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By Marc C. Johnson - December 9, 2004 12:00 AM

Wryly echoing Andy Warhol's famous statement, one website recently observed that "in the future every blogger will be PowerLine for 15 minutes." He was referring to the small number of blogs covering the Ukrainian election getting their quarter-hour of notoriety, but the statement brings into sharp relief the rise of a new subset of self-publishing pundits in Europe that may eventually change political discourse on The Continent. Call them Eurobloggers.

Weblogs are old news in the United States. There are now literally millions of them; it seems difficult to believe that in 1998 the number of weblogs was in the dozens. American blogs have become more sophisticated and specific in their content, layout and marketing. But weblogs are a relatively new phenomenon in Europe.

Some of the weblogs that could be considered European are in fact run by American expats living abroad; they brought the concept with them early on and have built a following. A growing number, though, are homegrown and bringing new insight to European politics, challenging traditional media in a similar fashion to their American counterparts.

Eurobloggers aren't a heterogeneous group of pseudo-socialist ivory tower intellectuals. One of the most read weblogs in Europe is Samizdata.net, a site that could be best characterized as a Karl Popper-worshipping collection of mini-essays -- certainly not in keeping with the current stereotype of European thought.

In fact, among Eurobloggers, Britons lead the way in challenging institutions such as the European Parliament and their adherents. The EU Referendum Blog provides daily doses of Euro-skepticism, while the Adam Smith Institute's blog discusses free markets and individual liberties as vehemently as the American Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute. EURSOC (a name meant to recall the 'newspeak' of George Orwell's 1984) regularly discusses the perils of Eurocracy. And Biased BBC devotes daily attention to the inaccuracies and biases of the mammoth British public broadcaster.

Continental Eurobloggers, not to be outdone, have turned media watchdog. One enterprising (and very web-adept) soul calling himself the Dissident Frogman, regularly lambastes the leadership of his home country and its main newspapers, including Le Figaro, Le Monde (which even has its own blogs) and others. Similarly, David Kaspar runs Medienkritik, a site dedicated to identifying bias in large German news outlets, including Spiegel, Berliner Zeitung, ZDF, and Stern. And in the Czech Republic, Tomas Kohl monitors (and sometimes writes for) big Prague newspapers, including Lidove Noviny. Iberian Notes, from Barcelona, takes to task the socialist Zapatero government and various elements of the Spanish mainstream media.

Do all the blogs in Europe reflect this type of counterculture attitude? No - European political thought has always been, and will remain, diverse. Still, though there are plenty of moderate sites that certainly espouse a more Eurocentric viewpoint, there are comparatively few (at least in English) that rigidly toe Brussels' line. And even fewer blogs propose the kind of strategy of countervailing the United States that has become the hallmark of public statements from the Elysée or the Berlin's Chancellery.

It won't happen overnight, but we may be seeing the beginnings of a shift in Europe that is similar to one already well under way in the United States. Eurobloggers challenging the entrenched traditional media are poised to become a more prominent feature of the European political landscape. And like the explosion of the Internet itself, they will be hard to hold back.

Marc C. Johnson is a consultant and freelance writer living in Vilnius, Lithuania. He is editor of the European Weblog Review and a staff writer for eTalkinghead.com. His work has also appeared in Reason magazine, GlobalPolitician, NewsMax, FreeRepublic, MagPortal and the Washington Dispatch.


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