Punditblogging in Australia

When US television network CBS presented explosive political documents without enquiring too closely as to their actual credibility, they unleashed a firestorm from US bloggers who quickly identified the documents as fakes. Soon enough, the ferment from political bloggers spread to the newspapers, and the CBS network was left reeling and its lead anchor, Dan Rather, had his reputation tarnished.

In the US media and political context, the blogosphere matters. In Australia, such an event is still rather difficult to imagine. With both Australia and the US in the full throes of an election campaign, it has been interesting to compare and contrast.

Is this merely because there is not the sheer weight of bloggers here? Does crikey.com.au take up much of the attention and energy that in the US goes into blogging? Is it the nature of the Westminster System vis-a-vis the Washington System?

I have no idea. What do you think?

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Philip Gomes
2021 years ago

I think it’s the weight of numbers that does it, less niches are filled here in oz, so we have fewer layers of expertise to draw on and dig into their areas of intrest.

It appears to me that many of our venerable bloggers are of an academic bent so the discourse tends to be drier and more formal (not a criticism by the way). There is more creative destruction being wrought over the pond due to the critical mass of bloggers there.

I myself am starting to develop an unseemly interest in Greg Sheridan. I know I’ve just got to let it go. But in the US whole forests of bandwidth are devoted to Bill O’Reilly alone, and that’s considered acceptable blogging behaviour.

Here it’ll probably be viewed as some sort of unnatural condition by fellow bloggers. Kinda like Tim Blair and his metaphorical turkey problem.

Most people I talk to don’t even know what a blog is, let alone it’s finer distinctions or it’s place in the WWW.

Is that like a website? Well yes, errrrr no. Ah, hell, yes dammit!

In addition I think that we’re more polite and don’t assume that the Rather unfortunate incident can’t happen here. By the way does anyone have a good explanation for the forgeries?

That is a question that I’ve not seen answered, even over there. So maybe we’re not so bad after all.

But really my general impression is that the great mass of the ozpolitic just doesn’t really give a stuff about the political life of this country to dig deeper, so we’re not really needed and can be ignored by all the other players in the game.

Hopefully not for too long.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

We don’t have the kind of devastating critiques the Americans have. We don’t have a leader who has been arrested several times and went AWOL in the national guard. We don’t have the evil he has in the fedayeen, leading to things like the determined efforts to smear by the swiftboaters.

A question of scale and matters of evidence. Instead, we have the libs allegations that interest rates will rise under Latham, which is a complete fabrication and they know it. Even here, it was soon transformed into “Keeping interest rates down” which is actually a legit position.

The libs will be called to some extent on their expenditure frenzy. They have been called – softly – on our involvement in Iraq. We do collectively present a different picture than the mainstream meedja, but it is about degree rather than explosive facts.

If we were presenting stuff than enabled journos to put the boot in, they would run with it.

Kent
2021 years ago

Blogs aren’t going to make a big impression on Australian media until the media can bring themselves to say the word without putting silent quotation marks around it. When Salam Pax was being interviewed on Enough Rope, they had to call it a “web diary”, and even then they pronounced it like it was a word from some intergalactic language. Blogs get treated like they are some eccentric showbag toy (or columnist’s plaything ala Tim Blair) from the mysterious ether.

Alan
Alan
2021 years ago

The documents were exposed so quickly because the exposer-in-chief, a Free Republic identity called Buckhead who in real life is a Republican political operative, claimed expertise he did not have to advance evidence for forgery which made no sense. What is really happening when forged documents are used to try and prove a truth? And when their disproof is used to try and prove an untruth?

L.F. Brown
2021 years ago

I’m just guessing that there are proportionately more bloggers in the US than Australia. A purported forgery scandal may be snappier than an indepth policy dispute. Drudge linked to powerline, he’s got a ton of readers and this led to pressure for CBS to say something; does Australia have a Drudge equivalent?

mark
2021 years ago

The forged memos in the US were an interesting case — layers upon layers. First off, the first round of denouncements were incorrect. “They must be forgeries, because typewriters couldn’t do that back then!”, when typewriters could. “They must be forgeries, because they use [font], and it looks just like modern [font]”, when modern [font] is supposed to look like the font used, excepting some minor differences which exist in the memos, but aren’t adequately explained by the debunkers. So the people saying “forgery!” were, basically, wrong.

