Monday, December 26, 2005

The 12 Days of Christmas Vacation (or, Where Do We Go From Here?)

by Kyle Michaelis
In case you hadn't noticed, I've taken a break from posting the last two weeks. Apologies to readers for the daily disappointment this must have caused each time they checked the New Nebraska Network to find it had not been updated.

Spending time with family and friends this holiday season, simply reading the news rather than consuming it in the hopes of offering informed and thoughtful commentary, made for a pleasant Christmas break that makes me question - yet again - the purpose of this site.

Admittedly, there is a need for a progressive voice to challenge the atavistic, complacent, and reactionary impulses of Nebraska's press and politicians so dangerously confused for the status quo by the people of this state. The idea that this site, let alone my writing, might even begin to serve such a function, however, reeks of the most grandiose delusion imaginable.

There are those who believe "blogging" to be a revolutionary new battleground for the soul of America. I do not personally agree, rejecting this supposed revolution as yet another instance of hype trumping substance. Nevertheless, there is potential in this new media (so far as it can be considered such) to get ideas out there, get people talking, and - maybe, just maybe - get them to cast-off the low expectations of themselves and the government that has so crippled us as a democracy.

The Internet, by way of sites such as this (I hope), also has the potential to encourage and advance the ideal of the independent press on which every freedom we hold dear relies. Information truly is power. I do not envision a future where blogs will truly wield power of their own, but they surely can serve as a conduit by the accountability they might force and the alternative perspectives they provide to restore some of the power to the people that is now so manipulated and wasted by the purveyors of talking points in the Mainstream or Corporate Media.

Of course, so much of the online community is little more than a sounding board, happy to to be co-opted by those in the business of message control - the prevalence of such sites not only obscures but also jeopardizes whatever possible good might emerge from hence. How sad that this sort runs such risk of winning the day - at such cost to the future - by virtue of the near-impenetrable echo chamber they create.

Where does that leave us? Where does that leave this site? My own motives are simple - I am passionate about the singular ability of government to serve the people, particularly the forgotten and disadvantaged in society. I believe in education and the free exchange of ideas as the only hope for enlightened democracy, detesting ignorance and hypocrisy even while admitting I myself am sometimes guilty of both offenses, reason for which I am committed to subjecting my opinions to the criticism of others that such instances might be revealed.

As I've reiterated almost everyday over the last 9 months, I also look at the Nebraska media and see a critical shortage of anyone willing to even nudge the "Powers that Be" on behalf of the people. Worse even than that, the silent slumber of the progressive spirit in this state has become so deafening and deadening that it might well be a sin not to do what one can to call it forth. As feeble an attempt as it may be, this endeavor has been just such an answer to the duties of moral and political conscience.

But, more even than those reasons, I have maintained this site because I love to write. I have needed a creative outlet and have been fueled in my meager efforts by this need. It is on this front and for this purpose that I am most torn about continuing the New Nebraska Network in its current capacity (if at all). This is not a format that lends itself to refinement. For lack of substantive input from readers, I can't even claim that it has spurred much growth in my own thinking besides that inspired by the failure of my out-sized ambition. I yearn for something demanding of more than just my time and effort, writing that is inspired by more than the day's headlines and my all-too-predictable opinions.

No, I'm not going to cease work on this project nor on the even greater project of reaching the people of Nebraska and opening their eyes and minds to a new political identity that better fits what I believe to be their inherent decency and common sense. The New Nebraska Network lives...for now...and, I hope, for the near future. Yet, I make no promises or assurances for the form or the regularity of posts in its second calendar year. Whatever muse I follow - not for want of urgency or purpose - nevertheless suggests that other creative pursuits less remote and immediately gratifying might well take precedence soon. We shall see.

There are great things to be done - that is for certain - but I am not so foolish or arrogant to think this site might play more than the smallest of parts - a cameo in what will hopefully prove a tale of overcoming what once seemed insurmountable odds. If I can accomplish anything, I would like it to be encouraging other voices to come out of the woodwork. Be thoughtful, be respectful of others' opinions, but also be proud of what you believe and unafraid to question all who imagine themselves authorities in the press, in the statehouse, or even at the local coffeeshop. Those of us who truly give a damn about our fellow citizens and about the future we leave for future generations must take it upon ourselves to inspire and enlighten by our conviction, courage, and veracity.

