 2 - Blogs and Politics 22
  • 3 - Bloggers 33
  • 4 - Inside the Blogs 56
  • 5 - Agenda Seekers 82
  • 6 - Journalists 107
  • 7 - The Audience 155
  • Conclusion 178
  • Appendix - Methodology 194
  • Notes 199
  • Index 233
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