5 December, 2017
Climate change. Terrorist attacks. The shape of the earth. All of these ideas and more have been put into unneeded doubt by blogs written by people uneducated on these topics. Some blogs are even spam blogs, scraping up parts of other websites and forming a mangled collection of words that are surrounded by ads that direct users toward other “splogs.”
With the ascent of the Internet and its grave side effects, the time had come in which anyone, anywhere can write anything. With this in mind, what has the meteoric rise of the blog done to society and the ethics that have come with it?
The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates originally compared democracy led by the people to a ship rowing straight into a storm. Thousands of years later with the election of figures such as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin tearing up existing institutions and striking fear into their opposition, we have begun to steer the trireme of society into the storm. Socrates’ beliefs of a true democracy included the election of at least somewhat knowledge people into office. The possible downfall of democracy has likely been hastened by the ascent of the Internet, and subsequently, the advent of the blog. The new information age has begun.
A Psychological Problem
When everyone has an outlet for their thoughts, everyone has the opportunity to blast their opinions on blogs, but hardly anyone listens because they’re too busy blasting their own ideas or reading more truthful outlets. In recent years, traditional journalism outlet readership has been rapidly approached by blog readership. This triggered the purchases of many successful blogs by larger and more traditional news outlets. For example, The New York Times bought FiveThirtyEight, a politics and sports blog, in 2010 by and then ESPN bought it four years later. The commercial profitability of blogs has lured companies into the whirlpool of sponsorship ad placement on some of the more popular blogs on the Internet.
Additionally, blogs have a more positive side, relieving people’s stress in daily life. Webcomic blogs have been a pressure valve for super-stressed people all over the world, filling empty time with one joke after another. However, every daily comic post gives people yet another opportunity for procrastination on their assigned homework or professional projects.
Political Activism and Truthiness
However, when millions of people write blogs, there are bound to be some insightful, intelligent blogs. In 2002, the blog Talking Points Memo published allegations against Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. The Senator was promptly thrown into controversy after he said that Senator Strom Thurmond, who advocated racial segregation, should have been elected President in 1948. The mainstream media followed suit after the blogs did, ultimately leading to Senator Lott stepping down from his position.
Meanwhile in Russia, the widely oppressed blogger and opposition figure Alexei Navalny published multiple accusations against Vladimir Putin and his administration. According to BBC News, this led to Navalny’s detainment by Russian authorities for thirty days and forbidden a bid for President.
A Heaping Serving of Opinion with a Side of Bias
With so many blogs expressing so many people’s opinions, how can we distinguish fact from fiction? At schools across the country, “How to Spot Fake News” posters are popping up. Campaigns against disinformation have sprung into place since the 2016 Election, stymied from the democratization of opinion and possible Russian influence in the elections. The mighty, unstoppable power of the blogosphere has changed our society, both for the better and for the worse.