Political Wisdom

Last night I went to hear a panel of political bloggers at KU’s Dole Institute of Politics called “Blog to the Chief.” It was very interesting in lots of ways, not least the discovery that at least on the metalevel, conservative and liberal bloggers have pretty much the same take on blogging. For instance, I was very interested to hear Joan “McJoan” McCarter from Dailykos, Scott Johnson from Powerline, Erick Erickson from Red State, and Jerome Armstrong from MyDD all agree that the leftie blogosphere has a sense of community and social movement, while the right side of the blogosphere is mostly a bunch of individuals attacking the mainstream media. And it was fascinating to hear Patrick Hynes’s (of Ankle Biting Pundits and blog advisor to John McCain) explanation for it: People on the right think that they’re smarter than everyone else (“you mean we’re not?” quipped Erickson), and that means each person starts his own blog, and then after a while the inspiration dries up so no movement gets formed. And, not surprisingly, they all agreed that the lefties are more effective.

There were lots of ways in which many of the points these folks were making apply to fandom — my favorite was probably a point McJoan made at the very beginning that politicians need to understand that you don’t talk at a blog, you have to get in there and interact and show up in the comments. It’s a smart audience and they know when they’re being used instead of engaged. On the right, Erickson responded that the Republicans are only just now figuring out that they need to learn to work the blogs while Democrats got it several years ago. He said blogs are more likely to harm than hurt you, but you have to engage them.

The parallels are pretty obvious, I think, if you’ve got an online fanbase: they’re going to be more effective (and easier for you to work and work with) if they’re organized into communities instead of a whole lot of loosely connected individuals), and you’ve got to be in there interacting with them if you want them to really get behind you, even though you might not like what they have to say about you all the time. People want and expect real connection with the figures around whom they rally and if they believe you really care about, understand, and value dialogue with them, they’ll work for you.

They also had some interesting thoughts on Barack Obama’s social networking site which I’ll return to tomorrow. I promise not to turn into a political blogger, but remain intruiged by the similarities between rallying voters and rallying fans.

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