November 26, 2005

Another Lesson from the Blog Boomlet in Coventry

Carroll Andrew Morse

Town of Coventry Watch is worried about the decrease in blogging activity from several of Coventry’s bloggers since the Coventry Town Council removed Frank Hyde as President and replaced him with Theodore Jendzejec. In asking “Who is everybody scared of?”, TOC Watch implies that there may be specific pressures on certain people to stop blogging.

I suspect that the real culprit may be plain ol’ human nature. As a group, we foolish humans tend to show a greater interest in personality politics than we do in policy politics; discussing whether Frank Hyde should continue as Town Council President or Bruce Sundlun should become town manager generates much more attention than does the details of tax-incremental financing, or underfunded pension liabilities, or school-choice funding schemes.

This preference for personality means that the greatest danger to the public interest comes not from the loudmouth buffoons who enter politics, but from those who learn to quietly manipulate the system behind-the-scenes. Their favorite tactic is to explain that issues are too complex for the average citizen to understand and decisions are best made by an elite that will spare the public the painful details.

But most issues aren’t nearly as difficult to understand as the political class would have you believe; the major problem is that information needed for responsible decision making is not always presented to the public as clearly as it could be -- as clearly as it should be.

This is the area where the internet and the blogs can add major civic value. The distributed intelligence of the internet can help people get the facts and the explanations they need to understand the consequences of government decisions. This doesn’t mean that citizen bloggers can guarantee to always make exciting issues surrounding tax-incremental financing plans, or pension reform policies, or education reform policies, but we can explain them in a way that makes their importance and their consequences much more clear.

After the high-profile fireworks have ended, Coventry -- and all of Rhode Island -- will be better off if Coventry’s bloggers stay around to help keep things honest. Coventry’s local bloggers like the Fabulous Rabbit, RI Politics and the Duck have been beginning to provide the public quick and easy access to the details of the workings of their town government. Such firsthand observations and unique insights, made available to a wide audience, are critical to keeping political discourse open and honest and working towards the best interests of everyone.

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Dear Mr. Morse,
Thank you once again for mentioning the Coventry blogosphere. I agree with you that it is human nature to enjoy a good train wreck. Our readership increasing each time a personal crisis occurs with the local leadership.
As for the pressures, there have been implied threats to all of us since the beginning of our blog ocity. But in reality, the real reason for the decrease in blogging activity has nothing to do with pressure. It simple truth is, as you well know, blogging takes alot of time and energy. There are many who start, but few who continue.

Trust me, Mr. Morse, the three blogs you mentioned are here for the long haul. With all the issues facing our town, the backroom BS will continue, but our blogs will be there every step of the way.

Thank you again for your interest in our efforts.
Mr. Jack 'Fuzzy' Fabulous

Posted by: Fuzzy at November 26, 2005 1:42 PM