Salisbury Mayor Makes a Strawman of Bloggers

From Inside Charm City:Mayor: bloggers a great danger to city. The City in question is Salisbury, and the outgoing Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman said:

Tilghman said in her address Thursday that over the last five years, the presence of a small group of suspicious, mean-spirited people focused on the negative has grown, endangering the city’s vitality.

Tilghman says some people are avoiding serving their city because it’s not worth chancing the scorn of bloggers.

A couple of things here.

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First, I will conceed that a number of bloggers particularly in smaller towns and localities not only have an agenda, but often make matters personal rather than professional. That will, of course, taint their coverage and commentary on local political matters.

Second, local politics, particularly in smaller cities and towns, is a great deal more personal than state level or national level politics. Part of the reason is that you not only have to deal with politicians on a political level, but often on a personal level as well. The makes the political interaction a dynamic that is hard to separate from the personal dynamic. Such a system leads to bitterness and grudges.

Third, if a few bloggers are causing a person from not running for office, then clearly they have too thin a skin to be in office.

Fourth, I tire of the strawman of “bitter bloggers” or “mean-spirited bloggers” without any details. If you don’t like a newspaper editorial, you may call out that editorial staff at say the Baltimore Sun, there is a distinct identity to the group of people who write the Sun’s Editorials. If you have a problem with a particular story, many of the Sun’s articles are signed, so you have named a person. If you do the same with the Annapolis Capital, may have a smaller group of people to point to, but they are identifiable. If you point to a small town newspaper, you have a distinct group of identified people. These are identifiable and identified when a politician expresses exasperation with a particular newspaper.

But the nature of blogging is a) it can be anonymous and b) it can easily utilized as a strawman for all that a politican perceives as bad about the internet. Because of the anonymity, politicians think it is useful just to slap the broad brush around. But if the politician has a problem with a blogger they perceive to be mean spirited, why not at least name the blog, even if the blogger themselves is anonymous. If that blog is mean spirited in your eyes, then naming it as such is surely not going to suddenly raise the ire of the blogger–they already don’t like you the politician. So what is the risk.

The reason, of course, is that by simply saying bloggers, a politician does not have to confront the fact that what the blogger may have said or opined upon was accurate or not. If accurate, how does the politician defend it. If it is not accurate, why not correct the record?

Can bloggers be mean spirited? Of course, but that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong–just mean. Can bloggers be wrong? Yes, probably pretty often. But here is the thing, I don’t see where any blogger has so much influence in a small town the people just simply don’t want to serve.

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