Blogs as “Scribbling Mercuries”: Marketplace of Ideas or Duel to the Death of Ideas?

The blog is possible through the convergence of many new technologies: revolutions in human communication that were both tipping points (of ideas) and points of the tip (of new things). In parallel, more than half a millennium ago (1452-1454/55), Johann Gutenberg printed his two-volume, 1,282-page, 42-line Bible in Mainz. He produced 180 copies (150 on paper and, it is believed, 30 on parchment), using about 20 assistants in the process. His innovations included a screw press (a converted wine press) and moveable type with individual elements (periods, letters, upper- and lower-case letters).

Interestingly, the small number of Bibles hardly represented a “mass” communication, but one of Gutenberg’s follow-up projects did. To raise money to pay for a crusade against Muslim Turks, the Roman Catholic Church contracted with Gutenberg to print thousands of Letters of Indulgence–certificates the Catholic faithful could buy for cash, absolving them of their sins. The practice was among the chief complaints of a young German monk named Martin Luther who, in 1517, nailed 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, signaling the beginning of the Reformation. It is hard to imagine that such heresy could have spread so widely and so quickly in the pre-print era. In fact, Luther’s theses would have become only sketchily known by world of mouth (and probably easily suppressed before they became too widespread). But in the developed printworks of Germany, the “Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” would become a mass document.

95thses.jpg

Unlike in China or Korea, which had invented printing earlier but were unified countries with established ruling classes, the print world of Gutenberg was the free-for-all arena of ideologies and political partisanship of 14th century Europe. Printing, therefore, became an instrument of both orthodoxy and revolution. During the religious wars of the 16th century in Central Europe, for instance, each side would prepare innumerable books that propagandized their cause and demonized the enemy. Crucially, however, it was not quite a marketplace of ideas. In areas under stable Church or government control, censorship in what people could print and what they could read was the norm. In Henry XIII’s England, for example, printing a book without the king’s license was punishable by death.

Many philosophers of the Enlightenment rebelled against such edicts. The principles they crafted in their writings during the period highly influenced the Founders of America and the Framers of the Constitution. “Freedom of the Press,” for instance, assumes that presses will be in competition with each other as bulwarks against government abuse, ensuring freedom from monopoly by any power. One of the originators of such a concept was John Milton, the seventeenth-century English poet, who published a pamphlet in 1644 titled Areopagitia (subtitled “A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing)in which he insisted that open debate freed the mind to find truth:

“Well knows he who uses to consider, that our faith and knowledge thrives by exercise, as well as our limbs and complexion. Truth is compared in Scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition.”

In American history the principle of the “marketplace of ideas” became set as a value of both journalism and society. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote in a decision in a First Amendment case in 1919:

“[W]hen men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas–that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.”

By Holmes’s time the mechanics of that marketplace had changed to an industrial model of the press, but the principle remains with us to this day, and blogs and those who embrace blogging as a democratic revolution in media often call the phenomenon the best incarnation of the perfect marketplace of ideas.

Not by coincidence, times of great political upheaval, and even revolution, were when the marketplace seemed at its utmost fury of competition. The great flowering of the print press in England as an expression of countervailing political ideas came during Milton’s time, the troubled period in the mid-seventeenth century that saw struggles between King Charles I and the English parliament followed by several civil wars, the execution of Charles, the election of Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan faction to supremacy in England, and then the death of Cromwell and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles’s son.

aulicus.jpg

Newspapers at that time were known as “news books”; most of them carried the prenomen “mercurius,” a reference to the Roman messenger god Mercury, today commonly drawn with a winged cap or winged feet. It was a good metaphor for these news books, titled such as “Mercurius Aulicus” (a royalist periodical); “Mercurius Britannicus” (a vehicle of the anti-royalist “Roundheads”); “Mercurius Democritus”; “Mercurius Elenticus”; “Mercurius Melancholicus”; Mercurius Politicus”; Mercurius Hibernicus” “Mercurius Pragmaticus”; and “Mercurius Rusticus.” Each represented the opinion of either a particular government or faction in power or oppositional groups, religious, political, class, or otherwise. They comprised a huge literature that, while not read by every farmer and apprentice boy, was talked about or mentioned as part of the political debate of the day.

These periodicals were, of course, blog-like in that (a) they represented the opinions of diverse political factions, (b) they were the creations of a few individuals, either independently or representing factional interests, (c) while they cost some expense to publish and distribute, they were not beyond the means of individuals, and (d) they were often scathing in their attacks on political figures and others.

For example, Mercurius Impartialis blamed “the ruines both of King and people” to “the Pulpit and the Presse” and charged further that: “his Majesties Subjects [have] beene Poysoned with Principles of Heresie, Schisme, Faction, Sedition, Blasphemy, Apostacie, Rebellion, Treason, Sacriledge, Murther, Rapine, Robbery, and all” the other “enormous Crimes, and detestable Villanies, with which this Kingdome hath of later times swarmed.” But the partisan Mercurian newspapers could vilify in either direction. Oliver Cromwell, the executioner of the king, complained, “My very face and nose are weekly maligned and scandalized by those scribbling mercuries.”

Among the most celebrated editors of the many regularly published pamphlets put out, along with periodically published news books, was Milton himself, an adoring supporter of Cromwell and the anti-monarchist government. One of his most famous pamphlets reads like a 17th century blog-post title: “The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: Proving that is it lawful and Hath been Held so through All Ages, for Any who Have the Power, to Call to Account a Tyrant or Wicked King, and after Due Conviction to Depose and put him to death.” Milton was “posting” in reply to arguments made by the more moderate faction in Parliament (the Presbyterians) who were arguing for a retention of the monarchy and the sparing of the king’s life. Milton was later appointed by the government to be “Secretary to Foreign Tongues” where–again blog-like–he ended up doing most of his work from his own home.

An important note: When Milton called for free competition of ideas–Unlicenc’d Printing–in 1644, his faction was one of many. In 1655 Lord High Protector Oliver Cromwell banned all newsbooks except one favorable to the government: there is no record that his loyal civil servant John Milton objected to such censorship!

