The inaugural Blog Bile Award

I’m thinking about instituting a “Blog Bile of the Week” award for the most impassioned, hate-filled blog rant, where the author makes no attempt whatever at balance or objectivity. After all, blogging isn’t academic writing, so why even try to maintain a semblance of detachment? Moreover, it’s psychologically cleansing to get all that repressed hostility off your chest. If you can’t do it on your own blog, where can you?

Sam “Yobbo” Ward’s rant about the West Coast Eagles a couple of weeks ago would have been a worthy recipient of a Blog Bile Award. Unfortunately it seems to have disappeared (hopefully only temporarily) in the Great Gravett Empire database crash. Accordingly, the inaugural Blog Bile Award (which may or may not be awarded every week, depending on the number and quality of liverish posts – sometimes the blogosphere goes through inexplicably conciliatory phases, perhaps influenced by the phases of the moon) goes to …

Christopher Sheil, for his 30th anniversary “tribute” piece on John Howard. Here’s a sample:

A lot of other ordinary Australians I know think he’s an utter nerd, but believe (wrongly) that at least he does what he thinks is in the best interests of the country. Some others I (unfortunately) know are happy about the fact that he hates trade unions. Etc.

But no-one likes him, except old ladies. I mean, the guy is a vacant space as a person, a ruthless, congenital liar as a politician, and an ingrown toe-nail as evidence of the history of the nation, as I think another blogger once said.

I’d better make it clear that I’m not even being sarcastic here. I really do think it’s perfectly OK to expose one’s passions and prejudices in unashamedly polemic writing on a blog. There’s a danger of destroying the immediacy and spontaneity that give blogging its unique flavour if we strive too hard to be balanced, detached or objective. If we occasionally topple over the edge into unrelieved ratbaggery, so be it. In the blogosphere, the complete picture on any issue emerges through a dynamic, dialectic process via the comment box, “Trackback” pings and hyperlinked reactive posts from other bloggers. “Truth” arises through that process, not through striving for “longer, more reflective pieces that do approximate academic standards” of objectivity or comprehensiveness of coverage. As Tim Dunlop muses in his seminal Evatt Foundation article about blogging:

Few bloggers try for “objectivity” in the traditional journalistic sense and most are happy to declare openly their political allegiance. This is both a strength and a weakness, as we will see, but ultimately it is the nature of the beast and nothing to get upset about. In fact, it goes to the heart of my understanding of bloggers as the new public intellectuals …

Blogging does not (and should not) try and emulate the sophistication of, say, an academic presentation or paper. It shouldn’t even try and emulate the precision of a news report, though paradoxically, as I’ve said, one its best functions is to fact-check such news reports. The attraction and strength of blogging is that it is informal, first draftish, and more than a little breathless.

For the individual blogger, or even for the reader who decides to leave a comment, there is a real blowtorch-to-the-belly aspect to blogging in that, by engaging in political debate in such a public way, people often move beyond their own knowledge horizon, or come up against people who are simply better informed than they are, or who have thought about the topic more deeply. Under such circumstances bloggers can be forced to do their growing up on a subject in public, which can be a difficult thing. But it is also good thing, and it gets us back to the idea, espoused most fully by conservative thinker Christopher Lasch, that argument precedes understanding and is central to democratic opinion formation. …

In other words, there is an absolute need – itself a positive off-spin of public debate – to offer bloggers a reasonably generous reading, to allow for the speculative nature of what they do and to give them a chance to redeem their error. If there was one overriding criticism I have of blogging it is that bloggers themselves too often try to play “gotcha” and will pounce, via a counter post, on any perceived weakness in another blogger’s argument. Now, sometimes this is reasonable, sometimes it’s even fun, especially if your target dresses on the other side to you politically speaking, but too often it is not, and in my estimation, nothing will kill blogging quicker than people feeling that they are going to get creamed every time they make a mistake, or express an unpopular opinion. …

Let me illustrate the mismatch I am talking about with an extract from Eva Cox’s Boyer Lectures. When she says, “Civil societies are also civic societies, that is, we as citizens must take responsibility for changing what we do not like” she is invoking a notion of citizenship that subsumes the category of intellectual: as a Boyer lecturer she is speaking as an intellectual but identifying as a citizen. The “goods” she notes that are necessary for citizens in “changing what we do not like” are social and collective values (concepts she returns to often), notions like trust, reciprocity and mutuality. She declares that her approach will “trace the often forgotten but powerful forces that connect us as social beings” and that she is responding to what she sees as the fact that the “social aspects of humanity have somehow disappeared and we are left with a more atomised image of individuals competing in an endless process of distrust.”

