IEET > Vision > Staff > Mike Treder > Technoprogressivism
Blogging as Political Action
Mike Treder   Aug 14, 2009   Ethical Technology  

How widespread is the “netroots” movement outside the United States?

I’m at the Netroots Nation (formerly YearlyKos) conference, taking place August 13-15 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s an annual gathering of people who work in online politics in the U.S., or who write politically-oriented blogs, or who are just interested in Internet-based grassroots action.

Over the last half dozen years, the netroots has arisen as a powerful force in American political activism. But I’m wondering how much this phenomenon may have occurred in other nations and cultures. We know, for instance, that Twitter and Facebook are playing (or did play) a major role in the organization of protests in Iran related to their recent election debacle.

How about in other locations? Is there any significant “netroots” movement in England, or Germany, or Russia? What about in China, Japan, or India? Or Australia, Africa, or South America?

I’d like to hear responses from anyone outside the United States who can tell us what you know about the impact of political action via the Internet—especially blogging—in your country or in others that you are aware of. Please don’t try to make a comment on this thread if you live in the U.S. [Moderators, do your best to patrol this.]

Thanks in advance for your input!

Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.


“Starbucks should move its store out of the Forbidden City,” an article published on CCTV anchorman Rui Chenggang’s blog , sparked heated debate among the media and netizens.

“It’s not appropriate that Starbucks set up its coffee shop in the Forbidden City since it’s in some way damaging Chinese culture.”- Rui Chenggang Jan.12,2007

“We have made serious efforts to fit within the environment of the Forbidden City.“a reply from Jim Donald, CEO of Starbucks Corp in another article dated Jan.14.

Feng Nai’en, spokesman for the Forbidden City, said: “Currently, we’re discussing this with Starbucks and trying to find a good solution by June.”

In July. 20, 2007.  Starbucks finally closed its 200-square-foot coffeehouse in the Forbidden, the company said, ending a presence that sparked online protestors that said it undermined the solemnity of the former imperial palace and trampled on Chinese culture.

In Finland, the most talked-about politician within the last year has been a blogger called Jussi Halla-aho, who campaigns for us not going the way of Sweden/etc in immigration policies (though Sweden also has now tightened up from their earlier situation). He argues for stricter controls, is vehemently hated on the left, and has been under very heavy attacks in the printed press.

He has been quite successful, in great part because his opponents (including the immigration minister) have been extraordinarily incompetent, and it has been easy for him to point that out (and he is gifted in rhetoric).

In the recent European Parliament elections, the big parties went to great lengths to ensure that Jussi Halla-aho couldn’t be a candidate, but one seat was taken by an unknown from a small party (at least it was a small party before…), because he had the backing of Jussi Halla-aho. (To be more precise, that individual actually doesn’t have the seat for the full term, but has it once another guy comes back to Finland from the EP.)

As a separate “netroots” phenomenon, I’ll note the success of the Pirate Party in Sweden.

I would say that blogs in Britain have enabled information, news and perspectives that would be underplayed or ignored by the mainstream media to become prominent.

A recent example was the appearance of the British Member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, on Fox News denouncing the National Health Service - this only came to prominence via blogs and social networking sites like Twitter.  There has been a big backlash against Hannan and the Conservative Party as a result of these comments coming to light.

The correction of media distortions is quite important as well.  In January and February there were a series of strikes in oil refineries and power stations up and down the country, over the issue of a particular refinery hiring non-union labour in an attempt to break the national agreement on pay, conditions, safety etc.  The mainstream media tried to make out it was a nationalistic strike against Italian and Portuguese migrant workers, when it was nothing of the sort. 

The strikers and their supporters were able through blogs to counteract this message.  Though I’m not sure how successful this was in affecting the general public perception outside of those reading progressive blogs, it certainly gave those who did read these blogs the evidence and arguments to set the record straight when speaking to people.

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