The challenges of the marketplace model that blogs seem to embody are, thus, as follows:

a) Will people actually avail themselves of the various goods (facts, ideas, opinions) at the marketplace or just go to vendors that confirm their preexisting prejudices?

b) Will the competition of the market lead to, not healthy and vigorous debate, but permanent fissures in the body politic that, in previous eras, have resulted in civil wars?

c) Will the excesses of the marketplace of blogs invite government reaction in the forms of regulation or even censorship?

Originally posted December 27, 2005 at PolicyByBlog

Comments

  1. Original Reader Comments (55)

    There are problems associated with seeking out information and information sources that confirm and support preexisting beliefs and opinions in all forms of communication and mainstream media.

    a) Will people actually avail themselves of the various goods (facts, ideas, opinions) at the marketplace or just go to vendors that confirm their preexisting prejudices?

    My personal reaction to this challenge to the marketplace model is that this is a problem whether looking at The New York Times and the Washington Post or Fox News and CNN. If we are to trust blogs as the one and only source of information and contributions to the marketplace of ideas, the sheer volume of blogs and the ease with which partisan blogs might be segregated may be a problem. Perhaps marketplace pressures like advertisers might keep fair and balanced from being any sort of goal. But, in and of themselves, I don’t think partisan blogs do more than good ol boy networks or watercooler talk.

    My opinion not enough? A recent Pew project study “debunks a major criticism of bloggers and the Internet in general.” Namely, that people look for their “preferred brand of politics,” choosing to ignore contrary argument. The 2004 study showed that “wired Americans” are privy to more points of view from more places on the political spectrum than they might be otherwise. (http://www.journaltimes.com/articles/2006/01/09/local/iq_3846655.txt)
    January 25, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterow1018

    The trend in media consumption today appears to be one of seeking out media outlets that confirm preexisting beliefs. This is evident by the rising popularity of Fox News by Republicans and political conservatives, and the fact that more than half of Fox News viewers describe themselves as politically conservative. (Read the full report here http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=215).

    In the comment by ow1018, a 2004 Pew report was cited about wired Americans seeking out different points of views. In the same report, it was found that of the people who get news online on an average day, 90% of them also get news from newspapers or TV. The Pew report also found that about a quarter of Americans prefers news that comes from sources with similar political outlooks. http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/141/report_display.asp

    Perhaps, although wired Americans seek out different perspectives on the Web, it may be true that in the vast media marketplace of ideas they are only seeking out those that confirm their preexisting prejudices.
    January 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersmarin3

    I believe people will continue receiving information, news, ideas, facts and opinions from “vendors.” I think “vendors” will provide the majority of initial information and topics that might later be argued and discussed in blogs. The mainstream media will still tell the public what to think about. The blog will allow the public to toss the ideas around that the mainstream media presented. New ideas, facts, etc may be generated from these blogs by common people and communicated to other common people, but I think the creation of new ideas will be the minority compared to the mainstream media. In time, this may change, but I don’t see that time being in the immediate future. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, seven percent of American adults that use the internet created a blog-like webpage. Additionally, over a quarter of internet users actually read blogs. Tom Zeller Jr. of the New York Times wrote on January 22, 2006 that “nearly 80 percent of online teenagers and adults 28 and younger report regularly visiting blogs, compared with just 30 percent of adults 29-40.” The popularity of blog use is increasing especially among the millennial generation. With maturity of this younger population, more people may refer directly to blogs as their primary marketplace for ideas, news and opinions, etc.

    I don’t believe the competition of the market will lead to “permanent fissures.” I think the discussion occurring on blogs is mainly healthy debate. With most of the debate over ideas and information taking place online, I don’t think a “civil war” will occur. While people may strongly disagree over an idea, all argument will stay online.

    I think with the increased popularity of blogs as mentioned above, there will be some regulation over blog use. I think this may occur especially in the area of advertising and business. Unlike the actions taken by Oliver Cromwell in 1655, I don’t think there will be any state regulation or control over sharing opinions and thoughts over political matters.
    January 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNOLA7

    All of these answers can go both ways. People gravitate to what is familiar to them. But you have to give people some credit. Even those who always read blogs that confirm their beliefs may occasionally read dissenting ones, if only to have something to agree with. For the most part, I think people will read ones that confirm their beliefs.
    Because anyone can blog, it is unlikely that the commentary could cause large-scale opposition on either side. Being a journalist, I am skeptical of Big Brother and I think the government watches everything. If a blog gets popular enough and they feel it will do harm, I do think some people will disappear (that’s just me :)).
    You can slightly compare blogs to the European newspapers. Although almost everyone can read now, not everyone takes advantage of internet access. These are usually poorer people; therefore, their voice will not be heard, or they will not be aware of certain issues.
    January 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterharrison72

    One major difference between the presses of old and the Blogs of today are the number of competing ideas. In the times of Martin Luther, most information, official decrees regarding politics and religion flowed from the top down. The Church or the government had a virtual monopoly on the flow of official news. Remember, monks were the scribes who produced books during this period. Therefore, when Luther published his 95 Theses with the help of the Gutenberg Press he was the only dissenting voice; one voice against the orthodoxy. The same thing for others who dissented against the establishment: their’s were the few questioning voices against authority. Blogs however are single voices amongst millions of voices.

    Concerning the partisan presses of commonwealth England, the “news books,” as they were know, were the voices of parties to the conflict (either monarchist or anti-monarchist). Therefore, they were limited in number and in points of view and not fully a free and open press. They were still chartered by established ideologies. Blogs however are not (for the most part) official points of view advocated established ideologies.

    Tocqueville in Democracy in America claimed that one of the benefits of having a free press is that no one dissenting voice could garner the attention of a mass if there were many other competing voices. People would get immune to criticisms of authority if the press was free. Tocqueville claimed that a free press could actually be a safeguard for authority, not threat to it.
    January 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjohn444

    In this essay, I found most interesting the assertion that “times of great political upheaval, and even revolution, were when the marketplace seemed at its utmost fury of competition.” To me this begs the question of whether there is great political upheaval because the marketplace is in a fury of competition, or if the marketplace is in a fury of competition because there is great political upheaval. In today’s society, one cannot be exclusive of the other. What would Watergate have been without Woodward and Bernstein other than a “second-rate burglary,” and what would Woodward and Bernstein have been without Watergate? Would Bill Clinton’s philandering with Monica Lewinski have ever come to light without the Drudge Report, and would the Drudge Report have ever come to light with Monica Lewinski?

