Do political bloggers make a difference?

Hi everyone. Lots of new Daily Email sign-ups… Rachid in Oakland, Sean in Las Vegas, Darrin in Nebraska, Jane in Pennsylvania, Scott in Tennessee, Melissa in Boston, Jennifer in LA, Sandra in Florida, Rachel in California, Cynthia in Ohio, Kat in Minneapolis and Dawn in Portland. Not forgetting Ola in Kampala, Chris in Brussels and Adam in London.


I visited the Jeremy Vine show today on the UK’s most listened to station Radio 2, which is why I’m a little late posting this. Sorry.

So what impact do political bloggers have?…

As time is running short, I’ll keep this brief.Fouad al-Farhan is Saudi Arabia’s most popular blogger and last month he was arrested. His case has been taken up by over 200 Saudi bloggers. The Independent newspaper in the UK believes attempts by the Saudi authorities to intimidate their online critics is in fact had the reverse effect, and says ‘it will be fascinating to see where this online insurrection ends’. Nowhere fast appears to be the reply of a number of blogger critics.

The gist of their argument is that lots of blogs and ready by almost no-one, and that if you look at countries like China, Burma and Saudi Arabia the impact that they’re having is negligible.

So today, we’ll try and gauge the influence of the thousands of political bloggers. Do they make a difference in your country?

44 Responses to “Do political bloggers make a difference?”

  1. January 14, 2008 at 16:37

    Political bloggers matter because the mainstream media does not have the power it once had. Many people believe the mainstream media are simply representatives of the businesses that own them, and feel the need to look elsewhere to find that alternative point of view.
    These bloggers present a wild-card style of option because they don’t operate under the same requirements the media has.
    What I love the most, and what I think is the best thing these people bring is the defensiveness they spark in the “established” media.
    I still hear the same, tired argument from the mainstream about journalistic ethics and how these “fringe” people can’t be trusted.
    I think the popularity of the bloggers should be yet another reason for the media to take a look in the mirror.

  2. 2 ZK
    January 14, 2008 at 17:00

    Over here, you need to register with the government for a permit to blog about Singapore politics, I believe.

  3. 3 rosatkins
    January 14, 2008 at 17:06

    Hi Ross,

    Apology accepted from my end regarding your excuse for your lateness.

    It is a very difficult thing to say that blogs do not have the desire effect on the politics of their various countries. Here in Liberia there are a very few of us who engage in the business of blogging. But the internet as a medium of exchange of information really served to bring to the world’s attention the situation in my country during the tyranny of Charles Taylor. It also served as a space for engendering a vibrant debate during the electoral exercise of 2005 that brought the present government to power.

    But the impact of the blogging society on politics, and even the general interest of many has wanned when it comes to the debate on politics.

    The Independent newspaper may be right in its intimation that most blogs are read by a very few people. But I doubt that that should be the reason why they should not be taken seriously.

    Lamii Kpargoi
    Initiative for Mobile Training of Community Radio, Liberia

  4. 4 Brett
    January 14, 2008 at 17:13

    I believe that in some instances, political bloggers can make a difference. However, the sheer number that post and often times just rant makes it hard to gain a strong reader base who will actually pay attention. And as the internet is a huge forum for online arguing in the blogging community, I believe it just is an outlet for people to express their opinions.
    It does offer an alternative to mainstream media, but the blogging community is just so vast, its hard to get heard or even paid any attention.
    It is often difficult to check facts on what is posted on the internet as anyone can post anything they want regardless of whether it is fact or fiction. I also think the anonyminity of the internet plays a large role in it not being taken as seriously as mainstream tv / print / radio media.

    I guess in short, political bloggers CAN make a difference, but it is hard to make any impact given the sheer number of people out there blogging away.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  5. 5 John D. Anthony
    January 14, 2008 at 17:30

    The first requirement of any democracy is participation and any medium that allows more people to participate is a good thing.

