Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Main Vein of East Central Illinois Politics

IlliniPundit, a make-shift thinktank site for Champaign County Republicans (not exactly conservatives, although some authentic ones are in attendance), is back with a new look and framework.

IP is clearly a labor of love by its creator, Gordy Hulten. Gordy has poured in tremendous amounts of his own time into building a truly epic blog/forum-ish political site for East Central Illinois.

Gordy also has a good sense of humor, so I hope he won't be offended by a little "something good/something bad" critique.

Good:
1. Updates on the local level: I feel like I can keep track of CU local politics better than the vast majority of citizens of CU by following this blog and filtering it for its right-wing slant. In addition to closely watching the newswire, Gordy and the other contributors have plenty access to insider politics in the area. I sure miss the smell of the boneyard in the morning.
2. Openness to opposing viewpoints: Groupthink is the greatest threat to an online community. IP has plenty of groupthink, but Gordy shows intentional effort to break that down, even though much of it flows in line with his own personal politics. I have experienced some occasional censorship of my political posts on the site, but not from Gordy himself who usually seems more upset about the situation than myself and reminds me to mail him immediately if I experience anything of the sort. There is a small group of posters who seek to stereotype and shout down opposing viewpoints rather than engage the arguments involved, but I suppose that exists on any political site in any part of the spectrum. There's nothing worse than when you need to release some good thought on an issue and you are told to hold it.
3. Activity: IP.com is insanely active with several dozen regular contributors and surely many hundred regular readers. This makes it interesting to read and participate in. It also likely helps the local level of political awareness. The more streams of discourse a site has the bountiful it is.
4. Ease of participation: Anyone, anonymous or otherwise, may response to any post. In two minutes anyone could sign-up for an account and begin posting blog entries. Just whip out your political views and showcase them for all to see.

Problematic:
1. The title: Few words in the English language are more pretentious than "pundit". That a local person would choose "Illini" for part of the title is not particularly surprising. While I empathize and support the Native American empowerment movement, I understand the local pride in the traditional symbol of a white guy in a fake indian suit. But "pundit"??? Hasn't anyone ever heard that "True compentence is its own pubicity"? Calling oneself a "pundit" is no proof of incompetence, but it does beg some questions about security. I guess I'm writing this to the hundreds of other self-proclaimed pundits too. After all, the difference between a "pundit" and "some asshole with an opinion" (yes, yes, everyone's got one) is an uncreative, self-congratulatory title.
2. The tendency to degenerate: Hardly confined to IP, this is a vice of nearly any website that deals with political issues online. There are a few regular posters that don't believe in supporting arguments with evidence. Or empathy. Or math. Or the public good. While not surprising, this can ruin many a good discussion with loud shouts of "you are aiding the enemy" or "you're just a liberal". The sad part is that when people spray these foul-smelling polemic tactics all over the place it is our Marketplace of Ideas that ultimately suffers.
3. The subtitle: Collective Intelligence Interacting Freely
Would you intentionally name your website with the abbreviation "IP" and then add "Freely" into the subtitle?

So I christen Illinipundit.com as "IP Freely".


2 Comments:

Anonymous John Bambenek said...

Does that mean I should change from Part-Time Pundit now? :)

Out of curiosity are you teaching for Unit 4? If so, drop me a line sometime...

9:54 PM  
Blogger xian said...

Thanks for the comment. Naw, I teach for Unit 299, from what I hear, the biggest in the nation.

4:18 AM  

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