And yet, when she discusses herself as an intellectual, the emphasis changes. She in fact privileges the “atomised image” of the individual intellectual. Arguing that “too many critics are co-opted” she states that in “Hannah Arendt’s terms I am a pariah who chooses to stay on the outside because only from the margins can you see the whole field. This is not just a feminist position but one shared by others who, by choice or circumstances, become the outside commentator, the one who sees the unclad emperors” (emphasis added). In such accounts the intellectual is identified as necessarily separate and apart: and it leads to the contradictory call for the same being to be “detached” when operating as an intellectual but “involved” when acting as a citizen, which becomes doubly confused when the citizen and intellectual are called upon to perform similar public functions: that is, to be actively participating citizens. It is the “atomised” individual not the “social beings” of citizenship that are invoked as the intellectual ideal. …

Fortunately, no-one will ever accuse Chris Sheil of excessive intellectual detachment.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

A common complaint back in the days when I ran “eye of the beholder” was that I didn’t blog angry enough.

I just don’t get het up enough to do the full on rant sort of thing though.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

With rare exceptions, het up is tedious. Chris was speaking about an utterly unique event – the thirtieth anniversary, with the pretender being humiliated in public, and a video (dear god) extolling the Great Leader’s virtues..

but blogging angry is never as effective as blogging forensic. Unless you are Hunter Thompson, or sometimes Christopher Hitchens.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

five minutes later…
bloody hell, don’t I sound serious?

to stay in that mode for a moment longer – the trouble with ranting is its not satire, which is a national trait we all treasure (take a bow sedge) .. sport is the great exception. We mourn the loss of Yobbo’s weagles rant. There’s plenty of other footy teams that need the same..

and the one group in our society which is always worth a SAVAGE GUT-GRINDING SPEW-FULL SPITTLE-HAWKING KIDNEY-SHRINKING SHOELEATHER-ROTTING DEMONIC TOPPLING WALL OF HATE RANT is those sports administrators who treat players and competitors like dolls, slaves and extensions of their own WITHERED HOPES AND GONADS. Dawn Fraser knows what I mean.

Geddit?

Paul Watson
2022 years ago

I demand a recount! (Bile is my middle-name)

But seriously, it sometimes feels good to be away from Troppo’s probing seachlights :)

As for canonical statements on the art of blogging, there are a few very pertinent observations from “Salam Pax” here:

http://theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,9608180%255E7582,00.html

Paul Watson
2022 years ago

I demand a recount! (Bile is my middle-name)

But seriously, it sometimes feels good to be away from Troppo’s probing seachlights :)

As for canonical statements on the art of blogging, there are a few very pertinent observations from “Salam Pax” here:

http://theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,9608180%255E7582,00.html

Doug
2022 years ago

Intriguing, I often find my own prejudices become most apparent to myself when blogging.

I like the idea of it being a medium where people can grow up in public, and it being a more democratic public sphere where people can be challenged by views from outside their comfort zone.

I think Jonathon Franzen had something to say about the dubious pleasures of conversations with people who entirely agree with you …

Doug
2022 years ago

Intriguing, I often find my own prejudices become most apparent to myself when blogging.

I like the idea of it being a medium where people can grow up in public, and it being a more democratic public sphere where people can be challenged by views from outside their comfort zone.

I think Jonathon Franzen had something to say about the dubious pleasures of conversations with people who entirely agree with you …

observa
observa
2022 years ago

I must confess, I picked up the same vibe as Ken in my comment to Chris, on his Howard thingy. I would add Niall’s collision with an Asian driver, to Yobbo’s more cosmic collision with his beloved West Coast, here too. Still, we commenters have our mood swings as well. The Observa’s lack of detached rationalism, may often be traced to a couple of days with Mrs and Miss Observa, cycling together(why do cohabiting women do this?), or the manure hitting the propellor at work. Perhaps I secretly admire the serenity of a John Quiggin, although if I tried to imitate it, I’d probably have ulcers or blood pressure problems. Some of us have to let it all out occasionally.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Just for a moment there I had a vision of an Observa puffing up hills on a bicycle..

There is such a huge difference though between abuse and argument. A good old fashioned knock-down debate is fun and illuminating too, but spite is just spite unless it turns into Lear shouting horrible truths on the moor. Handy dandy, who is the justice, who is the thief..

Niall
2022 years ago

For goodness sake, it’s only a blog.

trackback
2022 years ago

Back blogging at the bay

Although your blogger stayed afloat on the road, I had practically no opportunity to see what else was going on in the ‘sphere. I’m glad the Puke in honour of the bash that was staged for our great and glorious…

trackback
2022 years ago

Bilious

Ken Parish has inaugurated his “Blog bile” awards, a category that should not lack for entrants. The first winner is Chris Sheil appropriately enough, since he notes that Howard’s 30th anniversary bash made him “puke all over my keyboard”. At…

trackback
2022 years ago

Raise the standard

Ken Parish once again brings the gentle art of blogging into disrepute by offering a weekly blog-bile award. I can’t tell you how disappointing this is to those of us who see in blogging some potential beyond that offered by…

trackback

You Call That Bile? I’ve Seen More Acid In Sodium Bicarbonate

Ken Parish has instituted a blog bile award, and with the exception of fellow Gravett empire urchin Sam Ward (and he was ragging on an AFL team for fuck’s sake; isn’t it wicked to mock the disabled?) the contestants are…