    John in Salem

  6. 6 Bekele Woyecha, United Kingdom
    January 14, 2008 at 17:54

    In countries where freedom of press is at the mercy of dictators, political bloggers have bigger roles. They take the roles of the press and criticise wrong doings and praise the good ones. They are also sources of information, which are even used by the media. Yet these bloggers have to move from place to place as they are under close surveillance by the security forces of dictatorial regimes.

  7. 7 Ken
    January 14, 2008 at 18:08

    I do think political bloggers matter – The big picture supplied by traditional media outlets becomes far more detailed when bloggers can add their first hand experiences to the mix.

    Ken in Cleveland

  8. 8 Masaido
    January 14, 2008 at 18:09

    Hi Ros,

    Most bloggers, especially political bloggers don’t reveal their true identities when commenting on a critical topic.
    In this part of the world, bloggers have no effects on society. They go about writing and writing but words without action will lead us nowhere. Look at my country, the DRC, do you think anything would change if I started posting my views on a popular blog? Not at all!


  9. January 14, 2008 at 18:11

    As much as I hate to admit it, political bloggers rarely make a difference. I have no illusions that my blog is changing any opinions. The people who agree with me occasionally write and tell me, “I agree”. The people who don’t agree, rarely get past the opening paragraph before they move on.

    I doubt that anybody has ever for example thought, “The US invasion of Iraq was right and justified.” Then read my many brilliant counterpoints to those assertions, and then caused that reader to say, “Wow, I was wrong, the war was wrong, and there should be somebody held accountable for the incompetence.”

    I write them to make me feel better. At best I may hope to affirm the mind of somebody who was already leaning my way. Its influence at best is “viral”.

    Long thought, reasoning, and logic are rarely what guides peoples political views. Region, peer group, and family are more influential to a persons political identity.


  10. 10 Jon Liew
    January 14, 2008 at 18:13

    Blogging has become a powerful tool. It used to something that was used as a normal place to write and rant our daily activities. But now, it has became a tool in which people voice at their concern especially in the area of politics. Since people can’t express or voice out their opinions in public, the change has gone to blogging to do so.

    I believe that political bloggers should be allowed to voice out how they feel over certain issues or policies that affect them in their heart. However, with that said, it means that bloggers must be “street smart” in the ways they blog. They should put it in a way that brings across their point that isn’t over aggressive towards the parties involved.

    Political bloggers do have power indeed. Though I haven’t seen or heard within my region, I still believe they can have the potential to change certain policies in which the common consensus agree to. From a bloggers perspective, I feel that there is no way that you can “shut them out”. Once you jail one in the case of Fouad al-Farhan, it will just add fuel to a growing fire. More would just “rebel” and voice out their opinions even more.

    In conclusion, political bloggers can potentially influence changes in government related issues and policies. However, political bloggers should still be tactful with their words and their opinions.

    Take care and Best Regards WHYS!

    Jonathan from Singapore.

  11. 11 John D. Anthony
    January 14, 2008 at 18:21

    I’d like to add to my previous post….
    When the governments of Saudi Arabia and China arrest bloggers for their opinions it reveals the fear they have of their own people. They may think they are protecting the state, but in truth every arrest weakens their power.

    John in Salem

  12. January 14, 2008 at 18:22

    If a democracy permits it and a dictatorship denies it; none of it matters unless people READ IT!

    How many people read more than just 1 comment before posting?

    Seeing something inflammatory and reacting is not a discussion (just reading Steve’s posts for instance). In order to accomplish anything there has to be a united voice for agreement and disagreement. In order to find the truth you must have the courage to form an opinion.

  13. 13 Fanwell
    January 14, 2008 at 18:24

    In zambia political bloggers have no influence since very few people have access to the internet.

  14. 14 Mohammed Ali
    January 14, 2008 at 18:24

    Here it is becoming increasingly interesting to note that political bloggers are having some level of influence on the body politics of Liberia.

    Now in Liberia bloggers have the opportunity to express their views and opinions on matters affecting the state of affairs of our country. And not only that they express their views but those views are listen to by the government.

    In short i am supporting the fact that political bloggers are having some degree of impact on politics.

