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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Blog Mercenaries: Buying a grassroots army

Is this how some candidates are claiming to have "vast grassroots support": by purchasing the services of commercialized keyboard commandos?

It does kinda make sense, I suppose. I mean, there is at least one "front-runner" candidate for President who hasn't filed the official paperwork, and this could be why that hasn't happened yet. Because while he's an undeclared candidate, he can spend money on whatever and not have to report it. After he becomes an official candidate, if it turned out that he was paying a firm to hire "professional bloggers" to set up bogus blogs and otherwise shill for him across the Internet without it being legitimate "grassroots" at all, then there would become something of a public image issue.

When Fala jumped up on Franklin Roosevelt's lap and started yapping into the microphone during FDR's "fireside chat" that time, Americans knew it was unrehearsed and sincere. When Nixon tried to get his dog to do the same thing, people saw it for what it was: a sham. So it is here, also.

There's at least one company (and probably others) that will actually rent you an army of professional "blogger mercenaries" so that you can make it look as though you have a lot more people on the Internet backing you than you really do. Sort of a combination political consulting firm, website design team and escort service.

This shouldn't have been unexpected. I mean, the Bush Administration has already been caught in the act of paying journalists to spin op-ed material in its favor. And I've heard loads of stories about how a lot of the "military personnel" blogs on the web are actually creations of agencies hired to give the Iraq war a more upbeat reputation than it actually has.

I've seen enough of these supposed sites to believe that they really do exist: they have too much of a "manufactured" feel to them, without any real sense of passion.

It was just a short step from that, to individual candidates beginning to do the same thing with their political campaigns. And I suppose that we are going to be seeing a lot more of this in the future, if we aren't indeed seeing it already.

The thing is, real blogging can't be bought. In fact, I don't know if there really is such a thing as "professional blogging" in the sense that it can be hired and wielded like Blackwater USA or some other privatized military outfit. The whole notion of the so-called "Web 2.0" is that it is the empowerment of the individual, who finally gets to enjoy a level playing field with the rest of the media. I'm sure that those who hire these "pro bloggers" think that they are over-riding that facet of the blogosphere's nature with a brute-force attack, but when the motivation for posting thoughts becomes profit rather than for sake of the thought itself, then there is no true individuality at all. There can't be. It's been bought for a buck, instead of being an expression of one's soul.

"This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

-- Lord Polonius
Hamlet Act I, Scene III
by William Shakespeare

By the way, neither The Knight Shift blog or its peculiar author has ever been approached to be a mercenary in a "blog army". I've never been a "pro blogger" ... and I never will be, either. What I've written and otherwise posed on this blog, is only there because I personally believed it should be there, for whatever reason at the time. I've never been paid a cent in exchange for writing for one cause or another. If it's on here, it's only because I believed it should be here. The only exception to that rule is the Google banner ads ... and I do my best to control what content appears on those if I believe they run against the philosophy of this blog.

I'll close with this thought: if anyone - be they a political candidate or some other interest - decides that "pro bloggers" must be employed to get out its message, then neither the message or its sponsors deserve the least ounce of respect. I sure would never vote for a candidate - declared or otherwise - who is found to be using blog mercenaries.