All well and good, and time for Bush-haters to put their feet up and toast to an expected success. All except for one problem: the documents were forgeries. What the debunkers did was less prove the memos were fake, and more generate a critical mass that forced more credible, reliable, and better-resourced parties to look into the matter and duly discover the truth.

And then, when we get right down to it, the content of the memos was true. The memos themselves were never written as apparently described by CBS, but what they state — both in terms of factual reality, and the opinions of the supposed writer — is perfectly accurate. Who would want to forge the fair dinkum truth?

The first theory is that this was all dreamed up by Karl Rove to discredit the very idea of Bush being a draft-dodger. Apparently he’s done this before (I don’t remember where I saw this, but it wasn’t a very credible source…), and it sounds exactly the sort of thing fevered lefties think he would do. This theory, as far as I’ve gathered, isn’t too popular on either side of politics, but it’s just plausible enough to be true (though it doesn’t seem likely?).

The second is that somebody dreamed them up as a way of putting Bush’s record back into the spotlight again, but had the plan backfire horribly. This theory is more likely, but isn’t too popular amongst the right either. Why? Because the American mainstream and ‘blogospherical right-wing rarely even admit that Bush’s service in the National Guard was anything less than sheer dumb luck, and that he didn’t do his time in an exemplary fashion.

mark
2021 years ago

Re: why ‘blogging is less influential over here, there’s a number of reasons. Lefty ‘blogging isn’t taken very seriously on either side of the Pacific, “‘Blog for America” or no. In America, the right-wing is considered slightly more credible, which is strange. In Australia, right-wing ‘bloggers like Sam Ward, Gareth Parker and your good self, Scott, are not much different from the lefties in style: that is to say, you’re (mostly) civil, as are we (mostly), and tend to be at least in sight of rationality. The closest thing to LGF or Emperor Misha in Australia is Jon Ray, and nobody takes him seriously, including (I suspect) Ray himself. Why this is the case in Australia, I don’t know, but I suspect it might have something to do with that very civility and rationality. In America, there was a very strong core of rabid right-wingers who’d have done anything to bring down Clinton after suffering severe shock at the election of a moderate President at long last. Presumably if a moderate (which is to say, Democrat, although some of the more centrally-inclined Republicans, like McCain, might suffice) were elected again, they’d swing back into full gear. They were willing to listen to any old drek if it might help bring down Clinton; in Australia, there is no core there, and if there were, they would not find much substance in our (mostly) civil ‘blogs anyway.

(Why this phenomenon is restricted to the right, I’ve no idea. It might have something to do with money; rich Democrats tend to be right-wing as well, just more moderate… hard-core lefties who might be able to produce that sort of sheer hatred may simply be unable to buy the same influence or arouse the same passion in their fellow Americans.)

Drudge became (bafflingly) credible and (less bafflingly) famous after breaking the Lewinsky scandal. As a right-winger throwing all sorts of juicy right-wing gossip into the ether, he was of course popular amongst those conservatives who’d be interested in such crap. After Lewinsky, even sensible people started reading him (at least temporarily). And Drudge reads ‘blogs. This could be where the crucial link comes from, eh?

The closest thing we’ve got to Drudge is crikey.com.au, and they tend to be more sensible, have a smaller fanbase, and pay less attention to unreliable sources (like ‘blogs).

Yobbo
2021 years ago

Politics actually matters in America. They need to talk people into going to the polls AND convince them to vote for one of 2 parties with significant ideological differences.

In Australia, we have 2 identical parties, and a populace who are forced to vote by law. Hence, nobody really cares.

Also, let’s not forget the population of the US is around 15 times the population of Australia. They have a lot more of everything, not just blogs.