  15. 15 Johnson via text message
    January 14, 2008 at 18:25

    Those who will attack free speech will stop at nothing to silence alternative views. Bloggers are doing a great job and should not give up. Johnson, Nigeria.

  16. January 14, 2008 at 18:27

    I think it is important that people with strong political opinions still pursue mainstream political writing jobs and journalism degrees if possible. I am a TV Producer and personally believe in try to change things inside the system when possible. I am worried a about a ‘brain drain’ when talented people no longer believe that they should try to get involved with some of our bigger institutions.

  17. January 14, 2008 at 18:33

    I like to talk about Italy. Even though freedom of speak is not in doubt, italian media are not objective and independent as it should.

    The network has recentely brought up 2 movements that received very little attention on the mainstream media: a proposed referendum about the electoral law (the approval of which is in discussion on the constitutional court next 16 january) and another proposal of electoral law (that will be discussed soon in parliament) that has been discussed and organised by an italian comic, Beppe Grillo, on his (rather influential, on the net) blog.

    Both the movements have been able to gather hundrends of thousands of signatures without the help of the mainstream media.
    I live in the Netherlands and this two movements looked to be very well known and on display, but my father, who lives in Italy testimonied that they were passing in a relatively uncovered way.

  18. 18 Chris
    January 14, 2008 at 18:54

    I think most Americans are already so oppionated and set in their own ideals that reading a blog is going to change their ideas of who they vote for. I know im not going to go searching for blogs from other people, Im going to listen to the news and do my own research to decide who i want to vote for.

  19. 19 gary
    January 14, 2008 at 18:57

    Hello All,
    Blogging is an exercise of the right of free speech. Conversation is always positive. In countries where free speech is possible, this means of communication can have a positive effect on the body politic. In countries not allowing free speech, blogs could be just another propaganda tool. I have been influenced politically by more traditional means of communication, I have been, and expect in future to be influenced by blogging.

  20. January 14, 2008 at 18:58

    Zak, I agree. Although your thoughts lead me to one point. What takes more courage then forming an opinion is changing once you have defended one. Blogs are like political porn. It lets somebody who in transition of an opinion, do it anonymously, in the privacy of their own home, with out loosing face so abruptly. This lets them try it out until they are ready to “come out” with their new stance.

  21. 21 SAID
    January 14, 2008 at 18:59

    hi ross,
    bloggers approved that they can make a difference especilaly in egypt. a video of turturing a man by police officers led them to conviction of 3 years. thanks to a blogger who uncover the truth
    SAID, kuwait

  22. January 14, 2008 at 19:08

    If Bloggers weren’t influential, this question wouldn’t even be asked. Main Stream Media has become nothing more than tools of George W Bush, in the US; therefore, blogging has become huge here.

    Whether or not a lot of readers are exposed is irrelevant. I frequently have people telling me things they read on a blog. If I then mention this conversation to other people, and I often do, then the information is further disseminated … and the information continues to gather steam and get “a life of it’s own”.

    That, right there, is the power of the Blog. That is why governments — especially rogue governments, fear the internet, and are trying to limit access. In the words of a great American hero —

    “No government ought to be without censors
    & where the press is free, no one ever will.”

    ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Washington, September 9, 1792 ~

    Unfortunately, our press is neither Fair, Balanced, or independent — therefore, the citizens turn to blogging. If this weren’t a threat to government, the CIA, Homeland Security, and other government agencies bent on limiting free speech and thought wouldn’t be watching what US citizens post on their blogs, and they wouldn’t have passed legislation such as HR1955.

  23. January 14, 2008 at 19:21

    It was good to hear the discussion about whether political blogs have an impact on the decision making of governments. For those who have a doubt, I want to suggest you look back at the 2005 Presidential election in South Korea to see how netizens played an important role in electing the President. An online newspaper OhmyNews was very important in helping this to happen.

    This all was so successful that in the most recent Presidential election in South Korea, the netizens were severely censored and many thousands of posts from the Internet relating to the election were removed and a number of those who tried to post were either fined or the subject of other charges.

