Why I Blog About Politics


WWBFD? Benjamin Franklin took for granted that part of his role as a technologist with access to mass media (he was, after all, a printer and publisher) was to make public arguments about his own political views. If he were around today, and I know that this isn’t an original thought, he’d almost certainly be a blogger. Ben Franklin is far and away my favorite “Founding Father”. BFF!

It’s almost cliche by now to talk about how the Internet has empowered regular people by giving them the tools to reach a broader audience than was possible in ye olde tymes, particularly in the realm of politics. I am still surprised, however, that so few popular bloggers bother to express their political thoughts online.

I write about politics here fairly often, for two reasons.

The first reason is self-centered: Writing about politics is personally clarifying and cathartic. It allows me to take my jumbled thoughts and emotions regarding what I read in the news and form them into a concrete opinion, which in turn gives me a sense of clarity about my views, forcing me to attempt to answer the not-so-obvious questions. It also simply lets me rant and get things off my chest (something that can probably be said about almost every blog post ever written by anyone, political or not).

The second reason is outwardly-focused, and perhaps a little idealistic: I want to use my voice to actually effect change in the world, to have some impact on the thoughts and opinions of other people by inspiring them to say and do things knowing that there are other people who think the same way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t imagine that my little blog posts will reach the desks of important politicians and inspire them to change their positions on issues I care about. Nor do I think that my scintillating political writing will inspire millions of people and sway elections. I’m not delusional.

But I do think I can have a more modest kind of impact among the hundreds of people who read graphpaper.com regularly: By publicly articulating my opinions, I hope to (a) give some degree of moral support and maybe even a little boost of courage to others who share that opinion, and (b) provide the rhetoric and logical arguments to help them clarify their ideas and even to share them with other citizens via discussion or even debate.

You see, I believe that one of the main reasons politics is so messed up in America today is because most of us are afraid to discuss politics in public. We’re afraid of talking about it with our friends, coworkers, and families. And because we don’t discuss it, we don’t think about it and we don’t take action. And because of this lack of debate, bad stuff happens.

For example, the reason why the Iraq War happened in the first place, and the reason why it was allowed to be managed so incompetantly for so long, was in some part because the taboo against talking about politics prevented people from saying out loud, or even articulating internally to themselves, what they suspected in their hearts: that Bush’s vision for success in Iraq was (at best) a shot-in-the-dark fantasy. Those who might have opposed the war in the first place looked out among their friends and across America for voices of opposition and heard almost nothing, primarily because not enough people were taking the simplest of all political actions, talking.

I think it’s every American’s duty to make their political opinions known to their friends and peers, and to engage in political discussions, whether in the form of civil debate or plain old righteous argument, with their closest associates. I think this responsibility extends particularly to those of us with above average voices, that is, to those of us who blog.


6 responses to “Why I Blog About Politics”

  1. If I recall correctly everyone who is vocal today against the war was equally vocal against it in 2002/2003. Protests and marches for peace and anti-right groups all got up and made their opinions known. It didn’t change anything but it was still very vocal.

    Now we have the gratification of a giant “I told you so.” which for some reason is not so gratifying. And secretly because I love my country I want History to record our foreign policies as on the side of Justice, freedom, and equality. No matter how wrong the leadership is and was in their choice to go to war. And the louder the rhetoric is about Iraq the less likely History will be on our side. (We are already past the point of no return)

    Actually History’s true opinion on the matter rests on the very notion of successfully converting Iraq from a terror supporting oppressive dictatorship, to a western nation that is part of the global economy (ala Turkey), basking in the riches of their oil reserves.

    The best thing is to wait until next year, (when their security forces are reportedly up to the job ahead) give the good guys billions of dollars worth of money, guns and tanks and say “Later dude, it’s been one hell of a ride. Good luck keeping your government together.”

  2. One of the main reasons that I follow your blog is that you are able to eloquently connect the dots between the most influential parts of my life: politics, design, and technology.

    I agree with gman, above, in that before the war there was loud opposition to it, and by virtually every person that I knew. The street was having a thorough debate about the folly of going into Iraq. That debate, though, was wholly absent from the media and from congress. The official line from DC was that we needed to go to war, and their were no ‘official’ voices present to counter that assertion.

    I think a huge part of this problem is due to media consolidation, which has cut off an enormous spectrum of opinion. The incredibly sad thing is that the debate did eventually start in mass-media circles, but only when the war started to go very noticeably for the worse. I think many in the media have learned some very important lessons from this mess. They’ve learned that they can be very easily manipulated, and that there are many voices they should be listening to, not just the official ones.

    It’s all pretty tragic though.

