Do blogging and political campaigns mix? Edwards and Marcotte issue

February 14, 2007

I’ve stated frequently in presentations that the blogging world is changing how public information is dealt with. There is an ethos around blogging that is in direct conflict with how communication has been traditionally managed by corporations–and politicians. That conflict is being highlighted right now in the John Edwards campaign.

The Edwards campaign had a blogger, Amanda Marcotte, who wrote some relatively outrageous things–not outrageous in the blog world which thrives on the colorful opinion, but outrageous if viewed as an authorized expression of the candidate’s perspective and style. And that is, of course, the rub. Does a paid blogger represent the candidate in all that is said and the style with which it is said?

Those wishing to make an issue of this put pressure on Edwards to fire Marcotte. He distanced himself from the content, but declined to fire her because of freedom of expression. So, here is the other rub: to fire a blogger because of content is to violate the freedom and personality ethos of the blogosphere. The blog world would go nuts. And yet clearly from his comments, Edwards was aware of the potential damage that Marcotte could do to him. Yet, if she toned down her approach, everyone would be watching to see if he put the clamps on. A no win situation.

In this article, the situation is resolved. Marcotte continued to post in ways that were offensive to some (reassuring to others I am sure that Edwards was following through on his pledge of freedom). But Marcotte resigned, (or “resigned”) when the pressure on Edwards continued unabated.

The dilemmas are clear–not just for this season’s crop of political candidates, but also for companies and organizations needing to deal with the blog world. It is an issue in my own company–what fits the blog ethos and what doesn’t? What is OK in the wild west world of bloggers who despite their cries of freedom have an increasingly narrow view of what is socially acceptable to them and what is not. The herd mentality seems to have taken over to some degree and pity the poor soul who violates the increasingly clear ethos.

Do Republicans lead in techelectioneering?

Here’s an interesting article on how the campaigns compare in preparation for what some are calling Googlelection.

And another “Just an Online Minute” post on the bungling of candidates in the blog world.

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