    There is an article for those who are interested about this on my blog:

    There are many other examples of the impact of netizens on political and other important events. For example Netizens in South Korea helped to expose scientific fraud by a major Korean scientist – his articles had been published in well respected international scientific journals. There are a number of other examples of how the Internet has given the power of the reporter to the netizen. The book “Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet” which is online at http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/netbook/ helps to document the significance of this.

    Also in a recent blog post I raise the question
    “Are Netizens creating a new form of journalism?”




  24. 24 Steve via email
    January 14, 2008 at 19:30

    Given that politicians are narcissists, and by nature narcissists only are concerned about themselves, do you really think they would care what “less important” narcissists write about them given that anyone and their mother can start a blog to ramble on about their every thought, meanwhile thinking other people actually care what they have to say?


  25. 25 Dylan via email
    January 14, 2008 at 19:31

    Yes of course they do. I read pollitical blogs everyday and the value and quality of the information is far superior to that of the traditional media.

    Austin, Texas

  26. 26 Jon via email
    January 14, 2008 at 19:32

    Speaking for myself, all I know about what the blogs are saying is what I hear from their readers, and their readers generally don’t seem to know the first thing about what they’re talking about. I’m not impressed, and I hope I can get some of these enthusiastic and uninformed people to read a newspaper once in a while, and give up their blogs.
    Portland, Oregon

  27. 27 Laurie via email
    January 14, 2008 at 19:32

    Good afternoon,

    I am writing from Cleveland, Ohio in the U.S. I hardly think that blogs are affecting the current presidential election. Blogs are like the commentary section of a newspaper, you cannot and should not take everything to heart when you read them. You have to be certain the information is correct.

    Thank you,


  28. 28 Alan via email
    January 14, 2008 at 19:51

    I believe that blogs can have influence during presidential primaries, but not during a general election. Because the US is politically a dichotomy, with only two major parties, and because of their lack of objectivity, both with the authors and their readers, blogs primarily serve the function of “preaching to the choir”. It would be logical to assume that those who are politically involved enough to actively search out and read blogs have at least some leaning towards the left or right, and thus Democrat or Republican. It would also be logical to assume that readers of blogs focus their attention to those blogs that share their political slant, whatever that might be.

    While primary elections involve a choice between personalities, between voices, and perhaps between messages, they are less likely to involve a great deal of choice between fundamental ideas. Because of this, a Clinton supporter and an Obama supporter, for example, might both be drawn to the same blogs, and would be more apt to find fairly objective discussion of the two candidates. If, in the mind of the reader, either candidate would be preferential to one from the other side, it is possible for someone who is politically active enough to read blogs, and yet still fall in the “undecided” demographic. Once the candidates are selected, however, the possibility of a blog having any real influence is greatly diminished. Unlike with the primaries, that “undecided” demographic is unlikely to include blog readers. A blog might turn a voter toward Romney or Huckabee; it will not turn one toward the right or left.

    Auburn, AL, USA

  29. January 14, 2008 at 20:37

    Bloggers are providing a news that Shortwave Radios once provided [although on a lesser level]. Bloggers provide an alternative to the news that is given by the mainstream media. Change has been moving slowly since people are already tired of the old Republican Democratic Mentality [unless they watch the Mainstream Media].

  30. January 14, 2008 at 21:01

    Correction to my earlier post
    And some further thoughts on the Impact of the Net and Netizens on Democracy

    The South Korean election where Netizens had a significant effect was December 2002, not 2005.
    Sorry for the typo.

    South Korea is one of the nations with the most high speed Internet access in the world. In the 2002 Presidential election, netizens were able to focus on issues as part of the Presidential election campaign instead of personality or other secondary aspects of a campaign.

    Given the important democratic process that the Internet made possible in the 2002 Presidential campaign, it is significant to see how the censorship of netizens in the December 2007 Presidential campaign in South Korea was a serious setback regarding the efforts to see how the Internet can impact democracy.

    For people interested in some of the background of the 2002 election in South Korea, see my draft paper
    “The New Dynamics of Democratization in South Korea:
    The Internet and the Emergence of the Netizen”


    The online newspaper OhmyNews was very important for the 2002 election. I had heard that the Howard Dean campaign in the last U.S. Presidential election drew some lessons from the 2002 South Korean Presidential election campaign, but somehow missed it seemed, was the important role that can be played by a newspaper like OhmyNews.



