Can the Clintons Harness the Blogs? (USA Today)

I wrote this essay for USA Today in response to a meeting between leftbloggers and former President Bill Clinton at his Harlem headquarters. Along with my forthcoming book, BLOGWARS, it argues that blogging has “arrived” in politics today. Politicians and political professionals (as well as journalists and media workers) are “blogging up,” and trying to figure out how to use blogs in their business.

Note: One of the big differences between your own blog and writing for the mainstream press is that you get edited by the latter–something I always accept (along with a check!). So, for example, I wrote the piece just after the blog lunch, but it was not printed until now because the paper wanted to put it closer to the election, which made sense. In any case, the original is below. A few lines that were cut–mostly for reasons of length–are now restored.

How will the Clintons harness the political force of the blog?

By David D. Perlmutter

USA Today, Monday October 2, 2006

A few weeks ago, Bill Clinton went to the blogs. Now the political world may never be the same.

While blogging has caught on all over the country for would-be aldermen and sitting governors, presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton still does not blog—or at least not much. However, her husband’s two-hour lunch at his Harlem headquarters with a number of prominent leftbloggers such as Atrios, Matt Stoller from MyDD, Daily Kos’ McJoan and John Aravosis from Americablog may signal an innovative commitment to blogging for the office of commander-in-chief. [Read more…]

Live from the Front Lines–The (Blogged) Words of War

Update: The Interview on podcast.

Another example of blogging morphing with other media:

The Press release from BlogTalkRadio:

Tuesday October 17, 2006 – On October 19th at 7 PM est., Scott Kesterson an embedded reporter with the US Army’s 41st Brigade in Afghanistan will be calling in live to for a one on one interview with David Perlmutter.

This is Scott’s first live interview since being embedded at the beginning of March 2006. Scott will be discussing what is going on in Afghanistan behind the scenes and on the front lines. From his first hand experiences alongside our solders during battle armed with only a camera, to filming our troops training of the Afghanistan National Guard.

Interviewing Scott will be David D. Perlmutter; David is a professor and associate dean for graduate studies and research in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications at the University of Kansas. He writes regularly for the Chronicle of Higher Education and has published over 130 opinion essays for U.S. and international newspapers. In addition, he is frequently interviewed by wire services, newspapers, magazines, and television media such as the New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, Reuters, UPI, the AP, and ABC News as well as featured in a number of documentaries .

How to tune into The Words of War. [Read more…]

The Boss Is Watching Your Blog!

On the heels of the HP corporate scandal is a timely article from Annalee Newitz of the news service, which explores blogs in the context of employee monitoring. The concept of companies monitoring their employees to ensure productivity is not new, but the relatively quick ascendancy of the blog as a medium demonstrates that innovation has once again outpaced legislation.

Mainstream media has widely reported that the line between public and private spheres is being blurred with the steady evolution of the pda. But today’s companies are taking things a few steps further, as Newitz notes, “log into work computers from home and employers can track what blogs you create, sign into or post to, or what you write on newsgroups, even outside work hours.” Suddenly the blog begins to look less like an outlet for personal expression and more like a minefield of potential missteps disallowing employment or advancement.

The National Workrights Institute (NWI) in Princeton states that current laws enable US companies to legally watch everything employees do. Only two states require prior notification of surveillance. The very same laws that prevent companies from eavesdropping on personal phone calls do not extend to the internet. Employees are, to an extent, given free reign to use the phone for personal calls, but are given no such protection for using the internet over their lunch break – the screens viewed and the words typed are all fair game. As Jeremy Gruber, legal director of NWI, puts it, “legislatures are slow to address changes in technologies. There’s simply been no federal response to the problem of computer monitoring.” [Read more…]

Remnants from Rumsfeld: The War of Ideas

a.k.a. “Bush and Rumsfeld and Iraq and Troops and “Terror! or Insurgen!” and “Mess”

In what was dubbed a “referendum on Iraq,” voters in the midterm elections were characterized in mainstream media as casting votes not necessarily for a particular candidate, but against the war in Iraq. And while in some cases such a blanket statement is inaccurate, the very fact that it is was mentioned with such recurring frequency suggests it played a materially significant role.