    Whether blogs will ever have such a singular influence on a political era remains to be seen. A select few bloggers would have to emerge as leaders, to become blogs that help determine headlines and thus influence policy. Just as CNN and Fox News have emerged from the plethora of cable channels to become destination channels for timely news, some bloggers must emerge from the dense jungle of the Internet to claim credibility and prestige as the place to go for dependable information and opinion.

    Once those select bloggers come to the forefront, people will go to the sites they view as most dependable or enjoyable, whether it is because they agree with the political viewpoint of the site or because they believe the site is the most fair or because they are most likely to get breaking news. And it naturally follows that as some bloggers emerge with more influence than others, and as people depend more on these sites for information, there will be great debate over censorship vs. First Amendment rights.
    January 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHog79

    This post reminds me of the free market model in economics assuming that everyone will make rational choices based on the ultimate aim of maximizing the profits. The invisible hand will guide the market; the government’s role is just the provider of public services; it should never intervene.

    Marketplace of thoughts is quite different. It is hard to say that people are always rational. They have more complicated motives for their choices. There is no such invisible hand as in Adam Smith’s market. On the contrary, it’s often disturbed by the visible hands of the government. Nowadays, in democratic countries, law is the main influential power that preserves this market. Thus, the government’s role is minimized.

    Blogging, unquestionably, has brought more choices into the market and intensified the competition greatly. It may have broken the existing rules of this market to some extent, for example, the anonymity of cyber spaces increases the number of aggressive or insulting words; it may have caused some negative effects, for instance, exaggerating partisan instead of rational discussions on issues in elections. However, I think the law is more efficient than the governmental regulations or censorship, though blogging, as a new existence, has not been controlled by the existing media laws yet.
    January 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commentereusuee

    As PBB/Editor points out, the origins of mass communication were rooted in partisanship – religious at first, but then largely political. Gerald Baldasty argues in “The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century” that news costs money to mass produce, and when partisanship began to diminish at the turn of the century, someone had to foot the bill. Enter advertisers. Since the beginnings of the penny press, advertisers have not only made it possible to mass produce the news, but, many say, have shaped the news through their influence over publishers.

    Much like early publishers, bloggers are a partisan lot. “Webster’s Dictionary” defines a partisan as:

    1 : a firm adherent to a party , faction, cause, or person; especially : one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance; and 2 a : a member of a body of detached light troops making forays and harassing an enemy b : a member of a guerrilla band operating within enemy lines.

    That certainly defines most bloggers of today; however, contrary to early publishers, partisanship is not a financial necessity for the survival of blogs. Blogging costs little money and, unlike printing, anyone with access to a computer can do it. However, despite this significant difference, blogs seem to be following a similar path to that of traditional print: they are moving toward advertising. The American Marketing Association in a recent communication with its members wrote:

    “Weblogs, commonly know as blogs, are rapidly gaining momentum and acceptance as credible marketing strategies. Companies are using blogs as customer relationship tools, branding reinforcement, product ideology testing and for creating public relations buzz.”

    However, as blogs enter the mainstream business world, marketers are faced with how to impose a formal structure on blogs including format/strategy, metrics/goals and ROI. If blogging is a legitimate strategy for your company, do you know how to leverage this new media to complement your existing online and offline marketing strategies? What will success mean to your organization?

    Not only are businesses launching blogs of their own, but many advertise on other people’s blogs. It is inevitable that given the right set of circumstances, advertisers will wield as much influence in the blogosphere as they do now in print news. I propose that the issue of marketing infiltration and advertising influence in the blogosphere be included as an addition to the list of challenges presented by the author of this posting.
    January 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterweezy138

    Due to the unfettered interactivity of the Internet, and blogs in particular, the answer to your first question is no; people will not “avail themselves of the various goods” right now. It is too difficult to sift through the endless ramblings of millions of people. However, I believe that the trend will soon shift. Already, Google has developed a way to search specific topics across all blog services (http://www.blogsearch.google.com). In fact, Google went ahead and purchased Blogger (a free blogging service, like Hotmail for emails). I imagine that it is just a matter of time before someone comes up with a new interface – the new “look” for blog surfing (think shopping mall) – which will allow for the competitive marketplace of which you speak. Once this exists, blog surfing will likely resemble the reading of newspapers or watching of television news channels that mirror one’s political views.
    January 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdiversgirl

    As has been pointed out on this blog, recent studies show most of the public tune-in to whichever network or blog most interests them and/or is similar to their political interests. I do agree with Hog79, that some bloggers must step forward and become leaders in this new medium. Despite the potential of an unlimited number of blogs, there must be those, who are reliable to us as the public, to assist the process of determining the daily headlines and political policy.

    I believe the competition of the market will lead to healthy debate, but the idea of civil war, though true on occasion in past history, is not as realistic today. As john444 pointed out, a big difference today compared to the presses of early years is the greater number of current competing ideas. I feel that this point fuels the marketplace for blogs to facilitate platforms for the numerous voices of support or opposition regarding political debate.