  31. 31 Syed Hasan Turab
    January 14, 2008 at 21:28

    The way Democracy is moving around our society need more political blogers for politician’s of the world as world is shrinking because of Globolisation. Each & every one is sharing & analysing the problems of the world because of Globilisation, Electronic media & political reporting along with analysis.
    All factors & sectors are transforming our society along with choices.

  32. 32 Will Rhodes
    January 14, 2008 at 22:39

    If you don’t believe that political bloggers have an impact – ask those politicians, newscasters and anchors why they have blogs themselves.

    What is good about that is you can quote them directly.

    To those in nations where blogs are censored I pity they governments that do this – your words will out one day! And millions of fellow bloggers support you!

    Many of the western (“free”) nations are trying to bring in ‘Sniffer’ technology in the guise of stopping pirated music etc – how long before that technology is turned on those who blog? In the interest of national security, of course! >(

  33. January 14, 2008 at 22:52

    it matters little if any blog has affect,its the ability to try and end pain that gives blogging power, its being able to go on the record that i disagree with this or that ,of knowing in ourselves we refuse to lie down to dogs

    mainstream media has been subverted , if it ever worked it ,to serve real change that was before most of our times

    i blog hoping to wake the system up more than expecting to change individual mind sets ,we are supposedly all given freedom to think , a blog allows our thoughts , concerns , worries and fears an outlet more harmless than adverse re-action

    more importantly are master blogs such as yourself, where we can help each other , it allows us to comunicate to you the media , to test you as much as the system ,
    it dosnt allow real change , but its reassuring to know that if one blog gets silenced 2 will reappear

    words are sacred often the words we chose say much more than the blog ,

    there are special intrests [shall we say] who like to hold all the cards , who blissfully omnipotantly persue thier own greedy and self serving elitist ,destructive adjendas ,

    this blogging allows us who ‘they ‘would like to remain voiceless to at least have an outlet for our anger [short of blowing ourselves up [literally as well as practiclly]

    and while moderation of coment is to be lauded , moderating posts is still censorship ,in a just world we could use our own names fearlessly ,but the ‘other’ side has more pretenders than this bloggers side ,

    freedom of speech must be heard as well as seen, it is only by blogging our voice of dissent , then seeing it in word ,that it is knowable as a reality

  34. January 14, 2008 at 23:39

    Blogs are fantastic for communication bewteen people of different nations and views away from sponspored mdeia. Great thing to happen in the world.

  35. 35 George
    January 15, 2008 at 02:05

    Yes, political bloggers are increasing in importance as media narrows.

    In the USA the control of both newspapers and broadcasting is marching toward a single tiny group.
    The Congress holds the Republican administrative rulings consolidating news and information but lets it go into effect after some arm twisting and or blackmail.

    Bloggers have no absolute hold on truth, however they do present often truthful news blacked out of the media.

    As censorship of important and news worthy information blacks out more,
    what can only be characterized as propaganda ignoring the will of the people increases,
    Your program and political bloggers are wells of information.

  36. January 15, 2008 at 03:52

    Bloggers can be informal, anonymous, and to-some-extent not responsible for what they write.
    Hence, from Burma to Saudi, China to Nepal, political blogs have been making a difference.
    Just check out my blog to confirm this. 🙂

  37. January 15, 2008 at 05:31

    Blogs are just another medium of communication. It’s becoming controversial because it’s a personal medium on a public space. A physical equivalent would be like a guy standing on a box on the road and shouting out whatever he wants to say; only that in the cyberspace the reach is unimaginably widespread.

    In a democracy, blogs aren’t an issue, except when an issue of libel come up. In an autocratic or dictatorial set-up however, blogs — which have to work from behind a cover — do provide the necessary alternative viewpoint that is missing.

    Instead of clamping down on bloggers and arresting them, non-democratic administrations should tap into the bloggers’ voices and look into them. Not all bloggers may be right, but many of them could definitely give an indication of the pulse of the people. Administration can thus be improved.

