Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hiring Bloggers In Elections

Blogging In Politics
Next general election in Malaysia, will we see bloggers being hired by political candidates? What for, you may ask? Well, it's the thing to do in the US. Check out this story.

John Edwards' campaign had a little fire in the basement this week. Two bloggers hired by the former North Carolina senator, Melissa McEwan and Amanda Marcotte, were labeled anti-Catholic by the Catholic League for writings about the church's positions on abortion and homosexuality. Conservative bloggers also targeted the pair, reposting previous salty writings from their personal pages. Liberal bloggers largely came to the aid of their colleagues—and waited for Edwards' response, which they saw as a key test of his commitment to them and their causes. In the end, after a few days of contemplation, the campaign issued a three-a-culpa: a tri-part statement in which Edwards scolded the bloggers for their past writings, and they each apologized for offending anyone. No one was fired.
All the presidential campaigns have been hustling to hire bloggers. Now they're learning what to do once they've got them. Bloggers helped Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut. Still, he didn't know how to handle it when one of the activists involved in his campaign caricatured Lieberman in blackface. Lamont ended up running away. Edwards, this week, went silent. The senator read some of the offending postings. He asked to talk to the bloggers, whose work he'd not read before and whom he'd never met. His campaign had not formally processed their paperwork, so Edwards and his advisers talked about whether to end the relationship before it began. (A report that the two were fired was wrong, says spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.) Bloggers heralded the decision to keep them; the Catholic League was outraged, and a top adviser to a rival Democratic campaign took a shot: "Apparently they're more afraid of the bloggers than they are the Catholics." *
Edwards has put a lot of money into Web outreach, to build netroots support and
raise money, so he had to tread with particular care for fear of undoing that work. But all campaigns are likely to face a version of his troubles this week. The major candidates are trying to do two conflicting things: channel the authenticity of the blogosphere while simultaneously maintaining the rigid image and message control that is crucial to any presidential campaign. It's a ready-made car wreck because bloggers are tough to domesticate. They want to demonstrate they haven't sold out once they get onto a politician's payroll. Their regulars readers will be turned off if they tame themselves, and if they don't, they're likely to be coarse and brash.
It seems almost unnecessary to make the case that political bloggers matter to primary campaigns. Almost all major candidates have hired them. Those that haven't still court and assiduously track them. Last week, John McCain's campaign held a special conference call with bloggers to convince them that their candidate was the real conservative in the race. When Hillary Clinton announced she was running, her campaign
boasted about its online activists, listing blogger rave reviews next to mainstream accolades from pundits at Time and ABC. The campaigns that don't treat bloggers right get penalized, as Joe Biden and Rudy Giuliani have been. Campaigns are desperately trying to bring supporters online—it makes fund raising easier and allows candidates to deliver their message directly to supporters, bypassing the press. But bringing supporters online means putting people who have never read blogs a click away from them. If you watched Barack Obama's or Hillary Clinton's announcements of their presidential candidacies online, you might start getting your campaign news online. At that point, you've ventured into the blogosphere's neighborhood.
It used to be the advertising guys who caused the campaign strains that Edwards went through this week. If the outfit making your ads made ugly ones in the past, you had to answer for it. In 2000, George Bush spent much of August playing defense over an ad that appeared to have a negative subliminal message embedded in it. Though the supporting evidence for that thesis was sketchy, the story stayed in the news because the team that produced it had a history of playing hardball. When a campaign shoves aside an ad maker, though, his competitors don't support their colleague. They try to take his business. Bloggers, on the other hand, rally. And if you don't do right by them, they rarely forget
.-SLATE Magazine

27 comments:

MarinaM said...

