smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Contagion

Pat Mangubat – apart from embarassing me – published a serious post about some bloggers who have a blogger who has reportedly sold their his services to politicians out to create buzz about themselves. 

Reading that post made my lip curl in disgust. Especially this part:

Worst, some blogger even sold their own colleagues to these reputation agents for reportedly a huge fee. A list supposedly exist, with the names of political and non-political bloggers and given to a politico who reportedly paid this blogger a huge sum. 

I imagine that if you choose to sell your services, that’s your problem. But unless those other bloggers were using the sell-out as an agent, selling them out as well is pretty damned heinous.

But as Pat himself said, the commoditization of blogs waas inevitable. It started with AdSense and may have now achieved something of a flowering. Of course, the question is: is that really a bad thing?

I remember grazing this question in a previous post – Belphegor – and reading it back now, I see that I didn’t really dive into the question deeply. 

Pat makes an impassioned plea:

MAKE THE PHILIPPINE BLOGOSPHERE CLEAN. DON’T ALLOW THIS HALLOWED PLACE OF FREE EXPRESSION BE CORRUPTED BY CORPORATE SPONSORSHIPS, POLITICAL OPERATORS AND WHAT HAVE YOU. WE MUST POLICE OUR RANKS. WE MUST STAY CLEAR OF PEOPLE WHO USE US JUST TO PROMOTE A DEFECTIVE PRODUCT, DEFEND A DIRTY POLITICIAN OR DESTROY REPUTATIONS. 

In it, he makes a couple of key assertions. First, that free expression – and by extension, free expression’s platform – will be corrupted by corporate sponsorships, political operators, and their ilk; and that we must stay clear of people who use bloggers to promote a defective product, defend a dirty pol, or destroy reputations.

It goes without saying that I totally agree with the second assertion. But I would add a caveat. The blogger must determine for himself, and to his own moral certainty that what he is promoting is neither defective, dirty, nor malicious destructive of another person’s reputation. 

In similar vein, methinks sponsorship will not necessarilycorrupt a blogger or his blog, for as long as he truly believes what he is writing or promoting. To do so without recompense is, of course, a noble thing; but even a paid person can maintain integrity.

Thus, for instance, if a person is paid to blog with the only stipulation being that he remains truthful to his own opinion – I see no moral issue there. Unless of course the patron starts pumping the blogger with gifts beyond mere persuasion.

And even with gifts, for as long as those gifts do not carry the implicit burden of gratitude via a favorable write-up, I see no moral issue confronting the blogger. Contrast that with what Brian Gorrel once wrote about how his lover used to hit hotels up for free accomodations in exchange for good write-ups. For the hotel, it would have been a straight-up marketing expense – no moral tangles. But for the writer, hmmm … bad juju. 

Unfortunately, we can come up with all these neat and elegant little rules of behavior until we’re blue in the face, but it won’t really make an impact on how things are played in meatspace. Witness Philippine media. 

Hmp. If I had a peso for every time some reporter has sidled up to this office offering x-deals, I’d have a lot of pesos. What can I say? It’s like a contagion that’s made the jump from media to the blogosphere.

Which brings me to the sticking point: what can we do about the problem?

I tell you: 

I don’t know.

However, while we cannot realistically expect our fellow bloggers to adhere to some ethical code, I do know that we can inform our readers – well those of you who have readers anyway – that we are not for sale.

And so I introduce … the Integrity Seal.

integrity1How to use it: Put up the seal on the front page of your blog, and link it to a document explaining its concept and mechanics. This document must also contian links of the three bloggers who vetted your blog. That way, if some shmuck decides to pirate the thing, it becomes immediately obvious. Also obviously, using the seal is entirely voluntary. Not having it on your blog means nothing; but having it definitely says something.

How to get it: Submit your blog for review to three of your peers who already have the seal. The decision to allow use of the seal must be unanimous. A blogger who approves the seal for use by another is responsible for that other person’s integrity. That way, everyone will know that whoever has the seal has (a) been vetted by three others, and that (b) there is a measure of accountability attached to the seal.

To begin with, obviously, no one will have the seal. Therefore, bloggers must first select three bloggers to start the ball rolling. By acclamation, these three will receive the Seal and thereby gain the authority to approve it for others.  I nominate Nick, the noted blogger, and Jessica Zafra. Wait … she blogs, right?

This can be started within the community we now have, and if it flies … well, who knows? I, for one, will be the first to submit my blog for review. But someone will have to write the manifesto and whatnot.

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Filed under: blogging, ,

12 Responses

  1. brianbro says:

    This is supposed to be new media not middle ages media. A wax seal?

    Just name names, please. We’ll call the whole thing Blogger Scandal.

    ROM, adsense is wholly different. Contextual ads do not really influence your posts. For example, MLQ3’s blog has Indian Bollywood hotties for ads.

  2. BrianB says:

    Besides, to newphilippinerevolution,

    Suspicion in this instance is worse than actual revelation. When you reveal, blogger gets a chance to defend himself. When you don’t and this remains a blind item, everyone is suspect. Bloggers, after all, are known nobodies and earn a pittance, if at all.