I'll be right here doing my part for at least a while longer. I have not yet had my fill of having my say. But, the time is long past due that others be heard...whatever the format, whatever is on their minds. Only in our silence is the failure of our dreams assured. Yours is the voice that you seek.

That's enough from La-La Land. HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Now, let's get back to work.


Blogger spocko said...

Nice post. It IS important to do what you do. It isn't always easy, especially if you don't know that what you are doing is making an impact.

One thing that you might want to think about is the role you can play in helping people to think about and talk about the issues.

For example, someone in the blogosphere (it might have been Atrios, it might have been Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler) talked about the way the press uses False equivalencies all the time when reporting on the political scenes. Republicans break a major law and millions of dollars are spent and it will be compared to one Democrat that wasn't even in POWER when he broke a law that was for a much lesser amount of money. To the media that is "balanced" reporting. Yet it really isn't and people like you need to call the local Nebraska press on that lazy journalism. Also lots of journalists have internalized the shrill voice of the right-wing nutball that they are "too liberal" even when they are not. If someone points out that the true might seem liberal but it is the truth nonetheless, you are performing a service to everyone.

Until I heard that term "false equivalency" I sort of knew what was happening, but I didn't know how to articulate it. Once I heard the term I could then act on it by pointing it out to my readers. (All 19 of them!) I also wrote the publications and TV stations and called them on it when I saw it.

Here's the deal, the right wing noise machine is well funded and has been working on their techniques for decades because they were afraid of good journalism, you know the kind that "comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable." so don't be too discouraged that you don't have the same impact that took them billions of dollars and decades to accomplish.

Right now I'm working to moderate the outrageousness of a local radio host. You might want to do the same in your area. Maybe the local radio/TV station need to hear that not everyone buys their neocon party line. Maybe they need to know that there is another way to look at the story.

I think that so many people aren't able to critically think about the media because they don't know how it works TODAY.

They listen to people who claim to tell you what they are like without realizing that they are paid propagandists working actively to destroy a media that is critical of corporations or the republican administration. You can provide that critical thinking for the people who don't have your training or time.

I think that the blogs play a role in the media not unlike the letters to the editor. The editors won't tell you, but they are looking at what you write. They Google their names just like we all do. Keep that in mind when you are writing your stories, be sure to mention the editor's names. Sure you aren't a highly funded think tank, but your position papers aren't sitting in some stuffy journal either.

I hear your questioning mind, I have some of the same questions. If you feel like you are preaching to the choir, remember not everyone in the Choir knows the music as well as you do, telling them how to better sing is an important role.

You might be the snowflake that causes the branch to break, but we will never know if you withdraw your voice.

Anonymous Macon said...


This is a great resource for Nebraska, and even folks across the country can learn alot from your perspective and committment.

2006 will be an exciting year. Keep it up!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd definitely encourage you to maintain the blog. I live in DC and appreciate the opportunity to hear about political events, news, and gossip from someone shares many of my values. I don't necessarily agree with everything you write, but I enjoy your perspective on the news.

I agree with the previous poster who suggests 2006 will be exciting. Don't underestimate your ability to participate and shape the debate during the election season.

I would also suggest you encourage your fellow activists, political enthusiasts, and sharp mines to engage in this debate either actively in your comments or through their own websites.

Nebraska does not have a particularly active political blogging community, and encouraging that will help as well.

Your critical eye toward the positions taken by the editorial staff of our major papers is important as well.

Engage your opposition as well. The discussion with regard to term limits was very engaging and enjoyable.

Pay close attention to what is happening on South Dakota and Iowa blogs. SD has an active blogosphere and there is plenty to talk about that is regionally significant.

Pay close attention to things happening out of Lincoln. The material on the Board of Regents member has been very good, but it would be nice to hear more about Western senators as well as more about South Sioux City and the Yankton, SD area. These are relevant to both the 1st and the 3rd congressional districts.

Your sight will feel less burdensome if you have a cadre of folks participating in the discussion. You can take a break or post lightly and still be part of an ongoing discussion about the state of politics and current events in the state.

But definitely keep doing it as long as you can.



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