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People know to be wary buyers of blog information

Before investigating the larger question of blog regulation, it's helpful to review the presumed impact that blogs have on the political scene.

In a recent exploration of the issue, one remark is that many of these blogs “parade themselves as legitimate news sources” without revealing conflict of interests or doing all the checking that mainstream media does. “Blogs don’t exist under those same rules, those ethical standards … many of them are ideologically driven, partisan or both. They are for hire.”

No doubt some of them are for hire, and if not literally for hire, then they are willing to sacrifice any claims to being balanced or to engage in an objective search for the truth or exercise of right reason, in the pursuit of furthering a political agenda. (Perhaps the most famous example being the “leaking” of alleged exit poll data on election day 2004 to leftist blogs in an attempt to boost Democrat fortunes.) In some ways, however, the above quote doesn’t make sense because who wants to write a blog dealing with political issues unless they have an opinion to share? At the same time, there’s no guarantee the mainstream media will use “ethical standards” or are not “for hire” (Dan Rather, anyone?).

So is the solution that which is suggested by another campaign operative in the story, that there should be some type of disclosure of who operates the sites and their political ties? Besides the obvious enforcement problems and that this would be discrimination against one form of media (there’s no law forcing the content of campaign ads to be verifiable, for example), this view gives short shrift to the critical faculties of voters. Yes, they may not be very attentive typically to politics, but, on the whole historically, there seems to be a collective wisdom among them that have produced more hits than misses (true, the proportion of misses is higher in Louisiana than probably anywhere else, but, over time, still more hits).

To be blunt, while generally people may not be always good judges of public policy, human psychology is pretty good about sniffing out the degree of veracity about a candidate’s claims about himself or his opponents. In addition, political psychology tells us most people use what are termed “schema” or perceptual screens to judge information, and these screens typically work well to discount claims that on their face a person finds dubious.

In short, people can be critical consumers of this information. If they see a piece of news on a blog that does not seem to have any convincing corroboration (and the fact they are trawling blogs indicates they are more interested in politics than most which also means they already have perceptual screens in place that will prejudice how much credibility they assign a piece of information), unless their schemata is such that they believe anything that supports their views and doubt anything that does not regardless of the level of proof, that information isn’t going to sway them from their established view.

In the end, though, if one is going to complain about blogs they believe distort or outright try to manufacture the truth, the simplest solution is to start your own to counteract. In the end, the argument with facts and logic on it side (which, I may immodestly point out, the postings of this blog prove time and time again) always appears superior, and acts as the most convincing.

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