Recently, buhdydharma wrote a diary on Lurkers entitled "Ask A Kossak, W/Free Answers! Howdy Lurkers!" In there, he defines what a lurker is and why it’s important for diarists to write to influence lurkers.
Sometimes I write meta....which is more for the staunch Kossaks and aimed at the relatively small audience of die hards, but when i write something more serious, i always try to remember that i am writing for the lurkers too. Informing and influencing the Lurkers is in my opinion the most important function of Dkos...its how we change public opinion on a large scale, instead of just being an echo chamber or preaching to the choir.
Then he asks the following question that I would like to answer here:
Tonight's Third Question: An easy one....why do lurkers lurk instead of participating?
I want to give my perspective on why I read blogs in the first place and mostly lurk rather than contribute content. First, I’d like give a little background because, judging by the poll of the ages of the people who follow Liberal blogs, I’m going to bet a lot of them have comparable backgrounds to me and will find that they have followed a similar journey to Liberal blogs and their current political views.
I grew up going to a conservative church during the 50’s and 60’s (born in 1952). My father, who was quite conservative, was a coal miner. In spite of the better working conditions and pay the UMWA and the Democratic Party won for coal miners, he supported conservative candidates such as Nixon (yuck). My mother was a waitress and was also very conservative. Needless to say, they didn’t make a lot of money so we were also fiscally conservative in our home. The social upheaval during the 60’s had a big impact on my views and I rejected my parent’s social conservatism. However, the fiscal conservatism in our home has never left me. That’s why I describe myself as socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Do any other Kossaks out there fit that description?
Once I was out of the house at the age of 18, I tended to vote Democratic (I got to vote in 1972 because of the 26th amendment) and voted for Jimmy Carter twice (four years apart, not during the same election). Three things happened in the 1980’s that moved me to vote republican – I went back to church, deficit spending, and the Democratic senators and representatives seemed to be pretty corrupt, mainly because I think they were. I didn’t like reagan (because of the deficits) or Mondale in 1984, so I skipped voting for president and just voted on the rest of the ballot. I became a republican precinct committeeman and voted republican until 2001 when I saw what they really stood for – tearing down the social network of our society.
I confess I bought into all that the media was saying, making Liberal a dirty word. At the same time the media was manipulating me, pastors were doing their own number on me. I have never been politically astute and was easily manipulated. I guess if you don’t really stand for something you’ll fall for anything. That described me. Also, the fiscal conservatism I grew up with railed against deficit spending. I bought into the meme that the republican party touted about them being the party of fiscal responsibility. By the time Clinton was a candidate, I was firmly into the republican camp. I’m not proud that I was so easily influenced, but hey, I’m being honest about it.
I began to change during the late Clinton years because Clinton was fiscally conservative and his policies produced budget surpluses and a lot of jobs. I’m not sure how Liberal he was, but he was nothing like george bush. I voted for george bush in 2000 but I knew there was something twisted about the bush administration shortly after he took office when the energy companies conspired to rip off California by falsely creating a crisis and the bush administration didn’t even investigate it. In fact, I think bush said that California deserved it. They didn’t try that when Clinton was president because they would have landed in jail.
So, after 9/11, bush displayed his complete lack of character for the whole world to see, both in his domestic policies and his foreign policies. By 2002, I saw the true face of conservatism – deficit spending and the destruction of the middle class. It was class warfare in every sense of the word. The upper class starts the wars (at this time we were in Afghanistan and bush was making the case for war in Iraq) and the lower class fights them. I voted Democratic in 2002 as a protest to bush and his policies, but I wasn’t really a Democrat. The beginning of the Iraq war finished me with the republicans but I didn’t know where to go. The msm had demonized the Democratic Party so much it was still poison in my mind.
