Foreign Policy Magazine has a seven page article about blogs, and starts out (chronologically) with:

It was March 21, 2003—two days after the United States began its “shock and awe” campaign against Iraq—and the story dominating TV networks was the rumor (later proven false) that Saddam Hussein’s infamous cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid (“Chemical Ali”), had been killed in an airstrike. But, for thousands of other people around the world who switched on their computers rather than their television sets, the lead story was the sudden and worrisome disappearance of Salam Pax.

Who? Apparently a Baghdad blogger:

Otherwise known as the “Baghdad Blogger,” Salam Pax was the pseudonym for a 29-year-old Iraqi architect whose online diary, featuring wry and candid observations about life in wartime, transformed him into a cult figure…If the first Gulf War introduced the world to the “CNN effect,” then the second Gulf War was blogging’s coming out party. Salam Pax was the most famous blogger during that conflict (he later signed a book and movie deal), but myriad other online diarists, including U.S. military personnel, emerged to offer real-time analysis and commentary.

I never heard of him. Admittedly, I was still in Philly, and wasn’t really up with the whole blog thing at the time, but I still haven’t heard of him. At any rate, I continue.

Political scandals are one thing, but can the blogosphere influence global politics as well? Compared to other actors in world affairs—governments, international organizations, multinational corporations, and even nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—blogs do not appear to be very powerful or visible. Even the most popular blog garners only a fraction of the Web traffic that major media outlets attract. According to the 2003 Pew Research Center for the People and the Press Internet Survey, only 4 percent of online Americans refer to blogs for information and opinions. The blogosphere has no central organization, and its participants have little ideological consensus. Indeed, an October 2003 survey of the blogosphere conducted by Perseus concluded that “the typical blog is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month to update her friends and classmates on happenings in her life.”

Eh…What? Even if that’s true, that’s like writing a seven page article about the internet, and saying its influence isn’t felt much in the culture, because it’s mainly pornography. This guy needs to check the blog numbers. Especially slashdot, which is where I got this.

Under specific circumstances—when key weblogs focus on a new or neglected issue—blogs can act as a focal point for the mainstream media and exert formidable agenda-setting power.

Unless you’re Dan Rather, then you put your dark glasses on and call everyone a partisan political operative in pajamas, and ignore it for days and days and days, depending on the Bill O’Reillys of the world to keep the smearing going months later.

Now, this guy might be very intelligent and well informed:

Despite an impressive résumé (he’s fluent in three Middle Eastern languages), Cole had little success publishing opinion pieces in the mainstream media, even after Sept. 11, 2001.

But since when does speaking three Middle Eastern languages give you an impressive resume? I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of Turkish truck drivers out there, or Saudi oil contractors, or terrorists, for that matter, who are fluent in three middle eastern languages. Just sayin’. This guy’s got strange standards.

Talking about readership numbers:

This dynamic creates a skewed distribution where there are a very few highly ranked blogs with many incoming links, followed by a steep falloff and a very long list of medium- to low-ranked bloggers with few or no incoming links. One study by Clay Shirky, an associate professor at New York University, found that the Internet’s top dozen bloggers (less than 3 percent of the total examined) accounted for approximately 20 percent of the incoming links. Some link-deprived blogs may become rich over time as top bloggers link to them, which helps explain why new bloggers are not discouraged.

Eh…Kinda like real life? Or, you know, personal perseverance leading to success. I don’t get his point here. Is he surprised that the ones with low readership don’t just give up?

Okay, I won’t bother pasting the whole thing, but he just made the linking process sound like the most complicated system of information-sharing known to mankind.

When confronted with a factual error, they can quickly correct or update their post. Through these interactions, the blogosphere distills complex issues into key themes, providing cues for how the media should frame and report a foreign-policy question.

True. So how come the Dan Rathers of the world make so much money?

Small surprise, then, that a growing number of media leaders—editors, publishers, reporters, and columnists—consume political blogs.

Oh, and we’re the parasites?

Yale University law Professor Jack Balkin says, the blogosphere has some built-in correction mechanisms for ideological bias, as “bloggers who write about political subjects cannot avoid addressing (and, more importantly, linking to) arguments made by people with different views. The reason is that much of the blogosphere is devoted to criticizing what other people have to say.”

No, that’s just me. (hee)

Furthermore, bloggers have become victims of their own success: As more mainstream media outlets hire bloggers to provide content, they become more integrated into politics as usual. Inevitably, blogs will lose some of their novelty and immediacy as they start being co-opted by the very institutions they purport to critique, as when both major U.S. political parties decided to credential some bloggers as journalists for their 2004 nominating conventions.

See, this guy doesn’t get the point. If they start sounding like CNN, people will stop reading them. And the littler more novel blogs will be more popular. By hiring one popular blogger and ruining his novelty doesn’t ruin every single blog out there.

Reflecting those demographics, an analysis conducted by Harvard University’s Ethan Zuckerman found that the blogosphere, like the mainstream media, tends to ignore large parts of the world.

Maybe because their governments ban access to internet, or blogging, so it’s kinda hard to get the word out.