Blogs – a threat to democracy?

Say whaaat?! I am invited to conferences and workshops to talk to students about the power and importance of blogs, I started to blog 4 years ago, when Romanians still had dial-up internet access and my colleagues were still hoping that record sales would go back to the way they used to be in the good old times.

How could I, someone who promotes blogs and online conversation, write such a thing on my blog? And what do I mean by “threat to democracy”? Is it some kind of Al-Qaeda?

Yes, I am serious.

Let’s take it one step at a time.

In the beginning, a blog was a personal site where the author would write articles about his life or his profession. These articles appeared in counter-chronological order, meaning the first article was the most recent. The next step was the ability to comment on the articles, a very important step in social media history!


For the first time in history, passive readers were able to become active actors in the conversation, they could add content or criticisms – thus adding value. Some articles had some comments that were so relevant that they became part of the blog and even became best selling books (see Chris Anderson’s famous “The Long Tail” example)

Power to the people! Bloggers [who were assigned to the ’journalists’ genre] began a new era: the democratization of information and journalism.

Consumers became prosumers [content producers + consumers].

What happened next? Blog numbers and audience went through the roof, tens of thousands of bloggers (solely in Romania) wrote about anything on the internet: from day to day life to prose, book and movie reviews, social and political articles, jokes, videos and anything you can think of…and even more!

At first, the only ones that had blogs were those that worked in the IT and Media fields. Back then, the commentators were few and probably also from the IT or a similar field. Then, because we live in a democracy, everybody got a taste of commenting on blogs.

And, among others, three new types of commentators emerged:

– The gruff: member of a party who comments on online newspapers and blogs that have political subjects, defending or criticising on queue, depending on his party’s agenda.

– The critic: he thinks everything is lame, everything is dumb, Romanians are lazy, they don’t have a future, everybody is stealing from us, everyone’s an idiot.

– The hater: he’s kind of a critic but he sets himself on a single person (generally a well-known blogger) on every blog and every forum.

– The schmooze: whatever the subject of the article, he only commets to be part of something.

– The gossiper: they comment on online tabloids which are full of yokels, gossip on bimbos and XXX photos.

What happens when these people become the majority on blogs and online newspapers? How relevant are their comments? What value do they add to the articles?

Some bloggers already filter comments (they only accept argumented and well-written criticism) or even turn them off. Of course, in this situation, the bidirectional conversation rules of social media are broken.

But the authors (and the subjects of their articles) change their attitude because of these aggressive comments that aren’t argumented, sometimes without realising it. They either censor themselves or become aggressive themselves. Because hate fuels hate! And thus, altough everybody knows that X is a gruff and Y is a hater, the direction and the attitude of the blogger change. Also, commentators will dodge such articles and, this way, the situation gets spread quickly.

This is how we come to the conclusion in the title: while the internet democraticizes conversation in the blogosphere, the freedom we have might harm us, because, in the end, malicious comentators end up censoring authors, intimidating comentators, scaring publishers, employers and sponsors.

It’s a paradox: ill conceived democracy makes us realise that democracy isn’t good.

And that is a dangerous road for us all.

FOTO: Epsos – CC BY