I think the issue here is, just as reporters should not be bought, neither should bloggers. Their credibility is important. I doubt if people will really believe bloggers who they know are in the pay of any politician.
Politicians should simply treat bloggers as an intelligent and influential audience and try and persuade them to endorse them, just as (in the US) they do with the major papers. It does matter a lot if the New York Times and the Washington Post endorses you. That is done based on issues and what the candidate's stand is on those issues.So the same should be done with the influential bloggers.
Once you have bloggers on the take, it poisons the entire bloggerhood. Nobody will trust bloggers again.Unless that is the agenda of course.

writer from space said...

So, can we expect our politicians to hire bloggers for the next general elections? AAB won't. Can't. His ill-advised attacks against bloggers recently will make it very awkward. He will continue to rely on the ill advisers because that's what the advisers will advise him to do. On the other hand, we can expect the Opposition to fall back on bloggers and all things www for the GE. Pas is very active on this front. Its PasTv.com is really picking up. Keadilan and DAP seem to consist of blogging politicians themselves, from Theresa Kok and Kit Siang to Anwar Ibrahim and Khaled Jaffar. Their army of bloggers from the Reformasi days, I hear, are not dormant; just waiting for the right to re-appear.
There are "loose" bloggers - those without any political alliances - which could help out the Opposition's camps, unwittingly of course. We've been seeing these bloggers breaking stories which are very damaging to AAB's administration (hence his ill-advised attacks on them recently). Very few -- too few -- bloggers are defending the government. Those who do seem like mercenaries, devoid of genuine beliefs in the issues they are defending. These include the vanishing Siber Party, the mirror sites of Malaysia Today and KMU, the self-destructed machai.net, and several individuals masquerading as bloggers. They are like plainclothes cops at Opposition events: you can pick them out from a crowd so easily that it's embarassing.
But if bloggers do decide to be used to help with political campaigns, they do so at their own risk. Those who want to maintain their "independence" must tread carefully. It is too easy to sell out, or be seen to have sold out.
I would rather certain bloggers go out there and stand in the general elections, as Independent candidates. That would be really something.

nstman said...

Well written piece, Nuraina. But the sitaution in America is different from malaysia. Here the Malay heartland has yet to warm to the Internet, let alone blogging. Bloggers can influence the educated but when it comes to the simple kampung folk, it is a different matter.

lubok melayu said...

Adik Nuraina,
Saya rasa para bloggers perlu hati-hati kalau mahu bermain politik. Ia seperti bermain api, kalau silap maka terbakar diri sendiri.

Tapi, saya rasa tidak adil kalau blogger yang berjuang untuk sesuatu parti politik itu dicap sebagai tidak jujur atau tiada berperinsip.

Pilihanraya adalah pertandingan antara dua atau tiga pihak, kadangkala lebih. Tujuan kita ialah untuk menentukan yang paling baik antara mereka menang. Kalau Nuraina menggunakan blog ini untuk membantu pihak yang baik menang, tiada salahnya.

Contoh, Marina Mahathir lawan Shahrizat Jalil di kawasan parlimen Bangsar. Sudah tentu saya akan membantu Marina untuk menang. Kalau saya dibayar gaji oleh Marina untuk membantu dia menang, tiada salahnya sebab saya memang percaya dia lebih baik.

Tetapi kalau saya sanggup membelakangkan Marina untuk membantu Shahrizat sebab Shahrizat membayar saya lebih wang, maka itu yang akan menjadikan saya seorang blogger busuk.

Bottomline, bloggers should promote the political party they believe in. If they get paid to do it, just as well.

Apa pendapat Adik Nuraina?

Anonymous said...

aina!
bloggers should take over the Opposition, not join them. they are louder and more relevant than many DAP, PAS or PKR people, anyway.
i say let the bloggers be a political power. that way we can hope for a future. and give the Opposition politicians something to worry about. (the government politicians are already worried of their own shadows and are absoluted petrified by bloggers!)

Anonymous said...

NSTMAN has hit the nail on the head! It is what I'm convinced of!

While the cyber-savvy blog away and the urban affluent talk away political, economic and other socio-cultural issues, the rural and less educated Malaysian electorate will listen to their MPs.

