Guest Commentary 

Bloggers may want to change the world--but there's more to politics than typing on a keyboard

I killed my blog.

It was late on the night of June 7. I was secretly scarfing down my kid's box of Cheddar Bunnies; old reruns of Sex and the City were purring softly in the background, and I was staring at my former lover, Enviro Hanky. Like all self-possessed and puffed-up bloggers, I was a slave to the merciless mistress Site Meter.

Sweet Mary, Joseph and the Brady Bunch, what the hell do I write about tonight? I have (had) many loyal fans, but after a year, it was just feeling hollow.

According to a recent Arizona Republic article on the most popular blogs in this state, they are characterized by their "snarkiness." In my schizophrenic writer's mind, I fall into three distinct categories. There's Mother Theresa sharing a cup of herbal tea with Mahatma Gandhi in the running play I like to call "Can't We all Just Get Along?"; another one called "smart-assed, take-no-prisoners bitch from New York"; and my personal favorite, sassy ho Yolanda from Jacksonville, Miss.

Snarky? That tripe is for amateurs, y'all.

I stared at my lover. I just wish I knew how to quit you, I moaned. By this time, Carrie Bradshaw had bid me good night, so I switched over to PBS and a docu-bio on Joni Mitchell. I was paying very scant attention to this ethereal songstress until she ditched Graham Nash for the pursuit of her "art." She did this several times with other chaps before the show ended. I was impressed. Courage woman, I told myself.

Before others end their blogs--even if they are going to be away for a family trip, or are taking a break because of surgery or allergies--they post an excuse. Um, do I know you? Do you owe me an apology? You could have been the person I argued with over a parking spot at Wild Oats, when only an hour ago, we were commiserating over the Regional Transportation Authority and the fact that Steve Farley needs to address his connection to the rude-mouthed "Citizens Against Virtually Everything" mailer. (The last I knew, the Tucson blogosphere is still waiting for the answer to that, Steve. Francine Shacter's comment on Blog for Arizona demanded that people call him to find out. Sheesh, FS; bloggers don't actually talk to one another. )

The day after I deleted Enviro Hanky, I learned that 1,000 left-leaning digiterati were attending the first annual YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas. Organized by Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the conference featured several political figures banking on the potential political power of the blogosphere. One of the issues being batted around was whether blogging is the same as real, on-the-ground activism. These computer commentators fancy themselves part of the "netroots"--an eerie twist on the word "grassroots." And some key leaders are biting.

Watch your asses, A-list bloggers: Some folks are planning to bite hard, and bite badly. Kevin Spidel, of the popular Phoenix-based Spidelblog, and who is the national deputy director for Progressive Democrats of America, posted the following update from YearlyKos: "I did overhear one disturbing comment by one well-known blogger talking to a well-known progressive developer about harnessing the grassroots power. He said, 'The key is to harness that energy that the crazy radicals have out there, and not give in to the crazy radical. Bring their energy to the table, and appease their frustration, but do not legitimize their fringe issues.'"

Kevin also wonders how much clout bloggers really have: "Is the cult of bloggers just online fellowship and discourse?" I'm skeptical that a bunch of self-styled computer geeks can take the lead in our communities, much less influence important policies for the long haul. Some may argue that MoveOn.org has successfully taken that niche.

You want to make a difference in local change? Become an activist. Host a wine and cheese fundraiser, and run for office. What these choices have in common is this: While it's fun to rant and wax snarky, sooner or later, you need to unplug and face the people.

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