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Bloggers Too Uninhibited?

With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by CBSNews.com's Melissa P. McNamara.


Is blogging simply therapy at the touch of a keyboard? One editor thinks so, and bloggers are not happy with his insinuation they have elevated egos. And, what's the latest cause celebre online? Find out why bloggers are fighting to save the Internet. And upon her death, bloggers celebrate the life of urban theorist Jane Jacobs.

If Only Freud Could Weigh In

Is blogging simply therapy for the uninhibited? Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, says that according to a "Blogs Trend Survey" released last September, 50 percent of bloggers consider what they are doing to be therapy.

And this uninhibited online culture is not something to be proud of, Henninger believes. He writes in his column on OpinionJournal.com:

"In our time, it has generally been thought bad and unhealthy to 'repress' inhibitions. Spend a few days inside the new world of personal blogs, however, and one might want to revisit the repression issue. The power of the Web is obvious and undeniable. We diminish it at our peril. But what if the most potent social effect to spread outward from the Internet turns out to be dis-inhibition, the breaking down of personal restraints and the endless elevation of oneself? It may be already."

Many bloggers admit, albeit sheepishly, they're guilty of writing in an often confessional tone, but take issue with Henninger's thesis that the advent of blogs is to blame for the downturn in American culture.

"When I first read Daniel Henninger's column the other day, I was baffled... Did he live through a different '60s, '70s and so forth than I did?," Done With Mirrors blogs asks. "Our entire culture has been on a degraded and degrading track for quite a while--something which Henninger, of all columnists, should know. So why is he calling out bloggers in particular?"

Glenn Reynolds agrees the Internet did not give birth to inhibition. "Pardon me for sounding rude, but what, exactly, does this have to do with the Internet? The 'let it all hang out' ethos predates TCP/IP. And cable TV and hip-hop were around long before the Internet had much effect on American culture," he writes at TCS Daily.

But maybe there's some truth to the uber-honesty bloggers spout from their keyboards? Ken at Dairy of a Madman thinks so. "We're definitely, as Henninger points out, becoming more and more of a warts-and-all world, at least those of us that open up like this online. And I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing," he writes. "On the one hand, the more we open up, no matter in what medium, the more that honesty is encouraged between people. On the other, there's a desensitization to the ugly things in the world that comes with being human..."

And Bene Diction Blogs On thinks people in glass houses should be more careful with their words. "This is funny in a cognitively dissonant kind of way. Daniel Henninger wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal decrying blogs and the dis-inhibiting of speech online. And he did so as the epitome of linguistic fussiness, befitting a deputy editor of a prestigious opinion page," he writes.

"It never ceases to amaze me how the conservative male conflates his class with humanity at large. Who really defined appropriate language in our society? The landed and the educated, in other words, the wealthy elite," s00767 writes.

Jane Jacobs Lives Online

Urban theorist Jane Jacobs died this week, but many of her ideas are preserved and cheered online. Jacobs is best known for proposing new ways to view urban life and urban planning, and for recommending that short city blocks mix residential and commercial diversity. Her death last week at age 89 marked a remarkable career from a woman who never formally studied urban planning.

There are valuable critiques of Jacobs' work – such as her limited answers for suburban sprawl or the nation's dependence on cars and that she didn't recognize that amidst commercial centers "soul-lessness" pervades cities with their open-air malls – but her work is largely championed online.

"Jacobs' neighborhood leadership influenced a generation, including this blogger, as she worked to preserve a measure of diversity in the urban jungle," Mark Arnold Frederickson, president of the Northwest Area Citizens' Organization writes. "Perhaps the most important lesson which citizen activists have learned is that one person may make a difference! Jacobs taught her Greenwich neighborhood New York City residents that they need not be narrowly educated to propose a better life for the community. Form should follow function."

Writer Steven Berlin Johnson was inspired by Jacobs. "From page one, I felt like all the ideas I'd been shuffling around in the dark were suddenly illuminated by Jacobs' account of how dense urban neighborhoods worked," Johnson writes. And in his own book, Johnson acknowledged the impact of Jacobs' "Death and Life of Great American Cities." "This is a city book, both in subject matter and in inspiration. If you're reading these words in a comparably thriving city, put the book down, step outside into the roaring streets, and make your own connections," Johnson writes.

In another tribute, Armory Blaine writes on Daily Kos, "Jane Jacobs, for my money the greatest thinker of the 20th century...She recognized the vibrancy of neighborhoods, of street life, of mixed use and she is in large part responsible for the salvation and regeneration of our great cities."

Perhaps a blogger at Energy Blog captures her memory best. "I only hope we can heed her writings and discover her teachings and see the world with such a livable view," he writes.