    The question of governmental regulation depends on how well blogs police themselves. I do not believe the government will implement a lockdown on blogs just because of disagreement on political issues with the official administration. We do not see that today with the Bush administration’s actions toward CNN or The New York Times (though they would probably like to). I do think we might see government interference if blogs become unchecked and allow the creation and continuous promotion of violent acts or vulgar language that could become a possibility. Citizens would more than likely not be exposed to this kind of speech or communication (debate) in their newspaper or news network. Why should they with this media? As this new and powerful medium continues to grow and become more powerful, this may become something we must think through in how to protect the citizens of this country without interfering with The Constitution and peoples’ rights.
    January 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBigAL1993

    In response to smarin3 and ow1018, it might be beneficial to move away from thinking about what a couple of studies say people are doing with blogs, and consider what people could be doing with blogs.
    Yes, Pew Internet Research studies have shown that people access blogs that primarily align with and reaffirm their political ideology. Yes this is similar to how people access TV networks and get broadcast news. But primarily, I would venture that most people recognize the error and ignorance in such streamlined thinking and consumption habits.
    Obviously someone watching the news is going to learn more and gain a perspective closer to ‘reality’ if they channel-surf between CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-Span. The same applies to accessing a range of blogs, published by people with differing ideologies, and considering their perspectives.
    That’s where the potential lies in blogging. You and I can sit in the comforts of our home and read people’s ‘arguments’ on the social issues of the day. We can read arguments that support our own ideas and with hyperlink technologies do further research to find facts that can strengthen our rhetoric. And, we can read arguments that are completely opposite our own. Without engaging in illogical argument to hold our political ground, we can ‘save face’ and truly consider these opposing points of view. We can even research these ‘opposing points’ and decide for ourselves if maybe we should adopt the same ideas, or figure out why they are illegitimate.
    This free exchange of ideas which fulfills ‘option A’ as laid out in the posting, will only be realized and enacted, though, if people start talking about its potential and hyping it as such. It will only be realized if people look at how to better use this technological communication tool, and then promote the use from there.
    January 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlittle34

    Whether or not the proliferation of different ideas in the blogosphere will induce bloggers (not to mention average Internet surfers) to investigate ideas other than their own is not an easy question to answer. It’s not a question that I can answer for the aggregate population. And others have posted links above to studies supporting both sides of the argument.

    But I think a little history can shed light on PBB/Editor’s other two questions.

    If early “Mercuries” qualify as blog-like communication, then perhaps so does the early press of our own country. Before they were institutionalized as engines of party opinion, early American newspapers were partisan, often rose in reaction to factional debate, and were relatively cheap to produce. Also, the men who printed them usually did so on the side of whatever else they were doing, whether that was selling stationery or sausages (printers like Benjamin Franklin did both).

    The factionalism and heated debate between these papers did not produce permanent fissures or begin civil wars, as did publications in Europe. I think this is because the nature of our political and social system was so different – and still is. Built into our system (not to mention our early American spirit) was the flexibility to react to ideas without having to crush governments or opposing movements. But, I’d like to note, just because blogs may not lead to civil war does not necessarily mean they will lead to healthy debate either. That’s a question we’ve all parsed through in an earlier discussion.

    History also can help is with the question of whether the excesses of blogs will lead to governmental intervention or even censorship. The excesses of early American newspapers led to governmental intervention. Every student of media history knows of the Zenger trial, in which Peter Zenger was tried for libel. During this trial, a jury upheld truth as a defense for libel, even though that idea was not yet a part of common law. They did this contrary to a judge’s orders.

    I think that today, it’s nearly impossible to imagine government censorship on any overt level. Our Consitution simply wouldn’t allow it purely on “speech” grounds. If blog-speech begins to fall into the categories of unprotected speech under the Constitution, they’ll likely be stopped (as they should), but that’s not exactly censorship.
    January 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterrepublic3

    This blog brings up many good questions concerning where individuals will turn to for reliable information. It is only natural for individuals to depend on sources that they are accompanied to. For many, it is unusual to seek out information from blogs, since it is such a new source. They depend on their CNNs, NBC and Newsweek. People will begin to use blogs more with the powerful influence of “word-of-mouth”.
    Word-of-mouth has been around for centuries and is seen as the most productive mean of acquiring information. Marketers are even seeing the advantages of this through the use of blogs. Blogs are a more advanced type of word-of-mouth marketing. According to an article written by Advertising Age’s Jonah Bloom on January 30, 2006, “Word-of-mouth forces a marketer to give up some element of control, letting consumers take over a campaign, and that is an invaluable lesson for all marketers operating in a consumer-controlled world”.
    January 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterQTPi1021

    In response to the challenges that blogs face in the marketplace of ideas: whether or not people will use the marketplace for enrichment and challenging their own opinions and ideas or validate pre-existing prejudices, I think both are present. People will search out new ideas in the marketplace, but the motive may be to back up their initial opinions. Some may wish to challenge their own beliefs, but may still seek validation. On matters where personal opinion is weak, lack of knowledge about a subject or issue, people might use the marketplace for its tools and benefits; however, on matters where there is a pre-existing opinion they may only seek reinforcement.
    Concerning blogs sparking healthy debate or creating a rift, it would seem that the former might exist more than the latter. Not to say that both will not exist concurrently, but that healthy debate may exceed a schism. It would take an issue that is so very clear-cut that one must fall on one side or the other to facilitate a partisan break, and there seems to always be another option than simply either/or.
    Regulation of blogs would be very difficult because the Internet is boundless and global, and restrictions would almost certainly walk the fine line between constitutional and unconstitutional concerning free speech. Regulations, as they exist for pornography, would likely come in the form of protecting minors from speech deemed inappropriate, but still it seems that because the Internet is available to so many, and is adaptable (moving from email correspondence, to research, to personally published blogs) a regulation that is constitutional now, may not be in years to come.
    January 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commentervanguard15

    It seems likely that the uses of blogs will be as varied as the users. Sadly, it does appear that many people choose to read or listen only to those views likely to match their own. But others purposefully seek out other views (sometimes only to attack those views more efficiently). I want to believe, against my own cynical nature, that the truth will emerge during this struggle and will gather the most support. That truth may lead to fissures that permanently change the structure of society, but while those changes might be painful, they might not be inherently bad. One truth I can always trust is that government will attempt to control the medium, especially to prevent such change. But I also have to believe that it will fail. Eventually.
    February 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa7005

    I believe that the majority of us do go beyond our preexisting prejudices to find the best product/service. Although there is a tendency for some to stick to what they’re comfortable with I think the one’s that do their own thinking do find an advantage to the marketplace of ideas. I do believe that the Marketplace of Ideas is the healthiest ways to run a country. There was a change for an obvious reason. Around the 17th century people began to attain education in which turned to enlightenment. John Milton did a great deed in the influence of a free market. The government only has so much it can do. I think if someone wants to post something online that is inappropriate, than legal actions shall be taken or let it be.
    February 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMikeJohn1013

    To me, it is obvious that those who read specific blogs for news read those that are more in line with their own ideas. After all, that seems to be the point of a blog-writing what you believe and hoping like-minded readers will visit. But I do not think that blogs are creating clutter. Today’s media already has a great amount of political bias, If anything, blogs can provide a refreshing perspective in comparison to those of elitist journalist and commentators.

