January 21, 2005

Bloggers Unite!

As President Bush declares one of his main goals for his second term to be to reform Social Security, a number of bloggers have united in opposition and are using the internet as a tool for political organization and action. These bloggers have created an entire new blog called thereisnocrisis.com which aims to promote the notion that there is no crisis facing Social Security and that the president’s plan is unnecessary. The blog contains links to articles and organizations that support their point of view.

Meanwhile, one of the first and most influential political bloggers, Joshua Micah Marshall, has been counting Congressional swing votes. Visitors to Marshall’s talkingpointsmemo.com see a box at the top of the page with links to a “Fainthearted Faction,” consisting of Democrats who might not oppose the president’s Social Security reform bill, and a “Conscience Caucus,” a list of Republicans who will oppose it. Marshall narrates movements and apparent movements in and out of these groups, and he encourages his readers to contact representatives in order to shrink the “Faction” and enlarge the “Caucus.” This use of the internet to influence an upcoming vote through public pressure might become a common practice on virtual K Street if Marshall is seen succeeding.

For internet bloggers, commenting on political issues is nothing new and bloggers both in favor of and against the president’s plan have been commenting on the issue frequently. However, this current attempt is an example of using online communication as a way to influence a specific media frame and for bloggers to try to assert influence beyond the “blogosphere.” According to their site, over 200 other blogs have already posted links to this new site and their readership is growing.

The visibility and influence of blogs has expanded in recent months. According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey conducted last November, 27% of internet users have read blogs, which is up from just 11% in the spring of 2003. Even though the 2004 presidential election has passed, this new blog effort is another possible way that blogs can play a role in politics even between election campaigns.

For more information regarding blogs and blog readership, see our January memo, “The State of Blogging.”