Friday, November 17, 2006

Strategy adviser's critique of political blogs hits the mark

BBC News reports that Matthew Taylor is unimpressed with political blogging and suggests that it is adding to the "shrill discourse of demands" that dominates politics today. "We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government," he said.

Depressingly he's correct to say that 'political' blogs "are hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are."

It's certainly true that the more visited political blogs seem to feed only a sort of school playground need for gossip and to reassure the sort of people who lack influence or achievement that those more successful than they are are 'in it only for themselves'. As a part of grown-up political discourse they are about as useful as a beer glass in an earthquake.

11 Comments:

At 21:49, Anonymous The Labour Humanist said...

Personally I can't stand the hype that surrounds blogging. Most of the better known blogs, imho, are average at best. Blogs have their place but I wish the hype would go away.

 
At 08:39, Anonymous Californian American said...

It is not hype. Political blogging reveals just how widespread individuals' beliefs are that the government should stay the heck out of our business. Government should be small.

Political blogging is synonymous to the average conversations that have gone on in pubs (bars in America), in restaurants, and in homes for the last couple hundred years. Except, today those conversations can be "broadcasted" to the world via a blog.

And guess what? "...as useful as a beer glass in an earthquake?!" That is ridiculous and wrong. Political blogging reveals what is so deep in the hearts of humankind - independence and freedom. Matthew Taylor says that "We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government," but he is looking at it incorrectly. (Just as the British did 200 years ago with American Independence, I might add). Instead, people are very ready to be self-governed, but on a local level. Big government is intrusive. Pub conversations have said this for generations, and now the world is finally hearing it through political blogging.

 
At 09:18, Anonymous Andrew Brown said...

It's a bit unfortunate if we're all being tarred with the Guido brush, but its true enough that policy development hasn't been high on the list of achievements of political blogging as yet.

As for political blogging being a call to arms for small government; I'd not noticed that it was that monolitic. While I'm sure there are plenty of libertarians in cyberspace there also seem to be plenty of people out there blogging away either arguing for the state to stay the same size or to increase its stake in delivery of services.

 
At 14:10, Blogger Courtney Hamilton said...

"Depressingly he's correct to say that 'political' blogs "are hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are."

Well... not all the time.

 
At 14:49, Blogger Hughes Views said...

Thanks for all the comments.

tlh - I agree, the hype is, like most hype, rather depressing. Blogging can be fun and a way of contacting a few other souls but it's never going to change the world.

ca I agree that "Political blogging is synonymous to the average conversations that have gone on in pubs..." (and is about as frequently ill-informed and irrelevant!) but I don't agree that it demonstrates a widespread desire for small government nor even that it demonstrates that most bloggers (who are anyway but a tiny proportion of the world's six billion inhabitants) desire small government.

ab / ch - I don't think he's tarring us all, Sorry if my selective quote gave the wrong impression. I think he's clear that some blogs are not in the Guido / Dale category. Unfortunately they tend to be read by (even) fewer people than those that are...

 
At 15:05, Blogger Mike Ion said...

I just do not understand why Matthew Taylor did not also take the opportunity to outline how blogs could move beyond the 'cyber gossip' mode and develop into a positive political tool. I agree that the influence of blogs is over-hyped but I also feel that blogs have huge potential as an additional means of 'doing' politics - internationally, nationally, regionally and locally.

 
At 20:33, Anonymous Hilary Burrage said...

It might be obvious, but isn't one part of the 'answer' to the alleged emphasis only on less constructive blogs, for those of us who try to blog more thoughfully to make sure we blog each other (as is happening right now)? That tells everyone that there is a community of thinkers as well as whingers.

There are plenty of thoughtful people out there who enjoy reading not-too-long thoughts of a positive / analytical nature, if only we can make our blogs known, available and accessible to them.

I'm very aware that quite a sizeable chunk of the more experienced population isn't very confident with websites and comment boxes etc... so it's our job to help them along and into this, not to shrug our shoulders and say there's nothing we can do.

I'm surprised Matthew Taylor and more of my co-bloggers are not doing that. What's the average age of a Labour Party member for instance? 'Older' than that of the average blogger I'd bet.

We have to include both future, younger members of society and more experienced ones. If you think beyond the stereotypes, there are probaly far more people who could join in constructive on-line discussion-debates than there are people who regularly go down the pub. (I'm one of them...)

But for that to happen we'd have to move beyond 'just' political debates of the more abstract sort. Matters of health, education, business, environment as they apply to 'real people' are the things which get most folk going.

Many popular magazines exist and make money simply by looking at these issues, after all. The women may buy them, but in my experience the chaps read them as well!

The personal is political, as some of us have been saying for many years. Do you think Matt Taylor knows that yet? My undestanding of the 'second generation' of blogging (aka Tim Berners-Lee) is that more and more people are realising that the future is meaningful dialogue, not just sniping.

Thank goodness for that.

Cheers
Hilary

www.hilaryburrage.com

 
At 11:33, Blogger Hughes Views said...

Thanks Mike and Hilary - I agree that blogging might be a useful way of communicating with potential party members and/or activists but it requires too much positve action by the recipients to be of any use in influencing those vital floating voters who aren't very interested in politics...

 
At 11:41, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If 'political' blogs "are hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are" .... mine must be the exception that proves that rule.

It is quite true that my blog - Keep Tony Blair For PM - is one of only a few to suggest that the Prime Minister is worthy of our respect and support. And this from someone who has never voted Labour.

But, it's clear that political blogs are normally instruments for getting your anger out there, and that means they appeal to those who think their issues are NOT being advanced or even discussed by politicians. So there are going to be more negatives than positives. That's to be expected. But it means that the voices of dissent can sound louder than they really are in the general population. As long as we realise that we are only speaking to a small percentage of usually like-minded people and are not likely to change the world this way, I think political blogs do have a future, if only to let us see how others think.

http://keeptonyblairforpm.wordpress.com

 
At 12:47, Blogger Hughes Views said...

Thanks anonymous - yours is a nice blog...

 
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