Tuesday, September 19, 2006

You Have Just Poked Mark Warner

To those who have never used Facebook, this probably seems like a shocking statement, but the former governor of Virginia and would-be Presidential candidate has set up a personal account on the popular social networking site, where young constituents can read his blog, browse photos, and search for Facebook pages about political issues. Of course, the recently-passed Deleting Online Predators Act would prevent potential voters at schools and libraries from visiting such political sites, but apparently almost no legislators thought of that when they cast their votes.

In the United States, our top politicians seem to have only a limited understanding of the personal voice that often informs the genre of the blog. Most blogs on official sites of senators and congressional representatives are written in third person without any humanizing commentary, clearly by PR people or legislative staffers. For example, Warner drops first person on the blog of his official "Forward Together" site.

In contrast, elected officials in many countries public electronic newsletters or blogs with a much more personal feel, as a recent Los Angeles Times story on "Koizumi's Candid, Quirky Years of E-Mail Exchange." You can read this recent account of a Visit to Finland from Japan's outgoing Prime Minister to get a sense of his electronic style or peruse back issues for more digital rhetoric.

The hardline Iranian president even maintains a blog, which was at first assumed to be a prank by many Westerners. Perhaps he was following the lead of the former Vice President of the country, a moderate who complains about government crackdowns and keeps his readers posted on conferences and meetings in the West.



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