How social media affects elections/"s--- the n------ 's d---"

Dateline: Wed 13 Aug 2008

Blog Indiana 2008 begins this weekend in Indianapolis, a two-day blogger event that will attempt to explore some of what bloggers do.

Saturday's panel discussion, "How Social Media Impacts Elections," sounds especially intriguing. Speakers include Laurin Manning, the national blog editor for the Obama campaign; Chris Hardie (; Joshua Gillespie (Hoosier Access); Thomas Cook (Blue Indiana) and myself.

Not being big into Twitter, Facebook and all that, I've been doing my homework on the social media scene. By virtue of being a volunteer for Barack Obama, I'm already on board in a limited sense; almost every day, and sometimes several times a day, I get emails advising me of some real-time event, video or virtual happenings in Obamaworld.

But obviously, social media has a broader definition than the candidate I support, and, I think, perhaps goes beyond the Wikepedia explanation:

" umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and 'building' of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories, and understandings."

Which brings me to a blogger I'll call Oldfartman (not his real name, but close enough).

Oldfartman had a blog that until recently was powered by Google. Most of his blog consisted of somewhat suggestive/altered photos of young women in varying states of undress; pictures of cats from Icanhazcheezburger and, sorry to say, pimps on Obama, as well as occasional smattering of pro-marijuana postings, anti-Bush, anti-war rants and commentary on legit, mostly humorous, news stories. In case you have not guessed, OFM is a white male in his 60s, supposedly well educated.

My husband Guy, a libertarian politically, is (I shudder) an Interweb "friend" of Oldfartman. Guy commented on OFM from time to time, usually personal asides and nothing at all insulting to any candidate -- nothing, in fact, political.

This week the OFM blog arrived (sent via email) with the news that Google had cut OFM off. There was a rant about Google ("F--- you Google/blogspot...They are not allowing me to post images or text....I am pissed off beyond...whatever")

Then, this shocking conjecture from OFM:



OFM listed several other blogs where his comments could be posted. After a quick check, three of the four contain anti-Obama material, but nothing as crazy or scary as what OFM "conjects."

The message here? Social media perhaps is not just the feel-good, touchy-feely purview of the young and/or the idealistic. Social media, in a broader sense, may include, under that "umbrella," crazies whose hatred of one candidate is so desperate and unbalanced that the language deserves censorship.

So is OFM influencing people to vote as well? Obviously, he is trying to.

But it's time the rest of us -- who deplore racism and the N word -- stand up and send a strong message. We won't tolerate this bullshit.

Guy has sent that message, in less inflammatory language. "Cool it. Not everybody knows you as well as I do..."

OFM has not replied. But I hope that this "thingie" called the Internet continues to have safeguards, and I am relieved that Google pulled the plug, altho the reasons remain unclear.

Sure, disagree with me on my candidate of choice. But do not go where Jesse Jackson and others have. And keep such hate language off blogs, because the First Amendment provides only so big a blanket before we are all suffocated.

If we can accomplish that, maybe we can at least have a fair election and interesting discussions. Social media absolutely can play a role -- albeit a responsible, respectful one.

As an aside, I am grateful that commentators here keep their kid gloves on. Thanks.

And here's a plug for Blog Indiana:


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