The GOP was battered with barbs from both the right and the left in the weeks leading up to the election. The generic charge was that they were “out of touch” with reality. One of the chief targets of criticism was the recently-retired Donald Rumsfeld. In what may be viewed as an appropriate parting gift, The BBC reported the Department of Defense established a new program at the Pentagon to “boost its ability to counter ‘inaccurate’ news stories and exploit new media.”

The program is designed to counter “inaccurate” stories and is said to target “weblogs and…employ ‘surrogates,’ or top politicians or lobbyists who could be interviewed on TV and radio shows.” Rumsfeld had commented earlier this year that he was concerned about “the enemy” manipulating the media, calling it “the thing that keeps me up at night.” [Read more…]

The Daily Blog

As a longtime viewer of both shows, it is both surprising and easy to understand why The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have garnered such a large and loyal following. They utilize a methodology that is familiar to bloggers: filtering through a number of “news stories” and providing a provocative caption for the action. The back-to-back shows have become “must see TV” for many viewers that are dissatisfied with mainstream sources of information, again a common reason that people flock to blogs for insight.

The current issue of The Rolling Stone features Stewart and Colbert on the cover, bearing the title “America’s Anchors.” The interview itself demonstrates the utter ease with which the duo uncovers the humor of any situation, from the moment that Maureen Dowd set the recorder down: “’I had one like that in 1973,’ Colbert notes. ‘I thought it was a chaise,’ Stewart says. ‘I was going to lie down on it. I suppose there are two gerbils in there slowly paddling, and that’s moving the wheel.’” Wrote Dowd, “He asks if I also brought a calligrapher.”

Just this week, The Daily Show made note of CNN’s interviews with various bloggers at a so-called “blog party.” Clearly amused by the situation, Stewart commented that the occasion was short on “party” and long on “blogging,” and enjoyed that CNN was asking a blogger about blogging who was at a blog party, following it up with the comment that they would probably “talk about the interview on their blog later.”

And while there are certainly “fan sites” for both shows, there is actually a bona fide blog for fans of The Colbert Report which was established “to aggregate topical news articles and buzz from the blogosphere featuring Stephen Colbert into a comprehensive web site, as well as to feature archived articles, videos and other files for reference and educational purposes.” [Read more…]

Zombietime, Blogs, and the Anti-War Movement


As of this writing in winter 2006, there is a paradox in American politics. On the one hand, we are fighting an unpopular war in Iraq–at least as measured by public opinion polls. (See below for more on this complex question.) On the other hand, there is no visible large-scale anti-war movement in the traditional sense. Many explanations are possible for such a seeming contradiction. Practically speaking, the lack of a draft relieves most young people of a sense of personal connection to the struggle in Iraq. But the Internet in general and blogs in particular have provided an outlet for activism and for creating organizational links between people distant from each other in space but sympathetic in politics, so that one could make a case that there is simply no longer a need to take to the streets. Perhaps the “whole world” is marching and watching via blogs, YouTube, Facebook and MySpace?

But there is another side to the story of war-related Internet activism: the propagation of the anti-anti-war cause. Proving that all blogging is global, the blogger “Zombie” of the blog Zombietime specializes in posting photographs taken at anti-war and anti-Bush protests, mainly in the San Francisco area. Images of men and women parading as skeletons, as suicide-bombers, bare-breasted or in drag, and sporting signs such as “Lesbians for Palestine,” “I love NY even more without the World Trade Center,” “Death to America,” and “Bush must Die” or variations thereof find gleeful reposting or hyperlinking throughout the conservative bloglands. Perhaps once upon a time a group of naked middle-aged and old people marching in Berkeley in support of “breasts, not bombs” would have attracted little or no press attention except locally. (This particular demonstration was indeed covered only in the alternative left press of San Francisco.) Among rightblogs, however, these images are repeated, discussed, and referred to as decisive visual evidence of, as one rightblogger put it, “the freaks and kooks” that make up the anti-war movement. Can blogging make or unmake a social movement? For the answer, watch the blogs, not the streets!

