What do blogs do for America?
Update: Buried in this was a remarkably accurate prediction about President Obama. Red emphasis added.
This question surfaced during an email exchange with the always interesting Dan Tdaxp (here is his blog). We can only guess at the answer, but I believe blogs provide a valuable service for America — one that we will need in the difficult times ahead.
Blogs have many roles, but most importantly as a 21st century version of conversations at the local pub. Great things have grown from such beginnings (the New York Stock Exchange met at the Tontine Coffee House until 1817). Blogs expand the community discussion to global scale, but the subjects remain the same: gossip, war, politics, sports, business, and so forth. While the audience is global, the numbers remain like those of a local pub (blogs like this and Zenpundit have three or four hundred visitors per day).
Blogs circulate information and insights, helping us see and understand our rapidly changing world. Our news largely comes from giant organizations (e.g., corporations, governments, foundations, universities). Insights come from the big names (in 4GW, people like Martin van Creveld, Chet Richards, John Robb, etc). Blogs help us digest all this, combining information and insights in different permutations — allowing us to see things from different perspectives.
The more rapid and radical the changes, the more important for a democracy that its citizens be “synchronized” with both reality and each other (allowing for collective action). The explosive growth of blogs comes at an opportune time for America, as our society’s Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action loop (OODA loop) seems broken (as I have discussed in many posts; pdf explanation of the loop here). Our financial problems result from foolishness (e.g., borrowing without thought of repayment). Our geopolitical problems from willful ignorance of history (e.g., the consistent failure of foreign occupations since WWII).
What should we expect from President Obama?
As these problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern. Barack Obama has amazing rhetorical gifts and the potential for greatness, but becomes President with his skills immature, his vision on major questions of public policy unformed, and no executive experience. His brief career and campaign of empty rhetoric — appealing to the best of America’s history and aspirations — tell us little about the course he will chart for America, or how he will respond to the terrible choices that lie in our future. He provides a frame into which his followers project their dreams — a virtual reality candidate. (Candidates’ white papers, like party platforms, have historically proved poor guides to their actions)
This is our failing, not his. High office in America goes to those with both drive and hunger for fame and power. That Obama goes along with our childlike dreams says much about us, but nothing bad about him. However the election might result in weak leadership for our national government during tough times, unless he grows in office (which would be wonderful, but not something we can rely upon). (The other remaining candidates I consider more developed personally, but probably worse for us if they gain office)
If these guesses prove correct America’s ability to adapt to new circumstances – the end of the post-WWII geopolitical and financial regime (see here for details) – might rely on us, its citizens. Blogs can help bolster our resilience and our ability to develop innovative solutions without top-down direction.
Of course, blogs are no magic wand. They can just as easily fan our fears and exacerbate divisions, circulating bile instead of blood. Imagine a future for America like the Reconstruction South. Blogs circulate myths about our nobility and greatness before the Fall. The Small Wars Council resembles a post-colonial club in Africa, where veterans exchanging stories about the old days and bemoaning the new age. Youtube has videos of John Nagl explaining why events in Iraq and Afghanistan resulted from its ungrateful people.
Our collective response will determine what America will be. I am confident that we will rise to meet these challenges.
Other posts about the Internet: does it make us smarter or dumber?
- Will Israel commit suicide? More rumors of a strike at Iran. (22 December 2007)
- Three blind men examine the Iraq Elephant (6 February 2008)
- Cable Cut Fever grips the conspiracy-hungry fringes of the web (7 February 2008)
- Resolution of the Great Submarine Cable Crisis — and some lessons learned (8 February 2008)
- What do blogs do for America? (26 February)
- The oddity of reports about the Iraq War (13 March 2008)
- Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone? (17 March 2008)
- More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran” (18 March 2008)
- Euphoria about the Bakken Formation (10 April 2008)
- The Internet makes us dumber: the Bakken euphoria, a case study (15 April 2008)