Sometimes it’s best to get the stupid questions out right away. So it was, nine months ago, when I sat down for my first MSC blog development meeting.
“What is a blog?” I asked.
I mean, what makes a blog a blog and not, say, an online magazine or a website or a series of articles?
I learned that the word “blog” comes from “web log,” a site where someone puts out continuous commentary, a series of chronological posts. My role with this blog would be “Editor.”
I’ve loved my new online role – a “newbie” role that flows directly from years of offline work using writing to gather, tell, and reflect on the real life stories of individual transformation and collective action for deep and lasting change; encouraging and supporting organizers whose wisdom doesn’t always get honored and captured; connecting words to visuals and design that magnify the meaning of the words and create meaning that words cannot.
I love being a “small content provider” (or maybe a tiny content provider?) focused on strengthening communication, reflection, and inspiration among people who identify as movement builders. I see our job as building honest and loving connection among people who should know each other but don’t. I glow with joy when people –- inside our movements — write to say that they were moved to tears, that they are inspired to hear voices from others like them, that they feel more a part of something.
My relationship with the Internet has grown, however, just as the door is being slammed shut on the “open internet.” As Center for Media Justice director Malkia Cyril explains, the FCC plans to put out new rules “that will allow internet companies to discriminate online. The consequences for internet users of color and racial justice content providers couldn’t be more devastating.”
These new rules would allow internet service providers like Comcast or Verizon to charge content providers an extra fee for preferential treatment to fast track their content to end users like me and you. According to the proposed rules, big internet companies would be able to decide whether or not to charge content providers a toll based on a subjective standard called “commercial reasonableness.” Disguised as Network Neutrality, these proposed rules stand to create an Internet where the biggest producers of content like Netflix and MSNBC will pay more to push their product to wider audiences. Smaller content producers who can’t afford to pay may be pushed onto a digital dirt road, unable to raise a powerful public voice online.
This is, of course, not shocking news from an agency that has been systematically deregulated for four decades, resulting in a US media “market” largely controlled by just six corporations. It’s not shocking at a time when the FCC is seriously considering giving a green light to a merger between Comcast and Time Warner, which would produce a monster corporation controlling an extraordinary amount of TV and internet access. It’s not shocking in a country where surveillance – off line and on line — has long been used against communities of color.
It’s not shocking, but the move toward online discrimination would be catastrophic. In the words of Jessica J. Gonzalez of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, “The effects will be felt severely in communities of color, which have faced discrimination at the hands of mainstream media, and have used the Internet to organize, tell their stories and earn a living.”
Fortunately, thanks to the work of Center for Media Justice, Voices for Internet Freedom, Free Press, and others, there is growing outcry against the new rules, including from Congressional leaders like Elizabeth Warren.
Against the backdrop of media injustice, what is a blog?
I hope our blogs are a space to practice telling our stories so we can keep on telling them when we see each other on the street, when we talk to our kids, or when we gather together to eat. I hope they are artificial deadline that forces us to stop and reflect on our work, to take responsibility for articulating insights and lessons well enough that others can remember them when they’re needed. I hope they are an opportunity to pose questions to our movement peers.
Blogs are a form I want to protect – and a form that our movement stories will long outlive.