I have just been reading Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle Trilogy (and loving it) and in a books two and three there are some references to the use of pamphleteering and broadsheets to try and stop slavery amongst other political aims. Using the printing press as a tool to effect social change. The parallel with blogs is sort of … well unmissable.
Back in the 1500’s Martin Luther posted a “blog” on to the doors of a cathederal in Germany and started the Reformation. The printing press had only been invented by Gutenberg about 60 years before this act of defiance. The printing press empowered Martin Luther and change.
200 years on and we have Thomas PaineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s using pamphlets to get out his ideas on “The Rights of Man” in Common Sense, the key was the falling cost of printing pamphlets. Those writings greatly influenced the American and French Revolutions. Pamphleteering was quite the bloglike craze in the 1700.
George Orwell wrote pamphlets on the class sytem and James Burnham before writing 1984 and now Reporters sans frontiÃƒÂ¨res has taken a step towards making blogging the 21st Century equivalent of anonymous pamphleteering.
As the cost of producing, distributing and managing information steadily falls and will keep falling the traditional barriers to media and the dissemination of information start to disappear. Newcomers start sticking their noses in and the existing media have to adjust by playing the new game (the New York Times and The Age starting Web sites with RSS feeds, the ABC startin to supply their shows as podcasts).
Blogs get people excited or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them (and with good reason see the Evaluating Online Information article). Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re tremendous tools of freedom of expression.
Bloggers can often be the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest. Reporters Without Borders has produced their handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.
There is a basic tutorial on anonymous blogging, a half dozen scenarios from the point of view a fictional citizen of a dictatorship. It addresses private e-mail (now there’s a concept?), especially relevant in light of Yahoo! actively cooperating with the government of China in revealing the identity of journalist using their e-mail service. The handbook also gives advice on journalistic ethics and what makes the “best blogs,” and ends with a thoroughly entertaining and enraging “Internet-Censor World Championship” article”.
Why anonymous? Well, let see… for starters in an article by Joseph Kahn on the 26th of September 2005, the New York Times reported that China Tightens Its Restrictions for News Media on the Internet .
It would appear that China is unhappy with the “threatening trend toward liberalization in the news media” now that the Internet has become the main source of news and information for millions of urban Chinese. The major Chinese search engines and online news sites are no longer to post commentary, only the party line.
The rules also state that private individuals or groups must register as “news organizations” before they can operate e-mail distribution lists that spread news or commentary. Of the 100 million Chinese internet users, few individuals or private organizations are likely to be allowed to register as news organizations, meaning they can no longer legally distribute information by e-mail.
All of these measures are to give the Propaganda dept time to fiddle with the spin for all the stuff that they cant directly control.
The Chinese need the handbook (and I dont mean the Propaganda Dept).