Global blogger action day called

“The month-old Committee to Protect Bloggers’ is asking those with blogs to dedicate their sites on Tuesday to the ‘Free Mojtaba and Arash Day’.

Arash Sigarchi and Mojtaba Saminejad are both in prison in Iran.

…Iranian authorities have been clamping down on prominent sites for some time.

…”If you have a blog, the least you could do is put nothing on that blog except ‘Free Mojtaba and Arash Day’,” said (the organizer).” (BBC)

The Committee is also focusing on US webloggers whose weblogging activity has gotten them into trouble at their workplace. (That fired flight attendant you may have heard about is prominent on the committee.)

This is a misguided use of resources and energy, IMHO. I know putting up a banner is characterized here as being merely the least one can do, but there is little more one can do by weblogging unless one is one of a handful of influential webloggers I can count on the fingers of one hand. And those handful of webloggers are influential because they have the ear of the press and are visible beyond the weblog audience. Putting up a banner on your site is little more than self-righteousness. Weblogging is nothing special; it is just an efficient form of fee (interesting Freudian slip? I meant “free”) speech. If people are concerned about imprisoned Iranian webloggers, they should do something like join or create an Amnesty International affinity group and adopt them as prisoners of conscience. The sort of tactics AI uses to publicize cases and address them with the imprisoning authorities are vastly more effective than publicity directed at the small segment of the public which reads weblogs.

For your domestic webloggers who have gotten in trouble at their jobs, there is always the ACLU and other protectors of our civil liberties. I know that the recent massive research study that established how woefully ignorant most American students are about their First Amendment rights also said they are more likely to be informed and involved when an issue is close to their own lifestyles — e.g. restrictions on music — but if this committee thinks that only webloggers are going to protect weblogging freedom, that is because its members unduly construe weblogging as a unique activity rather than a version of free expression. This is ridiculously parochial. (As an aside, being informed about one’s civil liberties also entails being informed about the various ambient threats to one’s rights in our ‘free’ society — for example, that your employers might be monitoring your internet activities at your workplace and that if you weblog on the job it might get you into trouble?)

This effort also strikes me as tactically foolish since, no matter how few people are energetic free speech and civil liberties activists, they are far more numerous than those who would be specifically interested in the right to weblog. Instead of a solipsistic effort to mobilize webloggers to defend other webloggers through the weblog medium, such a committee might function better as a public relations tool for weblogging, using non-weblog media to broaden the awareness of the non-weblog-reading public about the the weblogging phenomenon’s potentially important contributions to freedom of speech both domestically and abroad. Probably, more people can understand the samizdat concept than the weblog concept; the analogies could be drawn for them…