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Actualité États-Unis

Political Extremism (At Home and Abroad) Dominates the Blogosphere

Reaction to two events that put the spotlight on political extremists overwhelmed the discussion in the social media last week. One, widely covered in the U.S. media, was the attack at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. by a white supremacist. The other, barely noticed in this country, was a European Parliamentary election that seated two members of a hard-line right-wing party.

Together, these two stories generated almost 60% of the week's links on the Web tracking site Icerocket, according to the New Media Index by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. The two events also produced a similar pattern of response in the social media-outrage followed by more polarizing commentary about the causes and impact of ideological extremism.

Stories about the European election generated nearly a third (30%) of the week's links, a clear indication of the international flavor of the online community. While a few American bloggers reacted, the vast majority of commentary came from British bloggers upset at the election of two members of the anti-immigrant British National Party (BNP) to represent the U.K.

The shooting at the Holocaust museum (29% of the week's links) by white supremacist and Holocaust denier James W. von Brunn was primarily of interest to American bloggers who quickly turned to the question of who deserved blame.

The third-largest story, at 10% of the week's links, was the latest chapter in a saga that has generated significant interest in the social media. Last week, Miss California Carrie Prejean was stripped of her crown by pageant producers. She first gained attention back in April when her opposition to gay marriage-in response to a judge's question at the Miss USA pageant-prompted bloggers to cheer her willingness to stand up for her beliefs. The pageant producers stated that she was dethroned for contract violations and not for her stance on gay marriage.

The fourth-largest story last week (at 8%) was a June 9 BBC report that downplayed the hype over the popular Web site Twitter. The story described a Harvard study finding that  just 10% of Twitter users generate more than 90% of the site's content, and that the majority of users update their page less than once every 74 days.

The fifth biggest subject (also at 8%) was a June 8 CNN.com story about two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea after a closed door trial that generated international protests.

PEJ's New Media Index typically utilizes data collected from two different Web tracking sites, Icerocket and Technorati. (Technorati has been having technical problems so this week's NMI is based solely on daily figures from Icerocket.)

The top stories in the mainstream press last week were largely different from those online. With the exception of the Holocaust Museum shooting, which filled 11% of the week's newshole in the traditional press, the other top stories received very little attention online. The No. 1 topic was the ongoing economic crisis (at 13%). After the museum shooting came the debate over health care reform (7%), the Iranian elections (6%), and the troubles plaguing the U.S. auto industry (6%).

Political Extremism (At Home and Abroad) Dominates the Blogosphere