One of my longtime themes has been that some bloggers have an exaggerated view of the role and power of the blogosphere. When you’re the 40 pound lemur in the little cage at the end of the primate hut, you sometimes start thinking you’re the 900 lb. gorilla.
Shelley Powers has a great post today about impulse control, or the lack of it, in the blogosphere.
I don’t know anything about Dave Winer’s latest legal battle, but I do know that if thinks calling out a judge on the internet is going to help his case, he is sadly mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, if some company ripped me off for a few hundred bucks, I’d post about it the way Dave did when he got tangled up with Travelocity. But when the stakes get really high, the marginal utility of bashing someone on a blog decreases. Hire one of those planes to fly around the courthouse trailing a sign calling out the judge and see how that works out for you.
I don’t know anything about the Maine blogger brouhaha either, but this quote from Shelley’s post is spot on:
Where there are passionate sides to an argument, truth usually lies somewhere between-both repelled and attracted to the play of emotions. That, however, doesn’t stop webloggers, who follow the scent of fresh blood in the blogosea, moving impulsively, en masse, in support of the weblogger-in-need of the week, rarely letting a little thing like truth interfere in our righteous cause.
We have seen this happen over and over in the blogosphere- the same way it happens in office spats and neighborhood disputes. Clans line up according to clan relationships. Clan relationships are developed to get or retain a clan advantage. Only in coffee bars and neighborhoods, the clans have to face either other. The blogosphere can be anonymous. Like driving, blogging can release the inner asshole.
Stated another way, blogging can cause a complete loss of impulse control.
And even if teens of bloggers unite in opposition to a larger, richer and more powerful opponent, the alliance is doomed to failure if the effort takes time or prolonged effort. Why? Because bloggers generally have the attention span of a gnat and, as Shelley says:
[Only] the tiniest fraction of webloggers might have some influence in this regard. Most of us don’t, and never will. Of those who do, most use such for their own personal interests, rarely for any greater good.
Even the lady Shelley links to who maintains a site against the Maine blogger says she is writing a book about the “sorry tale.”
Trying to make a buck is deeply ingrained in American culture. There’s no point in trying to undo what Wall Street, TV shows and Hollywood have built.
But trying to make blogging something bigger, more important and more powerful than it is, does a disservice to those who appreciate blogging for what it is by implying that what it is isn’t good enough.
Impulse control is lost as anonymity increases and as a group of people begin to believe their own bullshit. It happens in the real world and it happens in the blogosphere.
All we can do is keep reminding the lemurs that there are gorillas out there, even if we can’t see them.