I’m in favor of keeping my soapbox, even if it means I’m contributing to the “vitriolic” national political discourse. And against all odds, Karl Rove and I apparently see eye to eye on this issue, though for very different reasons. He believes blogging helps the Republican cause; I believe blogging gives voice to the individual voter regardless of her political persuasion. Last week the writers of “The Opinionator,” a blog co-authored by Tobin Harshaw and Chris Suellentrop, staff editors of the NY Times Op-Ed pages, made mention of Rove’s recent comments on the accessibility of a pulpit to every angry citizen with internet access. Well, hallelujah. It is high time we leveled the playing between those with a voice and Washington and everyone else.* Because it’s short, I’ve included the text of the entire post directly below.

 

“The Web has given angry and vitriolic people more of a voice in public discourse,” former top Bush aide Karl Rove told an audience yesterday, according to The Washington Times’s Fishwrap blog. Rove observes: “People in the past who have been on the nutty fringe of political life, who were more or less voiceless, have now been given an inexpensive and easily accessible soapbox, a blog.”

Wait, is there supposed to be something wrong with that?

“The [Internet] is not the reason hyperpartisan politics have been elevated; people like Karl Rove are,” writes Amanda Terkel at Think Progress:
“Rove admitted that despite the coarseness of the political debate, he hopes the netroots ‘keep at it’ because it helps Republicans. If only the blogosphere were as civil as Karl Rove.”

Sometimes, perhaps, the pot deserves to call the kettle black.

In my relatively short lifetime, I have seen the influence of the individual voter, ostensibly the one who holds a member of Congress accountable to his or her votes, eroded by the influence of those with a voice in Washington, insiders and special interest groups. As an insider, Rove naturally enjoyed such privilege. By default a blogger (especially one with a devoted fan base) makes insiders nervous because he or she erodes away some of the power bestowed upon him by his insider status. I teach English. I live for free speech. So, I can’t imagine myself feeling anything but support for another voice, but seven years ago I might have voiced caution when reading unreviewed material, much in the same way that I caution my high school seniors about considering their sources before subscribing to their arguments. However, during the past seven years we have been fed so many disingenuous “truths” by the Bush administration that I cannot, with any honesty, say that Rove’s word is any more reliable than Joe Blogger’s, though they may warrant close scrutiny for different reasons. It is within that close scrutiny that lies the most valuable message I can impart to any student–read skeptically. Long live free speech and perhaps just as importantly, readily available free publishing (thank you, WordPress).

As an addendum to this piece, I might also add that the formal publishing world is making way for this medium in unprecendented ways. I remember back when Andrew Sullivan left his position as editor at The New Republic to devote himself fully to his own blog. Not being a reporter, I did not yet realize how heavily regular reporters relied upon the efforts of bloggers, who had much greater freedom to go and say whatever they pleased. That process is only becoming more transparent. That bastion of old school news itself, The New York Times, has done two things of late that are worth our note. First, they dissolved their online pay-per-view program, Times Select, explaining that the current trend of the internet news sources rendered such a system obsolete. Second, they have continued to expand the blog section of the Times online, inviting renowned bloggers such as Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner to post their blog, Freakonomics, under the auspices of the Times banner.

*Do not misinterpret my sentiments as some foolhardy desire to dismiss Congress. That’s not my point at all. While I find our voting system problematic and the electoral college outdated and unfair, I by no means wish to do away with the structure of our government. The House and Senate are essential and must remain so. That being said, historians have argued that our founding fathers really had no desire to blindly hand over power to the populus, hence the unusual institution known as the electoral college, but this only makes individual voice more important.

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