  38. 38 Dictatore Generale Max Maximilian Maximus I
    January 15, 2008 at 06:00

    Whether political bloggers do or don’t make a difference is a question I cannot answer! In fact it IS a difficult question to answer with certainty. Why?

    To be able to answer that question some prerequisites are:

    >I have to be a political blogger myself & then IF I am honest I could claim that certain things changed because of my comments. However, this would be an answer of the “true to the best of my knowledge and belief”-type.

    >I am a very close friend of a political blogger AND I am also a part of the government. Only then will I be able to see the cause-effect chain.

    >You can add various scenarios by extrapolation.

    As far as the governments against whom the blogger is blogging; my viewpoint is:

    >Any government or dictatorship or whatever would be better off using the blogger’s ideas to effect at least minimal change. This is similar to employing a hacker to improve your operating system rather than having him attack it from the outside. Perhaps this is the reason why Linux is the best or one of the best operating systems & NOT Windows!

    This ‘hacker analogy’, in the context of a dictatorship etc. may sound like a contradiction in terms, but if the dictatorship does NOT change it WILL be brought down sooner or later. A reading of history will confirm the latter.

  39. 39 George
    January 15, 2008 at 09:34

    John Anthony- hit the nail on the head.

    “The first requirement of any democracy is participation and any medium that allows more people to participate is a good thing.”

    Everyone here makes good points, but this is central to democracy.

  40. 40 David Lulasa
    January 15, 2008 at 11:26

    i found out that some woman saying that bloggers works are irrelevant and nonsense,in your last nights have your say prog to be so hypocritical.i believe most of your topics do come from bloggers and aired world wide on radio.why should such a non reasoning woman waste her time and airtime to listen and comment on your programme?bure yeye(useless).

    david lulasa

  41. 41 Chawezi
    January 15, 2008 at 11:30

    Dearest Ros,

    Though it may not please you, the WHYS team and your editor Peter and maybe my fellow listners but surely it will eventually.

    The issue at hand and the one that has surely provoked my thumbs to dance on the keypad of my mobile phone is on THE FUTURE OF PODCAST IN AFRICA.

    I have never heard it from any major media houses in Africa to have such a technological service that gives us the listners an opportunity to hear anything that matters to us at our own opportune time. I think the PODCAST is very convinient and user friendly in every sense of the word itself and it can offer time management to many decision makers of organisations and ultimately the decision maker can have a final say on matters.

    I wonder what the African media are waiting for to give us such extraordinary and extra-mundane service?

    From the snapshot of WHYS today in Africa you will hear for yourseves that a lot of people and even those in our so called media houses there are some people who don’t even know what a podcast is.

    So run the show from that angle and I will keep you posted.

    Chawezi Kasoka PHIRI

  42. 42 rosatkins
    January 15, 2008 at 12:20

    Hi Ros,
    thks for message.
    Bloggers are important. It’s first hand knowledge from people on the spot.
    It simplifies journalism, and hopefully, fills the information vacuum between people and races living thousands of miles apart.

    A. Javadi

  43. 43 rosatkins
    January 15, 2008 at 12:21

    George in the States
    Today in the USA the media is controled and controls news unlike ever before.

    Elections, including the primaries are being changed by Diebold machine programing, some of the people are aware of it, the news refuses to report it.

    Just as the elections are being altered, substancial protest took place at the Rose Bowl Parade and it was blacked out of the news.

    Blogging, and political blogging or discusion, is essential to overcome this censorship of news, and the abuses of authorities here.

    You are probably reaping the harvest of those who realize we do not have news of many events and facts known abroad about us.

    Every channel for open discussion is positive in this.

    WHYS is precisely for the discussion of events of the day worldwide, something lacking in the USA.

  44. 44 rosatkins
    January 15, 2008 at 12:31

    Whether bloggers make any difference.is debatable. What we do know is the these parasitic lobbyists that influence equally parasitic politicians, do indeed make a diference unfortunatly.and always for the worse. Regards Henry

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