What are blogs good for?

tobias has a great post up about blogging. I don’t take issue with the thesis of the post, but there’s something there that I’ve been thinking about:

Blogs tend to not express or reflect on political action, taken or organised by the blogger; rather, the act of writing the blog is considered to be political and active in itself. Blogs are not reports. This is not a new position–it is the turf of the political writer (Voltaire, Rousseau, etc.).

This does indeed seem to be the position taken by many, probably most, political bloggers. However, I doubt that blogging is a particularly effective political act.
What has changed since the times of pamphlets is not just the speed of publication, but also the amount of information. I don’t really see the web as a very effective tool for propaganda and persuasion, except for perhaps the very most popular of web sites.
I don’t think indy Media or American Samizdat are going to win a lot of people over to progressive causes. Nor do I think Little Green Footballs is going to lure a lot of people over to neo-conservative views. But, what American Samizdat can do is serve as a medium for communication between “the converted.” It’s a great place to share information. The blogosphere in general serves as a way to share ideas and discuss them, but is limited to a fairly small audience. The real work of activism must come from other activities, and blogging is not an effective political act, and shouldn’t kid ourselves about it. That doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.
Did the Dean blog or Meetup really serve as ways to recruit new people to the Dean campaign? Maybe a few, but I think the real recruitment happened in the streets and in the big media. What meetup and the blogs did was organize, solidify, and inform the group. That is what blogs and the web in general are good for.

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