Three Questions For Okie Funk

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(I’m speaking today about Okie Funk to a journalism class at the University of Central Oklahoma, and I was provided several written questions by students in the class. For the sake of the historical and cultural record about this blog and the rise of New Media platforms in general, I’m answering three of the questions here in this post.--Kurt Hochenauer)

Is it difficult to be a liberal blogger in Oklahoma? What was your biggest obstacle?

It’s difficult to be “liberal anything” in Oklahoma right now. The state has become so extremely conservative in its politics, and that shows no signs of dissipating soon. When I founded Okie Funk in May, 2004, I knew that I would be writing from a viewpoint accepted by a decreasing number of people here. And, yes, it’s often difficult to be on the political side that most often doesn’t prevail. But I knew that to counter aspects of the conservative, corporate media here—primarily the editorial page of The Oklahoman—there needed to be disciplined, consistent online approaches. I could provide that because of my background in journalism and experience in New Media platforms. So from the onset, I was thinking about Okie Funk in a long-term manner. At the blog’s founding, I was also concerned about the historical record, ensuring that there was at least oner progressive online take on any given local or state issue in 2004 or 2005 or 2007 or whenever. That’s important.

There have been victories, too. I think online progressive voices in the state—not just Okie Funk—have helped stop some anti-intellectual legislation from becoming a reality. At the same time, there have been significant losses when it comes to issues like reproductive rights for women and tax cuts that have eroded the taxation infrastructure of the state that don’t bode well for our future here in Oklahoma.

One obstacle, especially at the beginning of Okie Funk, was facing the ad hominem attacks from people who have sent me hate mail or posted hateful comments about me personally. I think argumentation over ideas is important in a democracy, but the personal attacks against me are anything but argumentation. But I’m thick-skinned about it now. Who cares, right? I expect it. One obstacle now is the weekly grind of producing material that often repeats the same arguments year after year. I’ll be writing a post, and I’ll suddenly realize I was writing about the same thing in 2008 or whenever.

In your opinion is there a point where you can blog too much or overblog?

I deal with this issue on a daily basis, of course. I’m nearing post number 1,000. I’m under no obligation to continue Okie Funk. I’m not tied to it financially because I don’t sell ads for my site in order to remain independent. Have I become oversaturated, predictable? Probably. But the right-wing noise machine is pretty predicable as well and extremely overblogged. I still remain convinced that what I’m doing has validity, though I know some people—conservatives and even some progressives—might argue otherwise. By now, for example, I’ve pretty much angered everyone who has read or continues to read the blog on a regular basis. How can you write three or more opinion pieces a week and not anger a lot of people? I’ve lost readers, gained readers. This is a good thing in one sense, though it can be isolating at times. I want to rally the progressive troops as much as anyone else, but I’m not going to sacrifice what I truly believe or want to argue. I’m not trying to be sanctimonious here. It’s just the reality. I think I have a good, healthy sense of where Okie Funk stands in terms of the state’s media and blogosphere. I know on one level it’s not all that big of a deal, and I don’t take myself or blog too seriously. One thing that I’m also doing, which is divorced from my daily content on Okie Funk, is pushing New Media platforms and the digital humanities in what I do as an academic. That’s just as important to me as making a good point about a legislative bill or a political issue.

Do you think you being text heavy sways people from reading your posts?

I like the term “text heavy” to describe Okie Funk. I’ll take it as a compliment. One of my favorite bloggers is Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com, another “text heavy” writer. Sometimes I’ll click on a Greenwald post, note it’s around 1,500 or 2,000 words or whatever, and just realize I don’t have the time to read the post. I’ll try to come back later but that doesn’t always happen. What I do know, however, is that Greenwald is providing something extremely important to the historical record about national politics, and that I may encounter his piece again two months or two years later. So, yes, I do think writing longer pieces discourages readership at some level, and, no, I’m not comparing myself to Greenwald. Newspaper people have known about and suffered through this space-limitation issue for years. I’m more interested in reaching the type of people who will take the 20 minutes or more to read a longer post than getting a lot of hits. (This post is already 868 words long.) Maybe my readers can translate what I write into something shorter or use it to expand on a point or discuss it with me and expand my mind on the issue. It’s the dialogue that’s important to me, the expansion of ideas and critical inquiry. That takes time and words. I’m never going to apologize for that.

Oklahoma's conservatism

I was born in 1935 in northeastern OK. I remember the days when OK was a Democratic stronghold but it followed the southern Democrats into the GOP. My husband and I moved to NM in late 1992 and by becoming active volunteers in the art and literature scene, we met quite a few progressives. Many of the people we met worked on the Kerry campaign in 2004. A very active volunteer in that campaign suggested we meet in December to discuss - and "mourn" Geo. Bush's re-election. Out of that simple meeting, an organization was born: the Progressive Voter Alliance, still in existence, still active, with an email list of well over 1,000 members. Average monthly attendance is always over 100. This city has a population of 100,000 more or less. The PVA members work hard in local and state elections as well as national elections. Since 2005, we have helped elect a progressive City Council, several progressive state positions and the PVA has become a target for the regressive GOP and the T-Party folks. We are grateful to be a part of this organization. We meet once a month except in August and December, there is an Executive Board, a website, no dues and we are not affiliated with the Democratic Party. As an organization, we do not officially support any candidate and candidates of any party are welcome to speak to us. I am writing this to you, Doc, to wish OK had the same dynamic established in the larger cities. A few people can make a huge difference in local politics and issues, if they are focused and energetic. What is funny, too, is the developers and real estate industries hate PVA and in spite of establishing a PAC to oust the progressive Mayor and Council members, their money and their members could not raise enough votes to defeat them in 2011's election. Thanks for allowing me to write.