  3. […] I wrote in Rom’s comment section, these nameless accused bloggers deserve a chance to defend themselves. They really do, especially […]

  4. thegreatest says:

    unless you can guarantee this will not get politicized or be used as leverage, I dont see the point. Your content history is your integrity. If people respect your writing and believe in what you say, that should be enough.

  5. rom says:

    thegreatest: welcome to the smoking room.

    1. Can it get politicized? That’s what the three links (the bloggers who vetted you) are there for; as a way of verifying the veracity of your claim. Anyone, seeing a Seal, can easily click on any one of the three vetting bloggers and confirm. This will also allow bloggers to determine if someone is using their good name as bona fides.

    2. Content history is a good indicator. But how many people actually take the time to browse through pages and pages of posts? The seal provides, if you will, a prima facie showing of integrity, and invites readers to delve deeper into what you’ve written.

    Thanks for your observations! 😀

  6. thegreatest says:

    I dont smoke, lol, but I’ll happily ingest carcinogens for good conversation.

    To respond to your er, responses:

    1. Yes! The vetting process IS the weakness. Anybody who gets to decide how “credible” another is will be in a position of authority. We’re going to be arguing about the chicken or the egg so, I’ll leave it at that.

    2. IF you’re in a blog because of the content, it would just be part of due diligence to backread. That’s all.

  7. Edrie says:

    Yes, Jessica Zafra blogs. She was one of the longest holdouts though insisting on never getting a blog for several years.

    jessicarulestheuniverse.com

  8. rom says:

    thegreatest:

    1. That’s why it’s not just anybody who gets to confer the seal. It’s three different bloggers and they need to be unanimous.

    And there will be no chicken and egg argument because if you read back on what I wrote, I did say that the first three bloggers will be chosen by acclamation of the community we’re already in.

    This refers to the loose circle of bloggers that are already on the scene. Unfortunately, of course, commenters might not be able to input since we don’t really know who commenters are.

    Is there a weakness in that set-up? Yes. Absolutely. We might turn out to be an incestuous mutual admiration society, but some self-regulation is far better than none at all.

    A Seal of integrity – this or any other – has that value. Think of it this way: a bunch of friends agreeing not to let any of their number get hooked on drugs. People outside that group of friends may say that ‘well, you’re all gonna look the other way because you’re friends’ but that won’t matter. What will matter is the commitment of those friends to protecting each other’s integrity.

    And as always, remember that the reader must decide for himself. Caveat lector and all that. SO the seal itself will be acceptable to those willing to take it’s guarantee, and not acceptable to those who are unwilling to be reassured – and no hard feelings either way.

    2. Not everyone will have the luxury of time to read everything a blogger has written. To assume that our concept of due diligence will be shared by every reader is unrealistic.

  9. Pat Mangubat says:

    Hey Rom,

    You probably misread the post. I’m refering to just one blogger, not a group of bloggers. Thanks!

  10. rom says:

    Pat: Hi, I see the error. Corrected it na!

  11. […] The other nail-biting news of the day that Reyna Elena just called me a Hollywood bomba star (wow, Reynz, I’m now on the same league as Peter North), but the news of the day is talk of a “list” that my good friend Pat Mangubat alleges does exist. Apparently, this list is a scam that puts all political bloggers under watch for some alleged scam operation.  BrianB has an interesting thought on the matter, and so do Jester, The Ca t, Ria, and Smoke. […]

  12. ramonem says:

    Sorry I’m late.
    I’m not a blogger, but I do have a problem with this:
    “In similar vein, methinks sponsorship will not necessarily corrupt a blogger or his blog, for as long as he truly believes what he is writing or promoting. To do so without recompense is, of course, a noble thing; but even a paid person can maintain integrity.”

    Besides the fact that belief cannot be verified reliably, a fair example of why this is problematic is: CRIMINAL LAWYERS. For example, Bernie Madoff’s lawyers as hired to defend him found themselves with the audacity to ask the court to shorten his sentence because he’s old and won’t have much longer to live. It’s despicable, but then, they don’t get sent behind bars if they succeed or fail so they did it anyway. When they are to be interviewed by media afterwards, they will rationalize having represented their client by saying they believed him, his sincere innocence, yada yada, they could appeal, whatev. It’s a scorecard only God would be able to see. I mean, here’s the thing that throws it all off (and all because they are paid to represent the guilty client):

    Criminal cases not settled out-of-court end up with defendant guilty or not guilty. If found not guilty (but in reality, guilty though unproven in court), lawyer/s of defendant will have kept at large a criminal, but they won’t be liable and they’ll get paid. If found guilty, they’ll start working on ways to appeal, perhaps reduce the sentence, or overturn it entirely. This would be unfair to the plaintiff but they’ll do it anyway, as they’re the paid help. Come to think of it, all lawyers “believe” their client is the one on higher moral ground, which means in ALL these legal battles, at least one party of lawyers fool themselves into thinking/believing his client doesn’t deserve to lose despite the wrongdoing. Sounds like a career without moral accountability to me for half the world’s lawyers for defending the wrong side.

    So, connecting that to your article, a master/servant- or payer/payee relationship incentivises the paid person to believe.
    Ideally there’s a responsibility to refuse gratuities and favors. Then again, that’s left to the individual, as earlier concluded.

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