Small steps and giant leaps are both activities

Just yesterday, I was worried about the ineffectiveness of blogging as a way to accomplish anything. But I thought it over, and then this morning I saw a post by Say Uncle titled "Is Blogging Activism?:

Gunner, in a must read post, figures he spends more time uncovering piles of dog shit than actually cleaning up the dog shit.

Does blogging lead to less activism?

I think that blogging is activism, and I think it can lead directly to more, not less, activism. I think it's a mistake to see blogging as a different activity than "getting involved." Activists do things like write letters to the editor, hold up signs, call their legislators, push for legislation, and activists get generally pissed off when these approaches fail.

Done properly, blogging can improve and streamline all of these activities, and can reach far more people. The people reached may be precisely the right people too; if a blogger complains about, say, a "pile of dog shit," and an activist reads about it and goes out and cleans it up, that blogger has accomplished something possibly more important than if he'd cleaned up the pile himself.

As I was writing this in a comment to Say Uncle's post, it occurred to me that it might be important enought to be a post in itself, so, with thanks to him for helping me think my way out of yesterday's temporary despair, here it is.

There's another advantage blogging has over conventional activism alone: activists get generally (often hysterically) pissed off when their conventional approaches fail. A feeling of gloom sets in -- characterized by an all-consuming feeling that "no one is listening," "the system" is rigged, etc. Blogging's unique ability to allow interaction with similarly-situated thinkers all over the United States -- indeed, all over the world -- has a way of lifting this gloom in a way that nothing else can. This is especially true in situations where activists are outgunned and outnumbered. I cannot count the number of times I've been ignored and discounted, dismissed as a crank or an activist -- you name it. Try, for example, fighting gun control in San Francisco; I was called a "lobbyist" simply for belonging to the NRA (as if membership in an organization discredits what I believe in). My one-man "lobbying" effort to get a presidential pardon for the hated G. Gordon Liddy was a perfect example, and I developed thicker calluses than most people could dream of having (no small accomplishment for a highly sensitive, anxiety-prone person, I assure you). There was no blogging back in those days, and I wish there had been.

On top of all that, blogging forces activists to be honest, which is good for everyone. People are free to dismiss me as a "lobbyist for the NRA," and I am free to respond. Instead of sending letters to the editor and waiting and hoping they'll be published, I can say what I think right here and now. Or, I can both send the letter to the editor and put it in my blog, following which I can question the motives of the paper which refused to print it.

Blogging also provides a way for people who hate activists (and who'd never want to be activists) to, well, be activists! Many people are either shy or agoraphobic, and would never attend a demonstration, wave a sign, or even write letters to the editor. Some of them may fear retaliation for making their views known. Far from decreasing activism, blogging allows non-activists to actually become activists -- minus the pain that "traditional activism" often causes.

Furthermore, at the risk sounding contradictory, blogging allows people who hate activists to strike back against them. When I was on Berkeley's Police Review Commission I was beseiged by often-violent activists who demanded I do their bidding, and I felt like a cornered animal. Had there been such a thing as blogging back then, I could have told the world. (Of course, telling the world would have been just another form of activism.)

So, no; I do not think blogging decreases activism. It increases it, in many ways, both subtle and not so subtle.

As Gunner says,

Start small. Perform miracles.
Sometimes, a small start is all that is needed.

It sure beats being inactive!

posted by Eric on 07.20.05 at 08:29 AM


"One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
-Neil Armstrong, upon setting foot upon our Moon

The style of that!

You're a hero. And G. Gordon Liddy is a hero.

I've never liked that word "activist". To me, it always connotes some gaggle of smelly, screaming hippies waving signs saying "Impeach Nixon!" or "Impeach Bush!" or "End The War By Losing It!" or "End Toxic Waste By Eating It!" or some other such dumb slogan. (Even those slogans I just thought up for illustration have more style than most of the slogans they actually use.)

If you really want to impeach President Bush, then one good blog post or comment explaining why he should be impeached is worth more than a thousand signs simply shrilly demanding that he be impeached. Blogging and writing books is far better than "activism" in the streets. I like The Intellectual Activist (Peter Schwartz). I don't like the other kind.

I've said this before, but I also hate that stupid phrase "judicial activist". A judge must be judged by whether or not he adheres to the Constitution, and if that means that he then has to strike down un-Constitutional laws, why then that's what he must do. Legislative and executive "activism" are every bit as dangerous to our Constitution as any judicial "activism". The real problem is judicial passivism, which we have been saddled with ever since FDR packed the Supreme Court in order to further his New Deal agenda. I'm against that.

Steven thanks! But I don't think I can ever live up to the standard of hero. Seriously.

Eric Scheie   ·  July 20, 2005 8:13 PM

Good words. I'm still going to keep blogging, but now I am going to see what I can do here in my community. I feel I simply got sidetracked and needed to get back to why I blog. To make a change.

gunner   ·  July 20, 2005 10:11 PM

I've got to get back to blogging soon, too -- in order to oppose change. And just have fun writing about spectrums, spectra, Dawn vs. Wanda, coors, etc....

I only drink gin & tonic.


Gunner, thanks for coming. Please remember that my words were a direct result of yours, for having cheered me up!

Eric Scheie   ·  July 21, 2005 6:53 AM

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