Monday, July 9, 2007

Support Your Favourite Blogger

Let me pitch a story to you, if you don't mind.

I have now been blogging for more than four years. Here is the guts of my very first blog post way back in Feb, 2003:
Who are we? Where are we going? What kind of world do we want to create? ...

The industralised behommeth [sic] of 21st Century "Civilisation" races at full steam towards a destination most thinking people no longer wish to attain... Who built this cursed machine? Who controls it? Should we be trying to stop it, destroy it or re-direct it? Or should we just be jumping off?!?

After centuries of disenfranchisement, subjugation and de-humanisation, the Internet promises to re-empower the individual and unite ordinary people around the globe. Personal web sites like Blogger give us a medium to make our voices heard like never before. This Blog is my voice on the Internet.
At the time, I wasn't too sure exactly what I wanted to do with a blog, or what I wanted to say. But I knew I wanted to say something.

Then came the Iraq War invasion. Like you, perhaps, I was shocked and awed. In fact, I was totally gob-smacked, just plain dumbfounded and disgusted by what my own country was doing. Two months into the war I wrote this:
We are now witnessing the collapse of the myriad Bush administration myths about why the USA had to invade Iraq... So now it it time to ask: WHY DID THEY DO IT?

The answer, obvious enough once the other myths are exploded, is OIL.

So, what now? Iraq is perhaps the only nation on earth capable of seriously challenging Saudi Arabia as the World #1 oil exporter. The Americans will clearly want to maintain control of this oil for the next hundred years (or at least until it is all gone). The obvious fix would be to "sell" all the Iraqi's oil to the USA at very attractive prices. In return, the USA will give the Iraqis ... what? Hmmn... How about ongoing military and administrative support? Well, that won't be necessary once the Iraqis regain control of their country and set up a stable, model democracy, right?

Hands up anyone who thinks the instability in Iraq will be resolved anytime soon.
If the truth was obvious to me, a relatively uninformed middle-aged nobody, way back then, why couldn't the whole world see it? Why couldn't our politicians admit it? Why was the media silent? Why has it taken us four long years of lies, and over half a million deaths, to reach this point of public outrage? How on earth did Bush, Blair and Howard manage to get re-elected?

The disturbing answers to these questions tell us much about who we are, what we have become, and where we are going.

I have now spent over four years blogging nearly every day against Bush, Howard, Blair and their Big Money backers. It has been a process of learning and self-realisation as much as a politically-oriented campaign for truth and accountability.

The knowledge I have accumulated has been quite shocking, in many respects, and almost always depressing. Much that was dismissed, just a short time ago, as wild Conspiracy Theory, is now accepted as common knowledge. I have learned a good deal about of politics, business, and Western society, but I have learned far, far more about human nature.

Again, it is mostly depressing: human beings, for the most part, are greedy, self-centered, cowardly, lazy, stupid and cruel. They are capable of rising above such weaknesses, certainly, but not while opportunistic leaders continually exploit them. As a result, blogging can be an extraordinarily depressing experience.

What to do? If I could walk away from it all, wipe my hands, and be done with "the short-lived passions of men", I would do so. But I have kids. I need to give them a future. And I cannot abandon the millions of innocent people around the globe who suffer every day because of our own governments' ruthless greed. So I blog on. I blog on.

I am pleased to say that my own journey has been just one of countless personal awakenings across the Internets. Over the past four years, I have encountered many fine voices of reason and compassion, from all corners of the earth. Such noble efforts restore one's faith in humanity. Individually, we bloggers may struggle and grow weary, complaining that no one hears our voices, feeling ineffectual. But together, we are most certainly making a difference.

In the USA, in particular, the media would never have uttered a word of truth on Iraq if not for the bloggers: Australia has benefitted (by extension, as usual) from this elevation of consciousness. There are civil wars now raging in the newsrooms of papers like the New York Times and Washington Post. Much is at stake. Rupert Murdoch straddles the globe like a colossus, determined to push his radical pro-business agenda. The old print and TV media empires are disappearing as fast as the business models that fueled their rise. What will rise in their wake?

The answer, I suspect, is up to us - the bloggers, and those who read them.

For too long, media empires have not only reported the news but also shaped it. Some would argue that it is impossible to report news without lending at least some slanted perspective on it. But voices like Murdoch's have gone far beyond that, working actively within political and business communities to create mutually beneficial power cliques, destroying opponents, stifling dissent and perpetuating lies. For the wingnut masses, this has become a form of entertainment. For the unscrupulous, it is a path to riches: sell your soul and climb aboard.

Bloggers clearly shape the news rather than reporting it, but at least our biases are (usually) plain for all to see. And our motives tend (usually) to be purer. True, we do feed off the content provided by "real" journalists, who go out on the road and report actual facts. But I don't think such journalists are our real competitors, and I don't think such journalism is actually "in danger" from bloggers, as many analysts claim.

It's the opinion-shapers in the media who are really endangered by the blogosphere. And that is largely because they have destroyed their own credibility. Just compare your favourite bloggers with the hate-filled cash-for-comments on talkback radio! Or look at the abysmal record of anonymous editorials in major newspapers over the past four years. Reading the news is one thing, but understanding what it means is another. Most people don't have the time to pore over every little story, research background stories, seek out connections, and join the dots. Who are you going to trust for such analysis?

Which brings me to my pitch.

I have never made a cent out of blogging. I have a wife and three kids (aged two, nine and eleven), plus a live-in mother and a cat. I work full-time in a soul-destroying wage-slave office I.T. job, which depresses me no end in its own right, but at least it gives me time to read the news and blog.

If I had my 'druthers, I would become a full-time blogger and a serious freelance investigative journalist. And I would write a book based on my experiences of the past four years.

Beyond that, I would like to set up a website with the aim of further advancing truth within the blogosphere in Australia, maybe something along the lines of Josh Marshall's blossoming empire at TPM, or an Australian equivalent of Media Matters. I would seek to build a global community of like-minded souls, to push for real accountability and truth in government, and for further devolution of power from bloated governments and mega corporations to ordinary citizens and their local communities.

On the other hand, if I cannot make any money out of blogging, there is a real chance that I will have to set it aside. Like I said, I have a young family to take care of. If I were to add up all the hours I have spent reading the news and blogging over the past four years, it would come to many months - others have spent such time advancing their careers, or profiteering from stocks and real estate deals. Know what I'm saying?

Today I have finally added a "donations" button to the sidebar. If you enjoy reading this blog, and if you appreciate the positive change that blogs are bringing to media and politics, please consider making a small Pay Pal donation.

Even if I get only one dollar, after all my efforts to date, that would mean something. At least I could tell my wife (who has very little patience with politics) that it is not all just a waste of time.

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