I’ve been thinking about the power of blogging lately. It’s amazing how blogs and the openness of the web has helped communicate what is going on in Burma, in spite of the governmental shut downs, and blogs growing in popularity in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and other places in the world where “freedom of speech” can come with a jail sentence. As I prepare to leave next week for WordCamp Israel, October 25, 2007, in Tel Aviv, I’m reading the blogs of many Israelis. A saying keeps echoing through my thoughts: The pen is mightier than the sword.
Credited as being first said by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 play, Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, I’ve seen many variations on this, but I wonder if anyone has yet said, “The blog is mightier than the pen and the sword.”
Just doesn’t have the same punch, does it?
Still, the ability of the written word to influence and change the world has been around for thousands of years. Its power increased when the word became portable, traveling from place to place as the population spread around the world, bringing the preserved words of the past with them.
Today, the written word is virtual, which could mean ephemeral, but it’s not. It is still made of sharp metal when used properly.
As I contemplate freedom of speech, blogging, and this old saying, let’s look at how that famous quote has been used by others to make a bigger point, and how it applies to blogs.
The pen is mightier than the sword, and considerably easier to write with.
Marty Feldman was a great comedian and actor, and he was right, the pen is much easier to write with. Still, imagine how easy it has become to leave the pen behind and use a blog? A blog is much easier to write with, not that it is easier to type on the computer, but because you reach a much wider audience.
Within seconds, your blog post can be found by millions of Internet users, if they are searching for what you are writing about. A few pings and search engines come to index your content and hand it out to searchers. Feed readers scoop it up, bringing your words into people’s homes and businesses almost instantly.
Your words are out there, for everyone to see. The power of your words lies waiting for someone to notice.
Hey, not many pens have that kind of networking power.
The pen is mightier than the sword and you should not confuse the two under any circumstances. Be persuasive, but don’t try to poke your reader’s eye out.
Without a doubt, Towler is right. Your blog must be persuasive if you want to get your point across, but take care not to poke out the eye of your reader. Don’t be offensive. Don’t be nasty. It’s your opinion, so have at it, but why be insulting. Unless your readers come because you specialize in entertaining insults.
Blog publishing is still publishing and your words have power. They have the power to help and heal as well as hurt. Use them carefully.
Quimby was eventually killed by a disgruntled poet during an experiment conducted in the palace grounds to prove the disputed accuracy of the proverb “The pen is mightier than the sword,” and in his memory it was amended to include the phrase, “only if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.”
Your words can not just hurt others, they can hurt you when used against you.
We often forget that our words are a reflection of ourselves, who we are, our reputation, as well as our point of view. The saying “Live by the sword, die by the sword” can also be “live by the blog, die by the blog” as our published words say a lot about who we are and how we think, thus, can hurt us and our reputation if we don’t use them wisely.
If you’ve ever suffered a backlash from your blog readers, you know of what I speak.
We must have respect for the power of our words, to do no harm to ourselves as well as others – yet, if we want to get our point across, sometimes it is better to die by the sword if it means that lives are saved by getting your message out to the world, in spite of what your country’s government or others want.
While Bulwer-Lytton is credited with the saying, according to Trivia Library:
The Greek poet Euripides, who died about 406 B.C., said, “The tongue is mightier than the blade.”
In 1600 Shakespeare had Rosencrantz in Hamlet say that “… many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills.”
In 1621 Robert Burton wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy, in which he stated: “From this it is clear how much more cruel the pen may be than the sword.”
Also preceding Bulwer-Lytton was Thomas Jefferson, who in 1796 sent a letter to Thomas Paine in which he wrote: “Go on doing with your pen what in other times was done with the sword.”
I wonder what quote will be remembered today? The blog is mightier than…