Harnessing the distributed intelligence of the blogosphere

The mainstream media give a select group of think tanks and corporate interests air space in the name of balance. The blogosphere can help rubbish much of the bias.

Our guest writer is Andrew Regan who runs Poblish, a new hub for the political blogosphere

Anyone who follows the BBC News site, or who reads a newspaper, will be familiar with a good few interest groups and think tanks. Where their news releases aren’t the entire basis for the story, they are invited to comment at length, in the name of political “balance”, or on the basis of an often-undeserved authority.

A great deal of our time as bloggers is thus spent exposing the same old partisan front groups – the TaxPayer’s Alliance, and so on – corporate shills, and organisations that exist purely and simply for the promotion of a particular set of views. While individuals can always change their mind on an issue, interest groups cannot, and will not. Moreover, their neatly packaged set of proposals can be tempting for governments running short of ideas, and short of friends.

Whether the groups are ostensibly on the left or the right, their influence can only be bad for politics. In the name of “balance”, the essential politics within a debate – the key issues and arguments – is drained away, or rechannelled to the financial benefit of one organisation.

Why should we – as bloggers – put up with seeing the same discredited arguments trotted-out again and again, and which we have argued over and over again, when we have – at our disposal – a vast resource of evidence, argument, and opinion to call upon?

What I propose is a collective – and non-partisan – organisation of political bloggers, which will challenge the interest groups in the name of honest and open politics, and provide newspapers and online news sites with a central resource that allows them to dispense with the services of self-interested think tanks and self-styled experts.

These bloggers would come together whenever required, putting aside their partisan interests, to tap the blogosphere’s collected wisdom – and, just as importantly, its memory – to fisk, rebut, and generally trump groups that are used to thinking in relative isolation. Bloggers will have many advantages, not least access to background information about the groups, via SourceWatch et al.

Of course I don’t propose that bloggers attempt to produce consensus. Not only is this implausible, but it would be dishonest, and would drop us into the same trap as the BBC and others. While artificial disputes help no one, genuine disagreements must come out. The public must have access to the full range of political opinion – no political cause benefits in the long run from anything different.

All in all, by shaking up lazy journalism, exposing lazy thinking, and by undercutting the “go-to” groups and “experts”, the reputation of the political blogosphere – as simply the best resource for distributed thought and opinion we have – must surely increase.

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24 Responses to “Harnessing the distributed intelligence of the blogosphere”

  1. Vicky Stonebridge

    RT @leftfootfwd: How to use the distributed intelligence of the blogosphere to expose the discredited arguments of interest groups http://bit.ly/dmESoY

  2. Thomas Byrne

    RT @leftfootfwd: Harnessing the distributed intelligence of the blogosphere http://bit.ly/dmESoY

  3. GetLabourOut

    Great minds eh? Posted the following yesterday…

    “It’s Not Just Politicians That Should Declare Interests”
    http://getlabourout.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/its-not-just-politicians-that-should-declare-interests/

  4. Andrew Regan

    Thomas, the TPA is just an example that left-wing bloggers will immediately recognise. The “and so on” really does mean that this is one group out of many. The purpose of the campaign is to get away from, and expose “fronts” – groups whose message might well be politically convenient for us, but who ultimately weaken politics.

    groups that we don’t necessarily agree with, but say politically convenient things.

    Reuben > “In doing so he puts forward an anaemic, individualistic vision of democratic politics, in which there is little space for collective action, for like minded indivduals to get together to promote a particular agenda, and in which the only “honest” discourse is individual-to-individual.”

    This isn’t a campaign against collective action, or against single-interest campaigns per se, the real problem is the way the mainstream media use these campaigns. They appear to believe: (a) that political “balance” is a good thing, and (b) that it can be achieved very often by balancing one unquestioned, unchallenged view from a left-leaning interest group, and another unchallenged view from a right-wing one. This is the kind of dumbed-down politics we’re fed.

    We, as bloggers, know that there’s generally far more to the debate than that, because we’ve written more, we’ve read more, and because we have open minds. That’s why I propose a *collective* effort from bloggers to perform the necessary scrutiny, and to restore the missing politics, not the approach of the individual fisker working alone.

  5. Andrew Regan

    Oops, ignore paragraph #2 – cut and paste error.

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