  3. R. Shiber Avatar
    R. Shiber

    Tragedy certainly.
    I feel as if the period after 9-11 was a time of the greatest opportunity for healing of strained relationships. The events of the day caused such an overwhelming response to our grief and sadness. There was a moment that came and passed, when the leaders of our nation lost the opportunity to unite the world in a common goal of peace.
    Sounds corny, however the chance was there.
    Instead it seemed as if it became unpatriotic to criticize. With such loss of life behind us, everyone wanted it to be very clear they were indeed Patriots! I think the fear of seeming unpatriotic is one of the contributing factors that limited the negative response to our heading into Iraq.
    How things have changed now that a few years have passed..

  4. “You see, I believe that one of the main reasons politics is so messed up in America today is because most of us are afraid to discuss politics in public.”

    Oh absolutely, because we are so totally partisan about our politics. Each party has completely demonized the other so that you can’t actually get to the point of talking about actual policies or issues without getting wrapped up in arguing about the parties themselves.

    It’s like if I wanted to talk about the amount of trans-fats in today’s cookies, but someone just can’t get past the fact that I’m not a Oreo fan. How could I not? I don’t really like cookies, do I — I’m pretending, right?

    If only people could step away from the false outrage they’ve been sold into by party leaders, and the political correctness that’s suffocated any honest discussion what’s really happening, maybe we can learn to debate again — and not just fight and accuse.

  5. a friend of mine once told me a great analogy of representative democracy as the ‘close door’ button in an elevator. the doors are designed to shut after a certain amount of time, and any amount of pushing the button will only speed up the closing by a fraction of a moment. essentially, its purpose is to give an illusion of control. given this, i guess the only way to change things in politics, is to crowbar the proverbial elevator. (or hack into its mainframe!)

  6. gman: You’re absolutely right, there was a significant and vocal anti-war movement before the Iraq invasion. I wasn’t really accurate on that at all. In fact, the anti-Iraq War protests were bigger than any Vietnam war protests — which bespeaks to some extent the degree to which the Iraq War was misguided (violating the Powell Doctrine‘s requirement that a war have the support of the American People).

    That said, I still think that the “dialogue” was limited to three camps, not two: the firmly-decided anti-invasion camp, which was big; the firmly-decided pro-war camp, which was also big; and the I-don’t-know-what-to-say (or the i’m-afraid-to-say-something) camp, which was, in my memory, the biggest of all. It all just happened so fast that it can hardly be said that there was a debate at all. Congress was forced to vote on the resolution to authorize war only weeks before our own election, so any debate there was quashed (mind you, I still blame spineless Democrats as much as I blame brainless Republicans).

    So, you’re right that there was some discussion, but still I think not enough. Which deepens my view that the story of what happened is even simpler: that the nation was railroaded into the war.

    Actually, that Powell Doctrine link is worth looking at — go click it. It’s amazing how many of Powell’s eight rules the Iraq War violated — to my eyes, it looks like Bush broke every one of them! Sure, some war supporters might argue that the war met criteria #1 (that Iraq threatened vital national security), but they’d be hard pressed to argue that we met any of the others.

    Finally, with regards to your argument about the perception of history, well, this is a classic logical fallacy known as an Appeal to consequences, where one cannot accept a truth because the ramifications of that truth are undesirable. In your case, you’re saying that if we admit that the Iraq War was a bad idea, it will reflect badly on America’s image in the world in the future. My argument to that is: It’s already making us look bad, and that to give it another year is simply banking on unfounded hope. There is no plan for Iraq which seems likely to lead to success (violating Powell Doctrine questions 2 and 5), and there never was such a plan. It’s been a long-shot “hail mary” gamble from day one (violating Powell Doctrine questions 3 and 6), nothing but blind hope and, as you allude to, well-meaning aspirations. These qualities have not been enough so far. As far as waiting another year, as you suggest, well, I suggest you imagine how it would have been any different if you had uttered those remarks a year ago, and that today that one year was up.

    Furthermore, when nations make big mistakes, they only truly recover from them when they admit to those mistakes. As long as they hide them or pretend they never happened those nations will continue to be perceived poorly by the world and by history. In fact, the admission of mistakes is often seen as a sign of national power and prestige — and the non-admission of mistakes is a sign of national desperation and despair.

    Plus, good acts by our country eventually far outweigh the bad in the long run — our mistakes of the past either fade into obscurity (Remember the Maine, the false cause for the Spanish American War? Remember the 8 or 9 years during which the USA basically hedged their bets about Hitler?), are largely forgiven due to the circumstances of the times (Hiroshima, Dresden)… Or, as in the case of slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, or the Vietnam War, we as a nation admit our moral failures and become a stronger country having, hopefully, learned from our errors. Think of Japan, Germany, or South Africa today.

    When the history books write about the Bush years, it is almost unimaginable that it will be a positive portrayal. Every day we pretend that things might get better only makes that portrayal get worse.