    In terms of censorship, I agree with a previous post-the idea of censorship is too far gone. The amount of effort that would take, first of all, would be extravagant, and the amount of public dissent would be too large to handle. Plus, many important figures in politics have their own blogs. The difference between bloggers today and printers of the past is the value we put on freedom. Our government cherishes it just as much as the people and would not violate it in such a blatant manner.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDover

    I find it hard to believe that blogs and the free expression of ideas could ever lead to anything as drastic as a civil war. I could, however, see this free expression leading some to believe our expression is too free and encouraging censorship. While the attempt of someone to encourage censorship is probable, I believe there are too many people against censorship for this to ever take shape in a big way. Hopefully instead, people will learn to express what they view to be the most important and valid points so that we are not flooded with loads of useless chatter that confuse and clutter up what is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSongbomb21

    This topic is very interesting to me because I was in Washington DC over winter break and visited the Library of Congress where a copy of the Gutenberg Bible is today. The size and detail of this bible is quite impressive and definently deserves a place in our nations history.

    On another note I do not believe blogs in the overcrowded marketplace will ever be censored by the governmen. If the government were to try to stop or censor the conversation on the web they would have to have numerous efforts to regulate it first. The money spent here would probably exhaust the government on such an issue. I also wonder who would regulate it? The FCC? I just do not see this happening in the future.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterte6506

    People get their news from various different news sources. I don’t think that blogging provides a better source of information than news conglomerates, such as CNN or Fox News; rather it provides a different medium. The media, including bloggers, don’t tell us what to think, they tell us what to think about. I also believe that no matter the source, people are still going to avail themselves to preexisting prejudices that confirm their beliefs. I would hope the government wouldn’t censor blogs, but I’m sure their already monitoring them.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjthought87

    I do not think the government should impose a censorship on blogs. Blogging is a matter of opinions and facts. I agree with an earlier post that bloggers are not telling a person what to think, but they tell us what to think about. Certainly different forms of blogging have been around for centuries, but because today technology allows word of mouth to become a greater deal than before, I do not think it gives the government the right to censor freedom of ideas or speech.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbosco

    Using blogs as a reliable source of information is something I have never done. This post offered me a new outlook on retrieving information from blogging. I agree with QTPi1021’s opinion on comparing blogging to the spreading of news by word-of-mouth. Since users are able to post freely, the information presented through blogs should be taken with a lot of research. I appreciate the opinions of others and the marketplace of ideas even though I feel few will be persuaded by those ideas. The reason I have yet to use blogs for news is because I don’t trust them although the concept of looking at news through someone else’s perspective is intriguing. Reading news and opinions of readers on sites such as CNN just takes less time.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCiaoBella

    I think whether we like to admit it or not our media not only has a large impact on our ideas and beliefs and we also seek out those forms of media that tend to follow our beliefs.For instance, in the last election a lot of media was extremely bias depending on which party the majority of their employers and viewers/readers favored. The difference between an election report on MTV as opposed to one on CNN was marginally different (besides the difference in professionalism). I think media and press bias is a continuous loop. There are media outlets that are biased to a certain opinion and can influence viewer/reader opinions and the public seeks out the outlets that match their personal opinions to begin with.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDuke44

    While I don’t think that the expanding marketplace of blogs will lead to civil war, I do think that is getting the attention of the government in other ways. Because blogs have made such an impact in the last few years, the government has taken an interest in monitoring blogs to determine whether or not they contain a threat to any person, place, or thing.

    I do think that sometimes, blogs can provide more timely and specialized information, but along with that comes the opinion (and bias) of the author. Whose to say that blogs are any less biased than our usual news conglomerates? They are packed with not only the opinion of the author, but also comments from anyone in the world. If you are solely relying on either source for news and information, you are choosing the best of the worst. Isn’t it partially the information-seeker’s responsibility to take news from any source with a grain of salt?
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWMJ220

    I find it very interesting that the British periodicals can easily be compared with blogging today. I believe that today people read blogs to not only reconfirm prejudices, but to also find out new information. I am definitely not saying that people only read blogs to reconfirm prejudices. I believe that blogs are a good form of communication in the marketplace. They give people another medium to find out interesting facts and information. Regarding the government being able to censor blogs: I believe this will not happen anytime soon because it is not a priority of the government and it would be very hard for them to do. John Milton would be very impressed with the modern day blog.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdaslonka

    This issue reminds me of an amusing quote from a tv show I used to watch called Futurama. “The Internet is about the free exchange of other people’s ideas”. Obviously blogging and the like are also a way for people to exchange their own, individual ideas, but it is far from ideal.
    In my personal opinion, there is no realistic way to regulate the exchange of news and information. In every media and through any medium people are capable of misinformation, mistakes, lies, or bias.
    The internet is just the biggest, most open forum for everyone to say whatever, true or false, accurate or off. So what do we do? Every individual has to learn to take everything they read, see and hear with a grain of salt, and always check to make sure something is really true before spreading it further, whether they’re taking what they find on the internet and putting it in a book report, sharing what they’ve read with friends, or writing for a newspaper.