There will be coffee-shop and gerai talk of course but in the final analysis it is they who will bring in the largest number of votes because they will be persuaded or coaxed with rewards(not by bloggers or mainstream media) but by their MPs. And it is they who will turn up in large numbers to vote while the urban affluent plead snooty indifference or arrogant protest.

My kampung relatives tell me they don't spend a lot of time talking clever. They just have to get on with their daily chores and filling their periuk nasi. Besides, exposure to clever talk is limited to say the least.

So there's one lot of rhetoric for and among the urban/affluent electorate and another for the rural/less affluent.

Having said the not-so-obvious I'm all for better, well-informed analyses of our shortcomings so that we can all be more enlightened.Bloggers and mainstream journalists can synergise to bring about a better Malaysia! I'm sure the brighter members of Cabinet and the Government realise this.

tidak kira siapa
JANGANLAH BODOH SOMBONG SANGAT!
JANGANLAH FIKIR KITA SAJA YANG BETUL!

BON NINI

p.s.

Like any other group there will be bloggers who are corruptible/corrupted. They are not a chosen lot who have been baptised into a life of celibacy, integrity and morality!

Anonymous said...

yo... nstman

are you trying to hit on her or what?

I mean she did write "check out this story" and to make it more obvious she had the piece italicized and to make it triply obvious she even credited SLATE magazine for the article.

and you call yourself a newspaperman?

so, what exactly do you do there?

deliver the newspapers!

but, then again, I could be wrong because they do say bad habits die hard... maybe this bodek culture has become the corporate motto at whatever newspaper your are working for that it all comes ever so naturally to you!

NURAINA A SAMAD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NURAINA A SAMAD said...

lubok melayu,

oh my! if that happens -- Marina lawan Shahrizat, I will really have to be neutral. a better idea -- i think I'll write about food, sex and stuff. Stay away from politics until the elections are over.
i like them both-lah.

lubok melayu said...

adik nuraina,
tk atas jawapan yg panjang-lebar tapi bernas.

1/ tepat sekali, bloggers bukan wartawan. dlm banyak aspek, individu blogger is more than just a reporter . bukan maksud menyinggung sahabat wartawan yang saya hormati dan kagumi. sebagai kumpulan, bloggers tidak mempunyai hala-tuju dan prinsip yang ada pada wartawan. sebab itu saya percaya para blogger di malaysia perlu bersatu, perlu mempunyai suatu rumpun.

2/ marina vs shahrizat.
tolong beritau marina, saya sanggup menjadi pengurus kempennya. gratis. saya pun suka ijat tapi ijat sekarang lain dengan ijat dulu semasa baru nak bertanding jadi MP.

kt boy said...

anon 1130, why so hard on nstman? if you know nuraina, you also can't help but want to praise her a bit. even if she wrote a one-line (because that one-line would read so pretty). so stressed down, man.
see, the point nstman's making is the shallow internet penetration. let's discuss that.
i agree with him and bonini, bloggers may influence only the educated. like me and you. thing is, most of us got kampungs. i went back last year and i told them about the yacht because they wanted to know. the kedai kop folks heard about their pm and sultan cobra but their info were sketchy. so i informed them.
those folk may not have a pc at home (the village had one at the balai raya but the floods took that away) but they have educated ones like me to tell them about what bloggers write.
not all bloggers lah. some are nonsense.

thank you.