Then, in early 2003, a man I worked with introduced me to Liberal blogs. The ones I think I started reading were BuzzFlash, Eschaton, CounterSpin and Blah3. From there I later discovered DailyKos, MyDD, Raw Story, Donkey Rising, Hoffmania, TPM, AmericaBlog, Hullabaloo, Huffington, Juan Cole and several others. These blogs provided me with a community of people who felt like me, thought like me, believed like me and lo and behold, acted on their beliefs. With the combination of Howard Dean speaking publicly what I felt and the blog community backing it up, I became 100% Democratic. I made a promise to myself that I would never vote republican again. I go to probably 10-20 different blogs a day after work, depending on the available time I have, but spend most of my time on DailyKos.
I think if we had a community like this when I was younger, I would never have left the party. The main reason is that I was kind of isolated and ripe for the picking, so to speak, because I didn’t have a support network I could go to that was Liberal. I was surrounded by conservatives in my church and at work. But then, if we had a community like this back then, I don’t think the elected Democrats would have gotten away with the stuff they did that drove people away because it wouldn’t have remained secret long enough to become big enough to be a huge scandal such as the House bank scandal that brought down Rostenkowski. They had a lot of hubris in those days. This community would have never let it get so out of bounds and would have brought them back to earth before the republicans did. Also, the republicans would have never been able to hide behind the msm because the Liberal blogs would have shown what a phony Newt Gingrich was long before he gained any real power. If there is anything that politicians can’t stand up under, it is having their dirty laundry held up before the world.
I’m still active in church, but I have since developed a way of dealing with pastors who try to manipulate me politically. I fight back every time if it’s in a setting where I can debate it, such as a bible study. I make them justify their position. They can’t justify supporting bush biblically, I just destroy them. I ask how they can justify the president allowing prisoners to be tortured to death. I’ll open a bible and ask them to show me which fruit of the spirit does killing prisoners come under because I can’t find it? They quickly learn that if they get political in support of bush, I’m going to challenge them every time and to avoid politics unless they want a fight. If it’s during a sermon there’s not much I can do except walk out. I am definitely not shy and when I hear, "If you don’t believe this (whatever it is) then you’re not a Christian," from anyone, pastor or layman, I lace into them because that is one of the most disingenuous statements they can say to another person. I don’t care what the consequences are. And I have the ammunition to back up what I stand for.
I just love debating right-wingers. I use their own logic against them by asking questions until they haven’t a leg to stand on. I get this ammunition, commonly known as facts, from lurking on these blogs. There is a lot of opinion on the blogs, true, but there are a lot of facts that the msm doesn’t give us. When I start quoting these facts, such as the August 6 presidential briefing, Downing Street Memos or Prescott Bush having been a nazi, wingers are like, "What are you talking about?" Then I get to show them and they invariably say, "Why haven’t I heard about this?" Then I get to prove to them that the "liberal media" really isn’t all that Liberal.
One reason I don’t contribute a lot of content to the blogs is because it could be rejected by a lot of people. That's kind of scary. Also, I’m not that great a writer or all that politically astute, but by lurking on these blogs, I get to read pieces by people who are. Besides the sense of community, I get the one big thing I was lacking all these years – a good analysis of the significance of the policies or actions that happen and how they will affect us. Then, I disseminate that information to people I know. We don’t get that so much with the msm, do we? No longer can the wingers just do whatever they please and depend on the msm to make it all okay. The Liberal blogs dissect them seven ways to Sunday and provide all kinds of useful information. I love it!
I’m almost done, but I have just one more thing I want to pass along. When I start debating right-wingers, I like to ask them what they stand for. I go through the litany of issues – abortion, freedom of choice, right to privacy, Iraq war, environment, health insurance, jobs, multi-national corporations buying our politicians off, etc. – and find out where they stand on an issue. Then when we really start debating, usually the things they say they support during the debate, don’t match what they said they stand for when I questioned them in the beginning. Most wingers accept the republican talking points without thinking about them too much and that’s what I want to make them do, think these republican policies through. Then the person I am debating starts to see that what the republicans stand for is different than what they stand for as a person. I have a friend from Texas that I converted (wingers would say perverted) from republican to Democratic using this method. I got him to see that it wasn’t shameful to vote for your own self interest instead of the interests of multi-national corporations and that what he stood for was far different than what the republican party stood for. It was great!
This is kind of a long diary. If you got this far, thanks for listening to me.