    On a side note, if the government ever tried to regulate the internet they would have to either take over everything, which I hope people would not stand for, or they would have an impossible time going through every site, every page, every link, and every message sent over the internet.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdugarte

    I personally do not just seek out the info that confirms what I already believe. I enjoy reading different views on the same topic to better understand. Blogs are written for different reasons and honestly I don’t find them very persuasive in making people take a particular action. Often times I think the authors are just bored or hyper-opinionated and think people want to know what they have to say about a topic/issue. I also don’t think government regulation on blogs is possible. The money and time that it would take to even consider this doesn’t seem worth it.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily87

    I think that blogging is catching on in the cyber world, but it still has many issues that newspapers or pamphlets did in the 1600’s. People always want to have their opinion heard and they usually prefer when others agree with their point of view. I do believe that those who blog are more willing to look up the blogs or commentaries that agree with their viewpoints, nothing is more satisfying than someone saying you are right or that they agree with you.
    The competition in the market is for the most part a healthy debate. Even though Cromwell banned newsbooks other than those who favored the government, it didn’t mean that people weren’t still trying to get their opinions out there. Now, times aren’t even remotely that harsh- after all the US is the home of free expression. A little, or a lot, of debate is good for people. Test your limits and your knowledge by sparring with someone who holds and opposite viewpoint. I don’t think that blogging will result in a civil war- at least let’s hope not.
    As for government regulation against blogs- there have been many cases already trying to prevent or regulate speech in blogs, especially personal ones. Time ad time again, however, the speech wins because the government should not exercise restraint even if what you have to say isn’t pleasing to the government or others.
    February 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersenior.09

    I find it hard to believe that our government would every carry through with such an idea as to censor blogs online. The internet is merely providing a medium for people to express their opinions. Censor it here, and they will go somewhere else to do it. While some people use blogs for negative reasons, others use them to give people another angle of the news, or issues surrounding us. Blogs, just like any other news source, are something people can pick and choose from. You don’t like what this person is saying on their blog? Don’t read it. Again, if government attempts to step in and control blogs, they will begin an endless circle of controlling freedom of speech. You can’t stop people from expressing their opinions…and I believe blogs are one of the safest and non-violent ways a person can do this. Blogs can be a powerful tool. They can bring new ideas to the table, open up someone’s mind to a different way of thinking, teach, allow businesses to utilize the opinions of consumers, etc. It would be a shame to see a tool like this taken away because of the possible misuse.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterinot1987

    a.) I believe people will go to vendors that confirm their preexisting prejudices. I think readers will gravitate toward blogs that reiterate their beliefs, “birds of a feather flock together”. They will search for ideas and opinions that back up their own thinking, so they can fulfill one’s social psychological need to be right and feel good about themselves.

    b.) Because American society has hailed free speech and free expression of opinions for so long, I don’t think blogging could lead to civil war. Expressing one’s opinions is not a new concept; blogging merely provides a new platform to deliver such beliefs.

    c.) I think government or certain groups will want to censor blogs but will be unable to pass legislation that allows them to do so. There is always someone out there who tries to place restrictions on opposing viewpoints, and it’s the judicial system’s job to deem what is unconstitutional. I think blogs would only be censored when it’s a matter of national security.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJayhawk411

    You can’t generalize people into one group. When asking how people get their news, answers vary. Some people like my parents like to get their news from the same place each and every day (KC Star and Fox News). On the other hand, I know a good handful of folks that purposefully pick up a different newspaper whenever they get the chance to, in order to simply get a new view from a different perspective.

    Also, the more competition the better. Think of it as a football team. If you have two good QBs fighting for the starting job, they will push each other to be better. The same can be said for two news sources in the same town.

    Lastly, the government can’t do a whole lot when it comes to censorship, especially on the Internet. The loose reigns that the government has on control over the net coupled with the strength of the First Amendment will keep freedom of blogs, and the press, safe.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersunshine

    Today, it is not just the difference in the greater number of current competing ideas (in reference to john444’s comment) there is a huge difference in the time it takes for ideas to reach a mass number of people. The Internet, through blogs and outlets such as Twitter, allows people to share their opinions, experiences, and thoughts instantaneously to a mass amount of people. In addition, readers can respond/reply/post instantaneously with their own ideas- whether they agree or disagree with the original ideas. Yes, I believe that people will naturally gravitate toward info that reaffirms their own beliefs, but that they will also want to defend their beliefs by going to opposing beliefs sites and voicing their differing opinions. Today, the interactive two-way street that blogging provides is what separates it from history’s forms of mass communication. I believe that this is a positive evolution of mass communication and a healthy outlet for debate.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKUkris1

    I believe that people tend to visit blogs that cater more to their own beliefs, because it’s comfortable for them. However, I think it is good to visit blogs that have different opinions because it can spawn healthy debate, hence the marketplace of ideas theory. I don’t think that blogging could lead to a civil war, people are capable of agreeing to disagree.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteraimsk09

    The blogosphere really is a marketplace of ideas, a place where ANYONE can give their two cents. The questions asked in this post explore the possible negative effects copious amounts of blogging could have on society. While there certainly are some negative things that could happen on account of blogs, the ability for the public to have such a strong voice, one that the whole world can see and one that is able to impact the decisions and actions of companies, organizatoins and worldwide leaders, is not just an ability but a right that should not be taken away by any government.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwachashi

    This blog post brings up many ideas and does an excellent job in showing just how much things have changed with the creation of mass communication. Before mass communication it was possible to get in trouble for merely printing the ideas of someone else that the government did not like. Today however, it is possible to publish your own ideas very easily and allow access to many people to see your thoughts. I think that people generally do a good job of remaining aware of what is going on and open to new ideas. The marketplace of ideas is more and open forum today rather than a means of inciting violence. Before everyone had the opportunity to express ideas freely, because of limited technology, what little thoughts were published enraged people. Today however, most consumers know that what they read is something they can just easily publish a counter argument to. I think government regulation should not be used unless violence and riots are starting. While the world wide web should be monitored, regulation and censorship should not start until there is an imminent threat of clear and present danger.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJacquelann

    I think that it is true that people tend to seek blogs and media outlets that do confirm their beliefs. It is just natural. However, I think the news media is starting to take baby steps in making an even greater effort to present both sides and I think it is becoming a more widely known necessity. Blogs however, are way more unlikely to present both sides. They are based on the authors beliefs so that is most likely going to be the majority of the context.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBuster

    This is an interesting blog because it shows the progression of printing different opinions. I can see why the newspapers of the past would be compared to a modern blog, so it makes me wonder how credible their sources were way back then. If people only had enough money to buy one paper, they might believe one person’s false opinion. Today we are able to get our news for many multi-media but it doesn’t mean that some of it isn’t false as well. Clearly if somebody was to tune into one news station that was Pro Israel and a different news station that was Pro Palestine, the news is going to be slightly different in favor of one group over another. I think that is scary because people might never know the truths about what is going on in the world. For example how Palestinians started this war, yet Israelis are being blamed by some news stations, newspapers, magazines, and even countries. How are people supposed to know what is really going on when they are only hearing somebody’s opinion.
    I do think that blogs are a good thing. They allow people to speak their opinion freely, with the knowledge that they might be scrutinized or idolized for their opinion. But thats just it, it is only one person’s opinion and people need to keep that in mind.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersugar086

