Curtain Raiser

Blogging for a Change, Colltalers

This may be our 270th Newsletter, give it or take it a few (could never add math as a LinkedIn skill). Nothing to awe the competition, by any stretch, but still a chance to take stock. As to whether, being an opinion piece, it’s made any difference.
Spoiler alert: it hasn’t. Everyday, posts about ‘what I think’ fill up digital mailboxes, as if they count or make the world a better place. Plus all the ‘in this day and age’ soliloquies blaming social media for the explosion of individualism of our era.
And the one too many celebrities. And authors. And life coaches. And, yes, bloggers. Rather than let facts speak for themselves, we’re ever more obsessed about signing up common reality as ours, by adding our initials to it.
And off we go, claiming authorship over historical monuments (hint: take a selfie in front of one and it’s yours to keep); original ideas (heard of Spotify?); even the shared experience of living, which adds fathers and subtracts physicality: we’re quickly transitioning from a tactile world to one where the only part of our body that touches it are our fingers. Wearily.
The meaningless ‘but enough about me’ is almost always followed by yet another sanctimonious pontification. We claim to be tired of so much self-referential babble while proceeding to scribble, yet, another post on the subject. Plus the food pic.
Speaking of self-references, what this over-extended preamble meant to introduce is Blog Action Day which takes place Oct. 16.

A global event run by different non-profit organizations since 2007, with a focus on human rights, poverty, the environment and other social issues, it’s been extending its reach to social media, activist groups and writers.
This year’s theme is Raise Your Voice. It’s far from the only blogging organization not about what to wear today, or how aliens took over the government at the early hours of 2001, but at least it’s about something within context.
To keep the record fair, blogging, specially of the opinion kind, is not unlike investigative journalism. Except for being easier and safer to write anything without proof or the hard legwork that it takes to filter gossip from real news. In the case of news print, for instance, despite all the advertisers’ muscle, such an ability has ultimately been its historical reason to be.
And journalism, of the courageous kind, with its extremes and potential to speak truth to power, still is a hazardous occupation. The point has been made painfully clear again this week, when an Iranian court convicted Jason Rezaian, on charges of espionage. The still unknown verdict will be appealed by the Washington Post reporter’s defense team.
A wave of assassinations targeting bloggers in Bangladesh, on the other hand, only confirms the worst suspicious about religious intolerance, which like authoritarian rulers, hates being challenged. It’s worse when they’re also religious.
However their spurious motivations, the four confirmed, and grotesque, killings so far this year place the country on the 12th position on a list of 14 nations notoriously hostile to writers. It’s compiled by the Community to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, as one of the most respected organizations fighting to keep journalism reporting free of violence is known.
It’s been a terrible time for being a journalist. The CPJ counts at over 1.100 the number of professionals killed since 2012, although others mention a lower figure. But considering their occupation, to report facts, even one’d be already too many.
Perhaps almost as tragic is the fate of those who are threatened or thrown in jail for reporting news that the powers that be dislike. It’s like an oxymoron to say that in the ‘land of the free,’ where freedom of the press is a constitutional right, they’d face jail time for refusing to name their sources, for instance, or play whistleblowers on disputes with the Dept. of Justice.
Risking overstate our case, there are also those who face persecution simply for playing the role of journalist, even without being one, academically speaking. Either working in tandem with established media vehicles, or independently, giving voice to wronged insiders, there’s a new crop of citizens willing to take up the risk of losing personal freedom for a cause.
Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, John Kiriakou, and others come to mind, none of which has ever stepped in a newsroom. But while reporting world-changing news, they’ve got the U.S. government going after them.
We mention these facts not to aggrandize what we do once a week in the crowded comfort of our own office. On the contrary, citing them only puts into perspective what we actually do, what it means, and whether it’s of much relevance.
For most bloggers are able and ready to answer that probing question: does the world need another opinion about this or that? Almost invariably, and no matter how self-invested some writers are, the answer is not just clear, but obvious: no.
Not that what we do is meaningless. Each of these 200+ newsletters has been tortuous to come by. We may be mostly gladly tortured, let’s add, since writing itself is, indeed, an one of a kind pleasure. But with that comes accountability.
Still, being confessional is not one of principles we’ve set ourselves to accomplish. Commenting on the news is, and as for this year’s Blog Action theme, raising our voice about worthwhile causes, be it income disparity, refugees, or money in the U.S. electoral process, definitely beats talking about Justin Beaver pics. Bieber. You know, this year’s Britney.
Before ending, though, let’s go over a few disclosures. Curtain Raiser does have an agenda, and pet issues to boot, to which we come back to often. Also, there’s always a choice, whereas journalists on assignment, or facing a trial, usually have not.
We too suffer that common blogger’s cold, that is repeating ourselves, reaching the verge of preaching to a choir, or being excessively self-conscious about our limitations, which are many. But we do believe (beliebe?) in what we do and how it keeps us from wasting time feeling miserable. So it’s also a form of therapy. Whether it’s working, we’re not too sure.
Blogging can be great (the Arab Spring), a tool for change (Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept); or a waste (well, you pick that one). It can also be self-indulgent (editor’s note: the writer’s thumb is turned against his chest), redundant (Supermodel _______’s Musings), annoying (Trump properties anyone?) or downright scary (any religious/militia recruiting sites).
It’s also as vast and vulnerable a medium as the Internet. Which means that any day now the ones with no sponsorship and low bandwidth (editor’s note: he’s doing it again) can be swallowed into the void never to be accessed again, taken over by hackers, or raging trolls, ready to gripe about even a peaceful site with Zen meditation instructions for the common man.
Meanwhile, we’ll occupy a corner of your Monday mailbox till you say stop, or other factors play on. And the message may vary but will be as consistent as it’s been for five years: write something you can live with. Have a great week. WC

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