To cast further light on these phenomena I interviewed by e-mail “Zombie” of “Zombietime.” [Read more…]

BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2007 Presentations

This week I am presenting at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo, 2007 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas. I will moderate two panels. Created by blogger Rick Calvert, BW will be the first business expo to showcase blogging as well as the other interactive “new” media. The array of talents and sponsors is impressive.

The first panel , on Thursday, Nov. 8 will focus on “The Power of Political Blogosphere.” The scheduled panelists include: Hugh Hewitt, Pam Spaulding, Dave Nalle, Taylor Marsh, and Brad Friedman.

On Friday, Nov. 9, I will moderate “Political Blogs Vs. The Political Press” featuring John Hinderaker, Brad Freidman Mary Katharine Ham, and Taylor Marsh.

Here are the current drafts of my presentations.


Originally posted November 6, 2007 at PolicyByBlog

Should Book Authors Blog?

I begin my new Oxford University Press book BLOGWARS by claiming, only half facetiously, that there are good reasons not to write a book on political blogs and the rise of interactive social media’s role in campaigns, elections, and public affairs and policy-making. My analogy is that d escribing political blogging in a book that took three years to research and write and another year to publish is like reporting a NASCAR race with stone tablets. I think I captured the origins of politicking via social media like blogs (and now YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) through October 2007, and so far my predictions of the 2008 race have been pretty good. New stuff is happening so fast, though, that it’s hard to keep up.

But that is the point: A blogger’s work is never done, nor, I hope, is that of a student of blogs. Bloggers cannot coast or rest on their laurels; their readers will abandon them or, worse, ask why they are failing them. Blogs are always unfinished, their work always to be continued, revised, and extended later. Books are supposed to be different. In a sense all books are orphans. Only in some screwball comedy movie is it possible for an author to change his mind and run into bookstores and add new material.

With BLOGWARS, however, Oxford Press’ author’s blog and the Internet allow me to “follow up” in a way that previous generations of authors could only do in second editions. In a way, it has to be so. The age of the author writing the non-fiction book and walking away from her re aders is dead: long live the afterpost! I say this knowing it is against the instincts of most authors, including me: When I finish a book (BLOGWARS is my seventh) I want to walk away and be done with it…but that model of authorship can’t sustain itself anymore. If you want to write non-fiction nowadays you have to keep writing it long after the bookstores have your tome on the shelf. [Read more…]

Emergency Twitter: A Case of Possibilities

Sharing information quickly: that’s a basic aspect of blogging or any other new social interactive media. A good example of the positive possibilities of such a rapid dispersal of data comes from Jim Groom, who is an instructional-technology specialist and adjunct professor at the University of Mary Washington. He was attending a presentation at the University of Richmond when suddenly, the campus experienced a lockdown after a report that a gunman had been sighted at the library. At the time Groom was in a basement room and could not get a cell phone signal–he could however twitter, the short-blog format venue where you can quickly upload 140 character messages.

He describes his twitter “tweets” in his blog after the events…

“I had no internet access on my laptop, and asked Tom to log me into a UR computer so that I could get a sense what was going on. I went immediately to Twitter, as did several other folks from UR who were holed up in a different computer lab. It was bizarre gauging what was going on through their tweets, almost a sixth sense. Soon enough, I started tweeting what was going on in the room (as did others) , and I found the act to be really soothing. People at UR were sharing information and giving advice to one another, while the larger network from around the world was sending regards, prayers, questions, and their well wishes. I had a very powerful sense that those “others” were there with us from beyond that lab, or even the UR campus. I can’t fully explain why that felt so good, someone even offered a Safety dance from abroad, nothing like a laugh during a moment of untold strangeness.” [Read more…]

State of Visual Communications Research (AEJMC 2008)

Another presentation that touched on political blogs:

David D. Perlmutter. “The State of Visual Communications Research.” Presentation to a luncheon of the Visual Communication Division of the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication at the Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Ill., August 8, 2008.

Originally posted August 18, 2008 at PolicyByBlog