Monday, 12 February 2007

Odd Blogging Weekend

Strange things afoot this weekend: A Radio 4 profile of Guido followed by some defamatory (I believe) allegations against him - retrieved from 20 years ago by the Guardian - published and carried on leftist blogs which have been gunning for him for a while now (although Harry's Place defends him); Andrew Marr's AM show carries Iain Dale and the Yazzmonster, who concludes that despite being a progressive egalitarian, blogs are a bad thing (and Oliver Kamm, the egalitarian blogger agrees) - you could almost think something was going on.

Guido places himself in a position of vulnerability to these attacks because of what he does. I still find it odd that instead of celebrating the exposure of sleaze, as the left did throughout the 90s, we're seeing efforts to discredit the whistleblower. Nevetheless. He does what he does and people will attack him wherever possible.

As for this little outburst of left commentators slating the blogosphere (Taylor,Toynbee,Yazz,Kamm now it seems): the pressure keeps building it seems. For Kamm to slate it, despite being a fine blogger himself seems strange to me. You would have thought that a sphere which anyone can access for the price of an hour in an internet cafe every so often and which can bring the views of really ordinary (I don't just mean Guardian-writer ordinary, but people who sweep streets for a living ordinary) to a world-wide audience (ie potentially far larger than the Guardian gets to) -would be welcomed by the egalitarian left. No. According to Kamm and Yazzmonster, having loads and loads of people blogging politically actually, by some mysterious process, reduces the amount of debate taking place; worse than that, the genuine mass participation in politics we're witnessing through the blogosphere, via the people who post, the people who comment, and those who read - is, presumably by the same mysterious process, in fact bad for democracy. Somehow it just hardens people in their own views and sets up a vast "echo chamber". Well I don't know how much research has been done in this area - plenty, I assume, as egalitarians are big fans of evidence-based knowledge - but I don't understand it. How is a choice of say 20 great blogs with different shades of opinion worse than just reading the Torygraph? How is there less debate going on when various shades of the right are available in the form of the Devil, Guido, MrE, Tom Paine, Daily Pundit, David Farrer, and Croydonian? In the old days (last year, for me) I could only pick up the Torygraph for one shade of rightist view. But the left seem to be getting together to agree that this is a bad thing - perhaps the violent abuse being meted out to politicians, most of which is richly deserved, is what offends them (don't read MrE today on Patsy Hewitt then) - even when they make use of the sphere themselves. So what if the tone of comment and debate is full of rage and disgust? We care. We want things done well. We want honesty, competence and reliability. We don't get it. We assert (not wish for, meekly, waiting for it to be granted) - we assert the right to be shrill and angry, in a free sphere, open to all. Left pamphleteers have been doing it for centuries. At least we're not apathetic (or perhaps that now becomes the preferred choice).

Or perhaps we're just witnessing the cries of those who know that the media is changing for ever: their position of doling out wisdom (wth plenty of shrillness and hate when it suited them) to citizens whose only choice was either to write angry letters that don't get published, read, noticed or even opened; refuse to buy the rag; or set up their own local little sheet (did it myself years ago - at school, in fact) has vanished - those days are gone. People are having the say that is long, long overdue. And as the technology changes it will continue to morph, into videos, music, whatever - print blogs are just the start. So get used to it.


james higham said...

Oliver, whom I count as a friend, has always done this:

...For Kamm to slate it, despite being a fine blogger himself seems strange to me...

One of my very first posts was on his views of the blogosphere from the vantage point of the MSM.

Colin Campbell said...

Allelujah Amen to your fine post. This is an evolving post and I would have thought that most people would be in favour of a wide variety of opinions freely available at little or no cost. If you don't like it, you can always read the Torygraph online. That was the first website that I read regularly. It is a good site, but the range of complementary ando opposite opinions is very valuable. It is very easy to vote with your mouse. In the medium to longer term, there will be more really good blogs and that is not to say that they will be like news sites. More that their opinions will be regarded and respected and part of the overall cultural understanding of the world and the issues that confront us. As a teacher, I am sure that it is obvious to you that kids learn and interpret in many different ways. Adults too.

The Tin Drummer said...

cheers Colin. I forgot to mention that but you're dead right: you can get all the traditional hacks online now too. It is indeed obvious to me that adults and children interpret things differently, which is exactly why I would like dead-tree hacks to leave the blogosphere the **** alone: we are not thick!

james higham said...

Good comment by Colin.