by Frank Schnittger
Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 09:16:05 AM EST
Cross-posted from the TH!NK ABOUT IT Euroblogging site.
As avid readers here will know, I wrote a deliberately provocatively entitled story Is TH!NK ABOUT IT dying? in an effort to stoke up some discussion about how the TH!NK ABOUT IT project is doing as we enter the half way stage. In it I worried about a lack of posts and discussion and concluded that it was most probably because most people found the EU a difficult subject to blog and read about in an interesting or entertaining way.
In a subsequent post I argued that we needed to be able to state What difference will the EP Elections make for you? if we were going to be successful in raising awareness and interest in the EP elections amongst a wider public.
The first post attracted 30 comments and seem to hit a nerve. The second post attracted only 5 responses, and none answered the question "What difference will the EP Elections make for you?"!!! Even on the European Tribune, a specialist European political site where I cross posted the story and where stories often attract 100's of comments, relatively little discussion ensued, and few gave examples of how the EP elections might make a significant difference to the EU in general, or to their lives in particular.
Then Etan Smallman did a story suggesting Th!nk About It is alive and kicking and gave the example of how a video of Daniel Hannan attacking Gordon Brown in the European Parliament in a very polemical way had gone viral on Twitter and YouTube particularly after it was highlighted by ultra-right wing US sites like the Drudge Report and Rush Limbaugh.
I'm not quite sure how the fact that an extreme but very articulate polemical attack on Brown (by a Conservative who had previously argued that Britain should follow the Icelandic model of deregulation) had gone viral after it was highlighted by extremely popular US sites is supposed to prove that the TH!NK ABOUT IT project is alive and kicking.
Perhaps it proves that a story about a controversial speech can become newsworthy in the MSM (mainstream media) if it appeals to very popular media/political sites even if it relates to a speech in the European parliament. But would it have been any less popular had it been delivered in the House of Commons? - Because its subject matter assuredly related to an internal British left/right political debate, and had nothing specifically to do with the EU at all.
So it seems to me to be clutching at straws to suggest that a speech about an internal British policy dispute, which happened to be delivered in the European Parliament, somehow suggests that the Th!nk About It project is alive and kicking and that the project has so far been a success.
At most it suggests that a well delivered polemical speech directed at a prominent politician, if it feeds into a certain powerful antagonistic political agenda, can become prominent even if it has only been delivered in the European Parliament. It seems to me it was enabled more by the presence of television cameras than by any inherent power or influence of the Parliament itself, and ironically it achieved prominence only because it fed into the political agenda of those who are also hypercritical of the EU.
So where does this leave us with regard to the Th!nk About project? Does it suggest that we should be as controversial as possible, feed into the agenda of powerful political or media groups, and in that way achieve some prominence in the MSM? Is that what a successful outcome of the Th!nk About It project would look like? Should we be writing stories about the EU mandating straight bananas, about CAP overspending, or of bureaucratic inefficiency or corruption - anything which plays into the dominant "Europe is a bloated bureaucracy" narrative. Are we wasting our time writing reasoned criticisms or good news stories about the EP elections?
Certainly two of the posts which seemed to have generated some discussion here are my rhetorical question "Is thinkaboutit dying" (deliberately provocatively put) and Ari's piece on "Nato's attack on Serbia" which outrageously seemed to suggest that NATO was morphing into the new Nazism.
But is Thinkaboutit achieving it's objectives if only provocative pieces get a significant reaction? How do we measure Thinkaboutit's success? - number of posts, comments, ratings, readers, links from other blogs, mentions in the Main Stream Media?
Perhaps the EJC gave some success metrics to the EC in their funding submission? It would be helpful if we knew how the success of the overall project is going to be measured.
I can write polemics criticising e.g. the EU's lack of a coordinated and dynamic response to the economic depression, or throw metaphorical insults at our leaders. If they are picked up by the MSM, does that represent success? On the other hand if we only write worthy pieces stressing the importance of the EP elections which nobody reads or responds to but which please the European Commission, is that success??
Perhaps it would be useful to have a discussion on what a successful outcome to the Thinkaboutit project would look like for you? Perhaps the EJC itself would like to comment?
Is it about the number of posts, comments, ratings, registered users, hits, links from other blogs, mentions in the MSM, or indeed if we manage to whip up some controversy or make some outrageous allegations?
Is it the quality of the posts themselves and the degree to which they contribute to a greater and wider understanding of what the EU is about? Is it about us having a good time, getting enthused about the EU and spreading that interest amongst our peers? How will the European Commission decide it has gotten good value for its investment in this project? Is it enough for it to feel "with it" for having engaged with a bunch of "new media" bloggers?
How would you measure the success of the project? By the prizes you won, by the friends and contacts you made, by the increased knowledge of the EU you have gained, by the number of your friends and acquaintances you have motivated to vote in the election? All of the above?
And if these are our criteria for the success of the project, how have we been doing so far? I would like to suggest, contrary to my deliberately controversially entitled piece Is TH!NK ABOUT IT dying? that we are really not doing so badly at all.
As Nosemonkey stated in an excellent comment on that story, successful Euroblogging is a very hard thing to do, and the history Euroblogging is littered with innumerable failures - blogs which attracted little interest and which died after a few posts.
At least we're still up and running, posting some interesting stories, attracting some comments, and getting more people involved. We don't have to be posting outrageous stories which might attract MSM interest in order to be a success.
(As long as we are learning, attracting interest, involving more people, and yes, actually ENJOYING ourselves, this project can be a success. - Psst - don't tell the European Commission that that's really what blogging is all about!)