Generally I agree with Cian’s belief that politicians in this country are set in their ways and that they will not change too quickly unless they really have to. On that note I don’t believe that Irish bloggers are going to be an issue in the next election nor are they going to be a deciding factor (or even one of many). Blogging is not something that changes minds or policies or redirects the public debate; it works on a much smaller scale than that.
Mulley seems to think that the only chance bloggers have of influence is if they stop slagging each other and present a united front; as I point out in his comments this would make us as disingenuous as the political parties he has little time for. Bloggers are not a political force, they’re not an activist group and they’re not journalists however as Damien knows blogs can provide people with a platform from which they can launch these kinds of projects.
Blogging is a medium and when put in that context it is clear the potential the medium has. The television does not provoke debate and nor does the individual presenter; it is the content, the questions and sometimes the answers that can set an agenda. The Prime Time Investigates on Leas Cross didn’t set the national agenda because it was on RTÉ One or because it was presented by Adrian Lydon; it set the agenda because it revealed a horrific situation that shocked the politicians to action.
Bloggers have as much potential as anyone to reveal a major story but I agree with Damien when he asks who among us is capable of doing this. I certainly don’t have the answer and frankly most bloggers in Ireland probably don’t have the time or resources to investigate something, let alone the contacts or clout to follow them through. The hardest pill of all to swallow would be the fact that even if a blogger does unearth something it will be taken out of their hands quite quickly and they will probably receive little kudos for it; in that respect any investigation they undertake would have to have been done out of political passion and not for personal profit.
Saying that I don’t think the Irish blogosphere is short on political passion and I can see a level of political activism bubbling under the surface; even if this activism existed before it now has the platform to reach more people than ever before; a poster on a lamppost is fine but a detailed and powerful blog post may be better.
In all I see the potential amongst Irish bloggers to provoke a debate; it offers people a chance to thrash out policies, ideals and ideas like never before and in a far more mature setting than a local pub, where you’re surrounded by half-drunk know-it-alls who know nothing but their own ignorance.
As has happened on Irishelection.com, one debate leads to another, one post leads to another and slowly the real issues are put out like never before; while the site does have its fair share of posters with political loyalties it has no room for the spin that most parties undertake to make themselves look better than the others. Frankly, no open discussion that is free from traditional constraints allows the party political line to be walked for too long; you can see this on any political forum; if you blindly stick to the party bible you are quickly made a fool of.
Unfortunately the internet’s anonymity has other problems than trust, it allows people to say things that they would be incapable of saying in a real world debate; namely personal insults; this is a fact of the freedom that we have to live with and that we can all agree there is no place for.
If political bloggers in this country can provoke debate on the real issues and open some people’s eyes to the importance of politics then we will have made our influence. No-one should expect a mention in the Dáil nor should they expect a blogger to unearth a deep, dark secret that changes the landscape forever but if we can re-direct just some of the national debate over the coming months away from the faux issues that some political parties would prefer to focus on and bring it instead to the real issues and the ones that we as individuals care about then that is influence enough for me.