NURAINA A SAMAD said...

dear all and lubok melayu, i have revised the following (originally left at 11.50am) and made the necessary corrections to some embarrassing errors. hope no one noticed!

dear lubok melayu,

the thing is, bloggers are by definition and practice, not journalists. however, some have assumed so much influence that they, invariably, are viewed and regarded as influential writers in cyberspace. even as journalists. we have seen this. rightly or wrongly, the influential bloggers know that they have a powerful tool before them. now, if you were a politician, you'd want to enlist the help of these powerful bloggers because that seems to be the way to go to get a wider reach of audience.
see, the difference between reporters and bloggers, is that reporters work for a newspaper or a media house/company and bloggers work for no one but themselves. and there are certain cardinal rules governing the work of reporters (the last time i checked when i was in mainstream media, still holds, for me, at least).
in contrast, bloggers are independent souls. if they choose to support someone and get paid, it is really up to them. they don't owe anyone anything. they can sell their soul, for all i care. as individuals, we can make our own assessment of bloggers who decide to throw their support behind certain politicians(gratis), those hired by politicians (whom they support) and the mercenaries. that said,
when bloggers start getting paid for backing politicians or business tycoons and so forth, they
would surely (and naturally) lose some if not a lot of credibility.

Anonymous said...

Kak Ena,

Me no interest in politics what so ever but just for argument sake, who would be silly enough to put them together finding for one seat when there is a bigger chance getting two.

MarinaM said...

Excuse me, I like my life too much to want to stand for any elections, thank you very much. So thanks for the support but no thanks. Besides I'm not a member of any party!!!

a malaysian in riyadh said...

Dear Nuraina,
Talking about Shahrizat (who was a UM law graduate), I'm waiting with bated breath to read the definitive account of the LLB programme in UM during its hey-day that has produced exemplary proponents of good corporate governance such as Zarinah Anwar, Nik Ramlah, Zaid Ibrahim, Zainon Ali, Philip Koh etc, etc. Can someone share some insights please? aMiR

shar101 said...

So why can't bloggers be neutral as in non-aligned to any political ideology but to instead function as a media dissemination vehicle for the masses.

In essence, become the 'new' Fourth Estate.

Staying 'pure' will enhance their credibility to instill checks and balances within any administration of this nation.

If 'neutral' bloggers were inclined towards having a more meaningful role for better governance, I'd say we should then support a 'Free Judiciary' campaign.

Dr Butiq said...

Kalau Marina Lawan Rafidah di parlimen Kuala Kangasar lagi bagus dari lawan Sharizat.

zorro said...

My latest posting stressed the role bloggers (the next superpower) can play in shaping and disseminating public opinion. We have to start now!

zorro said...

NSTman, you are right, bloggers cannot influence the kampong folks, but they can the urbanites. Think what can happen if BN loses in the capital states and their majority affected. Then maybe they will not be so arrogant or invincible.

lubok melayu said...

dr butiq!
suatu ide yg bernas!
Marina Mahathir lwn Rafidah Aziz!
Whoa!

Saya sanggup bayar Marina supaya dia benarkan saya jadi pengurus kempennyar! Saya sanggup bayar awak, dr butiq, jika awak dapat bilang dengan Marina supaya dia lawan Permaisuri AP Malaysia kita tu! Saya sanggup bergadai, berhutang! Kalau saya ada 1000 AP, saya sanggup hadiahkan kepada sesiapa yang boleh membantu saya untuk menjadikan perlawanan Marina-Kak Pidah suatu realiti!

A Voice said...

Bloggers as Hired Gun ...

I guess what divides and differentiate a person real life would apply to cyber space.

Perhaps, there will be cyber heaven and cyber hell.

Anonymous said...

to kt boy who asked, "why so hard on nstman?"

as fate would have it, the answer can be found in Nuraina's comment "dear all and lubok melayu, i have revised the following (originally left at 11.50am) and made the necessary corrections to some embarrassing errors. hope no one noticed!"

so, why do you think she made the effort to rectify her mistakes?

answer: she has taken responsibility for what she has written and she is only too aware that there is such a thing as right and wrong... which bears one of the hallmarks of a responsible person... or in this case, blogger!

after all, she could have very easily, as most Malaysians would do, let it slide hoping no one would notice... and if someone did notice, then just feign ignorance or come up with all sorts of glib excuses ala I'm-in-control-PM.

or, she could have deleted the evidence and just pretend like nothing ever existed.

