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“Bloggers of the World, Unite …”


The Barao de Itarare Institute is a left-leaning NGO with historic ties to CUT — the Brazilian AFL-CIO — as well as to the small to moderate size communist PCdoB and the ruling center-left (?) Workers Party.

Named after a famous humorist, the site offers an off-menu selection of alternative “talking heads” sources that parallels such as the Instituto Milennium think tank, itself modeled on U.S. think tanks such as Cato and Heritage and deeply involved in Brazilian politics. (The story of General Electric and its contribution to modern philanthropy here would make for an interesting topic.)

Known for its sarcasm, the Baron has evolved into a modest “think tank” of its own, booking presentations and talking heads, who tend to lambast business as usual in the Brazilian media sector and social science circles.

Today’s top headline on the site of the Barao — above — promotes a recently launched book on politics and social media titled Bloggers of the World, Unite (But Not Too Much).

The authors  present the story of an ongoing chess match with their peers in neoliberal persuasion. The following, for example, is a typical argument of the “blogless” movement: Conservatives rely too much on hoary, time-honored alliances between parties and media outlets. The power of weak ties in the alternative media is going to mop the the floor with the opposition’s online PageRank voluntarism in October.

Be that as it may — there is an interesting campaign finance reform in committee in the Brazilian national legislature, targeting campaign donations used for online interactive donation gathering — it is interesting to observe how both the conservative opposition and the incumbent political order market their marketing, not as “marketing” but as educational or current events programming.

This will be another interesting issue to track.

During the last election, the PSDB pointed an accusing finger at its opponents for “sponsoring dirty blogs” with black-bag payoffs to shady characters running blog farms not unlike the corrupt brokerages and hedge funds that feed financial crises.

These cases followed a pattern similar to SLAPP suits in the United States. The plaintiffs used a common gambit: These bloggers are not real journalists, and in any event the subject of negative coverage is Shocked! Shocked! — and thank God for the 17th Century jurisprudence that protects his or her honor!

On the other hand, opposition figures were equally Shocked! Shocked! that their adversaries were using outside consultants for advice on their digital strategy. This is legal, within limits, and if you suffer a moment of deja vu, think back to the days of Howard Dean.

(In fact, if you surf enough pages regularly, you start to see the fingerprint of the consultant in innumerable online makeovers. El Pais, New York Times, Huffington Post … )

At the same time, the PSDB-DEM visibly mounted a rather heterodox Web point of presence. They seemed to enjoy the easy-to-use portal platform NING.COM. Membership inflation did not gibe with activity reports. And none of all this seemed to go viral, however, despite a dim, plausibility deniable concerted effort.

On hand to provide fashion tips was Movements.org for example. A campaign spokesman actually had the stones to insist that “the PT users dirty bloggers paid with embezzled funds,” whereas the opposition fielded phalanxes of repeated messages and made the mistake of trusting that its own social-network likes and follows would not be transparent.

Both right and left are uncomfortable with the flowering of the Internet and the social networks. Now that it is becoming clear that the Internet cannot keep up with the media monopolies, such that various nations are debating new laws to regulate this strategic sector, which today present a risk to democracy. Even the U.K.’s “Queen Chavista” has not been able to pass rigorous regulation of the British press. In Latin America, several progressive governments experienced the destabilizing power of the traditional media in their bid to adopt laws to clip the wings of the dictatorship of the media monopolies. Brazil, sad to say, is bringing up the rear in this hit parade of laws regulating the media.

As legal mechanisms for change fail to pan out, digital activists have assumed the role of a guerrilla to confront the regular armies of the media companies and reinforcing media regulation proposals. In the election year of 2010, for example, these guerrillas helped to expose various farces manufactured by the mainstream media, such as the famous incident of the “paper wad” — this missile targeted the bald head of the candidate by opponents of a policy that would displace families in Rio.  In our response, the Brazilian went so far as to adopt a brand-new polling method, designed to make the process more organic. With respect for diversity, the blogosphere seeks unity in diversity in order to make itself heard.

The book Blogger@s, Unite  (But Not Too Much) is an attempt to capture this dynamic reality, with its passions and contradictory. It will set the agenda for the debate and serve as an initial, partial step in the study of reforms currently underway.  After analyzing the impact of the WWW on the world and in Brazil, it narrates the experience of the Brazilian blogosphere. Interviews with a variety of digital activists, who struggle courageously in the bunkers of the Internet wars, show that the singular assets of movement is its diversity. The resolutionAs resoluções dos quatros encontros da chamada blogosfera progressista, ou simplesmente “blogprog”, ajuda a fixar a memória deste movimento ousado e unitário.