    Blogs are a great way to send a message out to a mass group of people. It is a form of expression that should not be censored by the government. It is exciting to look through blogs and seek other opinions and comment. It opens up discussions that may not have been possible. People tend to surround themselves with people like them — blogs give us the opportunity to express our opinions with complete strangers. It would be wrong of the government to ban this right. As for using blogs as a reliable source, since anyone can post a blog it is extremely wise to be careful. Never take anyone’s opinion as fact, especially when you do not know who is on the other side of the screen.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkew27

    Blogs help fuel the fire between different political parties that fight for media outlets. We know certain political biases lie with different conglomerates, blogs are no different. As far as the marketplace of ideas goes consumers have come to trust only other consumers, which takes the power away from the provider. With this in mind blogs are a necessary freedom linked to the economy.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermegs527

    As many students have already said, I think the uses for blogs depends on the user. Everyone is entitled to read what interests them, and for many, I think they enjoy controversial issues that they may not agree with. I do think that blogs are leading to more clutter on the internet, but it doesn’t matter to those who don’t blog. It is easy to avoid reading blogs if it doesn’t interest the reader.
    Although it may be necessary for government to censor these blogs, I highly doubt that will actually happen. There is just too much on the internet to be able to censor it all.If governement begins to restrict specific blogs, they will have to move through every OISM and regulate when can and cannot be said. That is just too much work and money.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLMP316

    In today’s day and age I couldn’t see blogging creating a civil war or a war in general. I think that the fact that we have the technology and freedom to express ourselves and opinions is a gift more than a responsibility. Yes there are some people that are listened to more than others and yes these people have a blog but I don’t think a blog is something that could effect the masses. I also don’t believe that government would play a role in blogging because ultimately it’s freedom of speech. Long live the queen…of blogging
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfabi.f.babi

    The only thing that can be more time-consuming for people besides writing blogs is actually regulating blogs. In fact, how important is blogging anyway? If there are so many viewpoints out there, how do you have time to observe all of them? You can’t. Only “opinion leaders” have well-read blogs. This gravitation toward a few opinion leaders answers part b) of this post. People will simply prefer the ideas/blogs they already agree with. They simply don’t have time to absorb all of the other possible outlets. The amount of blogs and information that exists is cluttered. This brings me back to another concept in the actual voting process. There is always this idea that the common man does not know enough about politics to have a well-placed vote. Therefore, many ideas have existed in our country that places the voting power into hands of a few “select people rather than the masses.

    I think regulation of blogs should be the same regulations of the Internet that already exists. What else is to change?
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdude.hey

    a) I believe that people will do both. Although many people will go to the venders that confirm their prejudices a lot more frequently than those venders that conflict with their ideas. It is important to know all sides of an argument to participate in a valid discussion. I might be a bit too optimistic that the public will want to see all sides because there will definitely be people that do not. These people can pollute the discussion making it less effective.

    b) I do not believe that the competition of the market will lead to permanent fissures because I am hopeful that an overall truth will prevail from discussion. On tough issues, compromises can be made with the help of the marketplace. Although, this new market place of ideas mainly reaches the population on one side of the digital divide who have the resources to participate. This can potentially cause problems when people do not have access to all ideas, opinions and facts.

    c) I believe that the governments involvement is not out of the question at least if you are looking at the history of censorship in America. If the country is in a state of fear because of a war, then the government will likely find a way to censor and regulate the marketplace of blogs. I don’t believe that the government should regulate or censor blogs but I don’t feel that there is a potential for it to do so.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergretzky99

    In the early years of the printing press, as described in this post, only those who were able to afford the cost of printing their ideas (such as political factions and wealthy idealists) could do so. Today, however, anyone with internet access has the ability to share their ideas with their own blog. With an overabundance of blogs to choose from, it has now become more of a battle of eye-pleasing design and word of mouth street cred than actual content that will allow a blog to become influential with its presence. It will be these elite blogs that have the power to sway readers from their pre-tailored blogs so that they may be exposed to new ideas and information.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBananagrams

    I don’t think blogs are necessarily the answer to news and people should not rely on them for accurate information. The television news stations are there for a reason. The fact that the information posted on blogs is not censored raises a concern to me. I think the government should somewhat regulate the information, or inform people about the use of blogs in general.
    February 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterK523

    As time passes, there are more and more techniques that can share people’s opinions like blogs. These different viewpoints may affect the normal life in many ways, including the economic system. However, the words in the blog should not be believed totally, just treat it as reference. Usually, I just watch blog to find if there are some creative ideas since there are thousands of people that give their opinion and then come out with my own idea. I do not use the blog as reliable sources. I think most people will do the same thing as me, so I don’t think that the blog will lead to serious effects like civil war.
    January 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterwhite lily

    One of the most intriguing parts of the history was Mercuries was that they and other forms of print were eventually outlined. I think that ultimately the Internet will be monitored if not policed. I do not believe that America will go as far a China as far as censorship goes but I believe that the government will someday blog certain pages from being viewed by the public. The whole WikiLeaks scandal is just the first domino in a series of events that will force the government to instate specific policies about what can and cannot be put up online based on national security.