And if you think you live on a Jane Jacobs-inspired block, Curbed.com is running a contest to "celebrate the 'street ballet' of your favorite block."

Save the Internet

Amid D.C. protests against atrocities in Darfur, and national immigration and anti-Iraq war rallies this past week, the cause celebre for online activists has been a fight to "Save the Internet."

The cyberstorm over "Internet freedom" was sparked by a vote on new federal telecommunications legislation, Timothy Karr at TomPaine and Media Citizen explains.

The bill, first introduced to Congress in late March 2006, is focused on video-franchise reform. It would allow large telephone companies and cable operators automatically renewing national franchises to deliver video services over the Internet, and would grant the FCC authority over Net neutrality-related issues. Net neutrality is "the principle that prevents large telephone and cable companies from deciding which Web sites work best for you -- based on what site pays them the most"...and the main issue alarming activists.

When House Energy and Commerce Committee members defeated an amendment by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., which would have protected net neutrality, the SavetheInternet Coalition was born.

The Coalition organized a team of bloggers to bring the issue online, where the issue clearly resonates most. Thousands of bloggers have linked to the SavetheInternet site, posted online letters to members of Congress asking them to "stand firm in defense of Internet freedom" and generated heaps of attention from bloggers on both the left and right who say they are determined to spread the word.

As Matt Stoller wrote on MyDD, "There's a white hot firestorm on the issue on Capitol Hill. No one wants to see the telcos make a radical change to the Internet and screw this medium up, except, well, the telcos."

Thanks, in part, to bloggers, the issue has spread to college campuses as well. Andy Carvin posts notes from Yale Law School's Access to Knowledge conference, where the issue was discussed. He notes that "SavetheInternet" Coalition members span the political spectrum, and include Lawrence Lessig, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, Free Press, Consumers Union, Glenn Reynolds, Gun Owners of America and MoveOn.org.

This politically diverse coalition appeals to some bloggers, like Ken Goldstein. "This is not a party-line vote, either," Ken writes at 13th Story. "Groups on the left and the right are joined together in fighting this attack on the first amendment."

Rep. Markey, for one, couldn't be happier. "We would not have turned the corner in this fight without your blogs, your voices," Markey said during a teleconference with bloggers. "We need to put every member of Congress on record on where they stand on the future of the Internet," Markey said.

Consider bloggers already persuaded.

"The so-called Communications Opportunity Enhancement Act (COPE), authored by Texas Republican Joe Barton, represents little more than the theft of a natural resource. Imagine an internet that not only costs a lot more to access, but on which you could never criticize AT&T or Verizon," Ron Silliman blogs. And 14-year-old Balo heard the call to action as well. "...This would end the Internet as we know it, changing the greatest free speech mechanism the world has ever seen into little more than a corporate pigsty. I do not believe this dire threat can be ignored," he writes at Balo's Life Blog.

Angry Blogging Atheists

An essay with the title "Trying to Understand Angry Atheists" is sure to generate a healthy online response. And Rabbi Marc Gellman's online essay in Newsweek sure did, making him the top blog search on technorati since he posted his column last week.

In his essay, Rabbi Gellman asks, "Why do nonbelievers seem to be threatened by the idea of God?" He speculates that atheism might be the pathologic manifestation of some early trauma, which would account for why so many nonbelievers are "angry" people, he says.

And, atheist bloggers are, well, angry about this conclusion.

"Angry Atheist? That's quite the broad brush. I get angry because of other's behaviors. Not because of who they are," A Rational Being writes.

The Blogging Curmudgeon is equally angry at Rabbi Gellman's generalization. "Of course Gellman offers neither statistical nor anecdotal evidence that atheists are angry. Atheists are angry because Rabbi Gellman says they are. So there. Gellman wrote of us atheists, 'I bear them no ill will.' We're emotionally disturbed, but he bears us no ill will. Thanks, Rabbi Gellman!," he writes.

Plus, if they are angry, Vjack says perhaps they have good reason to be. "The 'angry atheist' depiction may be little more than an inflammatory stereotype, but atheists do have many important reasons to be upset," Vjack writes at Atheist Revolution. "Surveys indicate that we are the most hated group in America, contributing to a long history of marginalization. Those who despise us because we reject religion reveal that their true agenda is anything but religious freedom."

American Atheists agree completely. "Lurking behind Gellman's genteel, soothing, even conciliatory tone, though, is a mix of condescension and ignorance of what it is that angers many Atheists," they write. "We are 'angry' when government tells us when and how to pray; when politicians drape themselves in the mantle of religiosity as a credential for public office; when the state demands that we subsidize the faithful and their clerical-social institution..."

By Melissa McNamara

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