Broken bloggers

The big blogger story of the weekend isn’t interesting because it shows that online communications are crucial to UK politics (obviously they are), or because it shows a freakishly self-destructive willingness in Labour staffers to experiment with badly-handled smear tactics (although it’s astonishing that this was done so badly), or because it showed how itchy the media are for a good story to stick it to Labour (that’s four days now that the news has been preoccupied with not just a smear but a meta-smear).

Anyway, the thing that’s interesting about the story, which is actually a pretty petty, depressing and self-involved bit of Westminster toss – and anyway, was anyone actually thinking of voting Labour even before this came out? I’m considering moving into Vince Cable’s constituency as I can’t think of anyone else I could bear to stick an X on. The thing, anyway, that stops this stupid story from being totally, irredeemably nothingish is that between themselves, Draper and Guido have pretty much consummated what Adam Curtis said about blogging in this interview with The Register:

First of all, the people who do blogging, for example, are self-selecting. Quite frankly it’s quite clear that what bloggers are is bullies. The internet has removed a lot of constraints on them. You know what they’re like: they’re deeply emotional, they’re bullies, and they often don’t get out enough. And they are parasitic upon already existing sources of information – they do little research of their own.

What then happens is this idea of the ‘hive mind’, instead of leading to a new plurality or a new richness, leads to a growing simplicity. The bloggers from one side act to try to force mainstream media one way, the others try to force it the other way. So what the mainstream media ends up doing is it nervously tries to steer a course between these polarised extremes.

So you end up with a rigid, simplified view of the world, which is negotiated by mainstream media in response to the bullying extremities. Far from being “the wisdom of crowds”, it’s the stupidity of crowds. Collectively what we are doing is creating a more simplified world.

Discrediting Nadine Dorries shouldn’t require unsubstantiated slurs. It should be sufficient to say that she’s incompetent with evidence, ideologially driven and weirdly prickly about democracy. But that’s the opportunity cost of this sort of politics: there’s no place to discuss ideas or policy or capability, only insult and counter-insult. Fucking blogosphere.

6 thoughts on “Broken bloggers

  1. Labour blogging thing goes like this….Labour bloggers used to dominate the UK political blogosphere. Then Labour (and that whole Iraq thing) proved not to be very nice. Socialists (who historically like to think of themselves as free thinkers and idealists) – pretty much lost faith in Labour party.

    They still carried on but not under the banner of Labour.

    Tories realised they had been left behind and had a bit of a push. This left us with the hugely dislikeable Paul Staines/Guido Fawkes and the almost as unlikeable Iain Dale.

    Dale has been a prospective parliamentry candidate for the Tory while Staines has a pretty repulsive history etc etc.

    Staines has got enough of a reputation, however, that he’s an easy person to leak things too – although he plays fast and loose with what he claims are exclusives.

    So anyway, Labour, worried by losing blog race get in Draper and he’s largely disliked by the left (because, hey – the left don’t much like Labour these days and he’s not exactly a loveable person).

    He doesn’t really understand blogging – Labour wanted a blog that would be able to get headlines like Staines’ effort.

    Yadda yadda – big cock up – no one happy.

    As ever – Labour has no supportive blogs because no one is supporting Labour. Tories have supportive blogs – not because people especially like Tories – but Tories don’t tend to question their party in the same way – winning is all.

  2. Hmmm, Sarah I think you’re unnecessarily pessimistic.

    Discrediting Nadine Dorries shouldn’t require unsubstantiated slurs. It should be sufficient to say that she’s incompetent with evidence, ideologially driven and weirdly prickly about democracy. But that’s the opportunity cost of this sort of politics: there’s no place to discuss ideas or policy or capability, only insult and counter-insult. Fucking blogosphere.

    Of course – but there is actually plenty of work bloggers did in discrediting Nadine Dorries that wasn’t done by the MSM. Furthermore, if you see this video
    http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/03/21/watch-bloggers-summit-at-coml/

    …then various people incl Ben Goldacre point out how bloggers have done good investigative work.

    Of course – to the Westminster obsessed press this is mostly inconsequential. But it still has an impac.

  3. I probably meant “fucking *Westminster* blogosphere” – I really am excited about ad-hoc investigators publishing their own work (and I’ve linked to that video before), and only pessimistic about the way the major political parties have decided to run with their online campaigning. Like you say, all the information about exactly what sort of an idiot Dorries is is out there, there are obviously plenty of people talking about how she’s failed intellectually – and the tactic of her parliamentary opponents is to ignore all that and go for the gossip.

  4. Sarah – I share your disillusionment with the whole Westminster/blogosphere. The focus on gossip and point scoring is despair-inducing. You’re spot on about the voting conundrum too.

    But I was concerned about Adam Curtis’ comments in that Register interview, which seemed to damn the entire concept of blogging. “Self-selected bullies” is certainly an accusation I’d level at politicians, but not bloggers. I guess perhaps the fact that I’m a blogger and not a politician may colour this. Hmm… But still, it’s the sort of harsh judgement so frequently levelled at grassroots media by old media and I really wouldn’t have expected it from a thoughtful broadcaster like Curtis.

    Also left and right are not what they were. There’s almost no difference in policies between any of the three main parties. Since, as you say, there’s barely a vote-worthy one among them, it makes no difference what colour rosette they wear. So all the blog smear stuff seems even more ridiculous than it already is. There are no real alternatives. ‘Left’ vs ‘right’ is like cornflakes fighting Rice Krispies to see who’s the best breakfast. (If that concept isn’t too Harry Hill.)

  5. Whilst I accept that there are some ‘serious’ political bloggers out there, the people that I know with a political blog are just venting. The blogosphere gives them a place to let off steam, share their views and find people that agree (or disagree) with their points of view. I personally believe it is quite healthy. To me at least, many of these bloggers are merely sharing views they might otherwise have stated in the local pub, but with 4 closing everyday, this may end up being one of the few places they can still express a view and at least most of them are sober.

    However, once political bloggers start to think that their opinion matters, then they have started to lose the plot…then it may be a good time to consider a career in politics!

  6. I read this: “they are parasitic upon already existing sources of information – they do little research of their own”; and thought of the mainstream media – given that the Cardiff University research commissioned by Nick Davies found that only 12-20% of stories were generated by the journalist whose name appeared in the byline and that only 12% of key factual statements showed signs of having been thoroughly checked, it seems a little unfair to characterise bloggers in this way. Having read some of the posts written by political bloggers, though, I can see why Adam Curtis might hold such a low opinion of bloggers.

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