    If these policies are introduce though the budget for running a program like this would be huge. It would pretty much take a small army of staff to even attempt to police the Internet. As long as there is an Internet there will be people uploading and downloading whatever type of info they want.
    January 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRedYeti

    Competition is healthy in every aspect of life; it’s why we, as human beings, are here today. A simple analogy such as a relationship (couples) can better explain why debate is imperative. If one partner has the “nuts” as I like to call it, and everything that one person says goes, how is that relationship? It certainly isn’t healthy, and it probably won’t last long either. Also, the difference between today and yesteryear, as this article relates, is that many people back then were illiterate. Civil wars today, arguably take place in third world countries where either a) illiteracy is high b) government is totalitarian or c) both a and b. I’m not saying it can’t happen in the U.S. because it can and if it did, social media would play a major role. However, going back to the aforementioned analogy, sometimes a split is for the best.
    January 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdabber28

    I really enjoyed the comparison Perlmutter made between the different generations and their use of media for purposes in politics. He made the point that the similarities of men throughout history were to get their message out to a large number of people and how they all did it in a very similar way despite the ever-changing technology. The examples used (Martin Luther and the Printing Press, Franklin Roosevelt and the Radio, Howard Dean and the internet) were really able to support this idea. The comparison Perlmutter mentioned on how the periodicals were blog like, along with the fireside chat, helps tie just how similar all these men were in their techniques. The current trend is the use of internet and with the continuing change in technology, I can’t wait to see what the main media outlet will be in 50 years.
    January 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbobbie

    In early parts of history, the printing press only allowed the political ideas and opinions of those who could afford to print their ideas, so it was hardly a marketplace of ideas. However, with the evolution of blogs, the blogosphere has become a strong marketplace of ideas, since anyone has access to read and write them. The blogosphere of today, however, brings unprecedented competition for attention, which gives way to fear of an all out battle for ideas. However the notion that anyone in society, whether it be a journalist with a blog, or someone with no political credentials whatsoever can have a voice and opinion is such a benefit to society that it outweighs the negative aspect of battle to death for ideas.
    January 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGQHawkeyes12

    In this article, I feel like the main point emphasized was blogs as the battle of ideas. This may become a democratic revolution in the media. Some questions are raised at the end surrounding blogging and how the influence of massive amounts of opinions will hurt or restrict political communication today. I feel as though blogging is a welcome relief to many who are wary about the validity and accuracy of modern 24-hour news programs. Bloggers who get it right are well informed and have researched specific topics thoroughly. I think with any medium of communication some people will make a strong impact and positively influence society, and on the other hand, Snooki can write a book. I think this is the perfect example of how society can differentiate trustworthy bloggers vs. people in their basements. I am excited to see how media will adapt and change with this new technology, and I think it will be a good thing.
    January 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShea

    Blogs with edited comments and forums with moderated discussions have created countless auditoriums, each with an infinite seating capacity to host John Milton’s open debates. Shouldn’t we be seeing measurably more results on our capacity for producing truth? Literally millions of modern scribblers are getting only a fraction of the potential audience to tune in, take their message and turn it around secondhand.

    I think the marketplace of ideas has become a megaplex of opinion, and we’re still seeing whether human ingenuity can create outlets where the increased output is rewarded.

    Modern web analyst tools and tech may answer some of the questions you posed in 2005 about converging or diverging points of views represented online. I think the sheer amount of personal data from Facebook and Twitter will ultimately provide some conclusive science on online dialogue, provided the nature of that dialogue is not restricted or dramatically changed too quickly.

    I think in the case of some deeply entrenched divisions, particularly political issues, we see more people dropping out of debates (or never participating) out of fear of unified opposition. I’d say more so now than in 2005.
    January 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhanging_chad

    I do not think that it is possible, in the long run, for governments to regulate or censor the “marketplace of ideas” that is the blogosphere. In 17th century England, the printing presses to publish political works were not widely available, but today the technology to create blogs is completely ubiquitous. The internet is a worldwide digital entity; it is not possible to physically confiscate writing that the government disproves of. Another complicating factor is the complexity of international law. It is possible for a blogger to live in one country and host their blog on a server located in another country, making it difficult to figure out which country’s jurisdiction should be applied if a case were to be brought to court.

    Additionally, freedom of speech is seen as one of the cornerstones of a democracy. I believe that an attempt by a democratic government to regulate or censor political blogs would ultimately be more damaging than letting the blogosphere regulate itself. Even in a case like WikiLeaks, which has ramifications on national security, the public is deeply divided over whether Julian Assange should be prosecuted and there has been backlash over his arrest. Any attempts at a wholesale crackdown would only be a recipe for disaster.
    January 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSan

    Blogs today have come to fill a much needed void in the marketplace of ideas available to the public. As biased as most mainstream media outlets such as Fox News and MSNBC are, they generally report on mostly the same issues and incidents, merely with their particular brand of interpretation. While people will generally tend towards sources of information that reinforce their own convictions, at a minimum the advent of blogging has and will continue to open new avenues for debate on issues that are too frequently ignored (for whatever reasons) by nearly all mainstream sources. Using the marketplace analogy, the more installations or choices that are available to people in a market the more successful the market or society will be. Whether people tend to gravitate only towards vendors that tout their own convictions or not, at the very least blogs allow for more destinations of information and discussion of ideologies that are less than mainstream.
    January 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAshnak

    The marketplace model of blogosphere today does certainly present challenges. People do have a tendency to gravitate towards what reinforces their current beliefs, it is a natural social reaction. Despite the fact that people are getting their information from a source that frames the news in a particular way, the sheer mass of blogs is encouraging that citizens do care about their government and are taking it upon themselves to form an opinion and, like Luther and his theses, disseminate that information. With so many information outlets available in the form of blogs that the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the news consumers. Readers of mercuries and blogs have needed to utilize their own judgement and be proactive consumers of the media. Yes, it is most comfortable to expose oneself to familiar material, but individuals who want to best understand the political climate know that the best offense is a good defense. Seeing more than one perspective can never hurt, and blogs provide the opportunity for individuals to become better informed which could potentially create an arena for positive political debate.
    Although this is potential, it may not be probable. The concept of a fissure is valid. The internet is still ‘young’ and yet in a very short amount of time it has revolutionized modern society. If it has already so hugely changed life in the short term, the long term ripple effect of the internet on the political sphere creates troubling uncertainty.
    I do not for see government interference, regardless of how many blogs there are. The First Amendment promises the right to free speech and press. In the highest tier of governmental protection for free speech is that which acts as a watchdog to the government. Prior restraint of any kind is unconstitutional, with the rare exceptions of national security. In addition, as Supreme Court case Reno v. ACLU determined, The Internet has full First Amendment protection and any interference would directly violate the constitution.
    January 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpbloguiowa

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