I wasn’t going to write a diary, today. Honest, I wasn’t.

Unfortunately, I read 3 diaries, today (even though I have lots of learning and work to do), which struck me as typifying what the blogosphere is good for, and what it’s terrible, at.

All 3 were certainly interesting, but I’ll just mention one, by name. (I don’t care to go into reasons for not mentioning the other 2.) That is A Vicious Assault on Retirees

Overall, given it’s size, I thought this was informative, and gives attention to issues that deserve attention.

My problems with the diary (which is typical across the political blogosphere) are, specifically:

1) There’s no “ask” into any sort of organized response to deal with this problem. There is actually a bigger problem with doing so, meaningfully, than one would have hoped for. That’s because our political systems have systemic problems, mostly due to long-standing corruption. So, even if the author had included an “ask”, it’s likely that it wouldn’t be very effective.

2) Responsibility for this state of affairs is placed on some evil, “mean spirited” others. Thus retirees reading this are likely to have their senses of disempowerment and lack of responsibility reinforced.

Surely, that is not what the author wants…. And yet, any number of diairies by various authors could also be ascribed similar 1)’s and 2)’s.

While writing in a somewhat objective, but non-challenging (to action, organization) style may be fine for the NY Times, I’m sure the political blogosphere can do better.

Metamars’ Meta Suggestion

As a small, but potentially signficant step (if it catches on, in the long run) that FDL could take, to break out of this self-limiting pattern of fact (+ opinion) presentation devoid of challenge, I’m hereby suggesting that FDL modify it’s diary creating software to invite authors to add 1 or more “asks” – which could be anything that the author believes would constitute an organized response.

An “ask” along the lines of “call your Congress critter, here’s a link” or “sign this online petition” would get a small gold or silver star icon appearing before or after the diary title.

An “ask” which is more creative and/or involves challenging people to organize for the long haul would merit a big gold star. “Long haul” organizing respects the fact that we have long-standing, long-developing, systemic problems. Stop-gap efforts won’t resolve systemically-generated problems, over the long run.

Preferably, the software tweaks would repeat the (essence of the) organizing information which merited the stars at either the head or tail of the diary, in a different font, so that nobody would miss it. And, indeed, would learn to recognize the stylistic cue, with their peripheral vision, so to speak. (I.e., even the stylistic cues would create some subconsious reminders that action and organization is necessary.)

The purpose of this idea can be construed as a prod towards not just authors and not just readers, but also prodding society, in general, to not be mere spectators and consumers of information while the country circles down the drain. A starred FDL diary is not going to be seen by somebody outside the FDL community, typically. However, a culture of activism has to begin, somewhere. We can reasonably hope for more engaged blog enthusiasts to have their heightened degree of involvment spread beyond the confines of the blogosphere, somehow.

But what if households started identifying themselves as civically minded? From time to time, we’ve seen this sort of thing in the US (outside of election season and campaign signs.) In particular, yellow ribbons to signify “supporting the troops”.

In the US, public signs of civic engagement do occur, from time to time. From wikipedia:

The yellow ribbon saw renewed popularity in the United States during the Gulf War in the early 1990s. It appeared along with the slogan “support our troops”, in the form of yellow ribbons tied to trees, and countless other contexts. It often had the implied meaning of Bring our troops home the Desert Shield and Desert Storm troop deployments. It appeared again during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq with similar meanings, most prominently in the form of a yellow ribbon printed on magnetized material and displayed on the outside of automobiles.

To be sure, I’m not encouraging cheap symbolism – by which I mean, symbolism which costs you nothing. I’m encouraging activism and organization – whether dramatic, or drudgery.

To the Victor Goes the Spoils

To make things a little more interesting, there could be a yearly/quarterly/what-have-you contest, for diarists with the most big gold stars. The top diarist would get a signed picture of Jane Hamsher, suitable for framing. Plus a lock of her hair. Plus (for diarists who are dog lovers) a lock of Jane’s dog, Katie’s hair.

Hey! This won’t set back FDL’s budget much, but would provide quite a conversation piece for the winner.