Apparently, one of the words to make the annual Lake Superior State Banished Words List is “blog” (and, according to the list, all of “its variations, including blogger, blogged, blogging, blogosphere”). The reasoning behind the banishment is unclear — except that, again according to the list, “[m]any who nominated it were unsure of the meaning,” which of course is always an excellent reason to banish a word.

The continued disjuncture between the “blogosphere” and the majority of the American “peoplesphere” is no laughing matter, though. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll in March found that 48% of its respondents never read blogs.

The “blogosphere” has been seduced, partly by the mass media’s combination of anxiety and fascination with it, and partly by its own echo chamber, into believing it has far more influence and importance than it does. It’d be great if blogs could change the world, or even the political landscape, but although you can marshal some evidence that political and cultural elites (and certain specialized readers) care about the effect of blogs, if not their content, when you come across cultural mileposts such as the Banished Words List, you start to wonder whether blogs are much more than a tempest in a teapot. It’s not a question I have the pretense to an answer to. I’m a certified blog addict, and I would feel very de-oxygenated without my daily diet of blog reading (which is perhaps a problem in itself), but when I step back and look at the attention paid by the “blogosphere” to certain events and stories (for example, the revelations that Bush has been authorizing wiretaps of American citizens since October 2001) in contrast with the attention paid the same stories by the mass media, I wonder what blogs actually do, in the larger scheme of things.

I don’t think the response is to sneer at people who don’t read blogs (though I can see the “blogosphere” reacting in such a way). Increasing numbers of Americans get their information online, but is there a corresponding increase in the numbers who get that information from blogs? If not, why not? And would the answer to that question only matter to a blogger?