instead, she took the decent way and, in the process, earned some respect... at least, mine anyway! (hmm, I do think I should try hitting on her one of these days!)

hopefully, this would help give an insight of my apparent madness... as they say, there is a reason behind all this madness.

now, if you were to project this concept onto the national scene... you might just begin to understand where we, Malaysians, have gone wrong.

naturally, there are other pertinent issues that need to be highlighted but, for now, it's best to learn how to crawl before we start walking tall.

zewt said...

quite a blog you have here.

i guess the govt is more aware of the fact that the virtual world has more convincing power that it seems to be.

earlier, there were some news stating kickdefella has been 'converted'. Not sure how true it is but corruption should never be allowed to creep into blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

at first glance the argument by nstman kinda makes sense... maybe that's why there are some who supported it...

until, of course, one discovers the antonyms: pessimist and obtimist.

think of life as a linear progression like this:

1 -----> 2 -----> 3

the pessimist is, beyond reasonable doubt, eternally stuck at stage 2... and Alexander Pope once said, "A little learning is always dangerous."

the obtimist, however, could either be at stage 1 or stage 3... and Muhammad (p.b.u.h) said "Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave."

so, if you are a Muslim, then you simply cannot be a pessimist.

however, if you should find that you are, then rest assured that there is something you have yet to learn... after all isn't Muhammad (peace be upon him) the bringer of glad tidings as stated in chapter 5:Verse 21 of the Holy Koran, "O Prophet (Muhammed)! Truly We have sent you as a Witness, a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner, and one who invites to God's (grace) by His leave, and as a lamp spreading light. Then give glad tidings to the Believers that they shall have from God a very great bounty."

what is the glad tidings that he has brought to us?

well, go learn and find out.

also, don't forget to ask yourself, how many Muslims were there then and how many Muslims are there now? (note: this is only about quantity and not about quality.)

the moral of this little story of mine is that, the next time you learn something useful... just say, "alhamdullillah."

as to, what you should do with this new-found knowledge... well, that's the defining moment of our lives, isn't it?

Typhoon Sue said...

Well, it’s not a bad idea to hire bloggers for election campaigns. Like many above have commented, bloggers are independent souls, they don’t have to report to anyone. So, hire away then!

Bloggers may not be able to reach out to the kampungfolk, but the politicians already have their mechanisms to do so, bloggers are not needed there. But bloggers can help where all else fail, reach out to the IT savvy youths who never cared about politics.

I just hope that if it does happen and become a trend, it doesn’t turn into some ugly smear campaign between warring politicians. Let’s all be civil.

manhon said...

The case of hired bloggers for a candidate's campaigns is a logical extension of the way political campaigns are conducted in the US. Blogs serves as a new media, powerful enough not to be ignored by campaign managers. However I have my doubts these hired hands have any sway power.

For every blog entry promoting a candidate, it is likely to attract multiple entries in blogosphere contending the assertions made. In my view, the power of persuasion reside with the neutral unpaid bloggers.

Any smokescreens, cover-ups or spins attract scrutiny from independent minded individuals who are to able reach the intended audience of the paid bloggers just as effectively. This is a powerful reality that should actually liberate us.

Our political process is less matured and our electorate less sophisticated. We know well ahead of time, which candidate and party will win the endorsement from our free and independent press :-)

As such, there is a place for a grassroot process to scrutinize political candidates running for office. Bloggers can play a role in this.

Even if one takes a defeatist attitude on the political scene in Malaysia - that it is fait accompli for status quo to remain - voters can still send a message to party planners that voters expect quality candidates. We will not merely accept anyone carrying the party flag. In time, we may rid ourselves of some of the untrained buffons from parliament and get ourselves a legislature and a government that we deserve and one that truly deserves our vote.

tony said...

NSTMAN,

Ok, we loose the rural seats, but aren't most tech savvy people / bloggers urbanites?
Then I say we take ALL THE URBAN SEATS!!