Cameron Riley
2021 years ago

I think it is more an indication of how marginalized the mass media has become. In the US people under 40 dont watch the news on the networks anymore. Dan Rather and Walter Kronkite etc have an average audience age that is around 60.

The blogs/diary/journal websites and communites have overtaken the news media in breaking a story as well. Cable in the US with Turner’s CNN innovation established that as their forte. But the internet has taken over that role as well.

Paper media has gone downhill fast as well, IMO since the Bush Administration came to office as well. Murdoch’s “New York Post” will carry on its front page rhetoric like “our steadfast president” and the letters and editorial section will be one long bash against the Democrats, UN, and anyone else who has a contrary opinion to Bush, DeLay and Hastert.

What has happened in the US is that there is a credibility gap between the media and the consumers. News is product placement for advertisers. This was rammed home when more people watched the Republican National Convention on Fox News (a pro-Republican cable station) than on the broadcast networks.

The consumers in the US have balkanized and the mass media is chasing them by trying to give them the kind of echo-chamber that sites like dailykos, freerepublic, redstate.org and littlegreenfootballs do for their online communities. This is what Fox News is, an echo chamber for people that want to hear that sort of thing.

Mass media has lost, it cannot change and adapt as quickly as the online community can. Dailykos will most likely fragment if Kerry wins and its users will splinter into the internet starting up new special interest echo chambers.

ABC/CBS etc cant be that flexible. That big chunk of spectrum they are monopolising means that they are inherently a static medium. No fark photoshopping for them when times get still.

Mass media is marginalized in the US and since Sept 11th has simply been hogging public spectrum. The FCC should tell the networks to move to cable, and take that spectrum back. Giving it back to the public in the same manner that 802.x has allowed the public to use part of the spectrum in innovative ways.

Why the US phenonomen in blogging hasnt occurred in Australia yet? I suspect the answer is Telstra. In the US I have my websites running on an EPIA ITX system in my basement. I connect through wireless broadband to the ISP for $59 USD a month. I have on my roof a 4 foot by 3 foot antenna. It broadcasts my packets into a tower in the town where the ISP is.

Before we got broadband we had (and still have for backup) dialup for $12 USD a month. Our local calls are free in the US so we arent hit with a connection charge each time we dialled out. I would suggest this is one of the reasons that internet penetration is higher in the US than Australia.

Possibly the other reason that the US style effect of blogging hasnt occurred is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission still maintained a credible news department, despite Howard’s attempts to cripple it. There are no legitimate news services in the US on television or radio any longer. It has echo chambered in the search for audiences that find their fare palatable and inoffensive.

mark
2021 years ago

Now, now, Cameron, Ch Nine are credible too. The rare biased bits or not-so-rare “read out a press release on air” stories are easily detectible, and can just as easily be routed around.

Yobbo
2021 years ago

I connect to broadband for US $30 a month, and my even if I didn’t, I could get a free blogger account for my website in any case. I really doubt that has much to do with the number of blogs available.

Amanda
2021 years ago

Is there a case other than the CBS documents where the blogosphere had such a major role?

One thing the media loves to talk about is itself, and the advent of a whole new area of the media is always going to get ink. The blogosphere might influence the media, insiders and political junkies like us but I’m not convinced they yet really matter beyond that.

Martin Pike
2021 years ago

By far most blogs are just opinion sprays. These can be very interesting and fun, but relatively few try to add something unique or develop a niche.

I’ve kept good etiquette and not mentioned my own recent start-up until now, but given direct relevance to the topic can I point out that we need more scrutiny on the media, for example:
http://agewatch.blogspot.com/

=) Sorry Ken!

Tony.T
2021 years ago

How’s that head of yours Pikey?

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2021 years ago

I think critical mass is – well – critical. For all the ‘wide world web’ context, blogs tend to be pretty reliant on a national audience, context – and content, though there are notable exceptions of course.

In that sense, 300 million Americans compared to 20 million Australians is a crucial determining factor in terms of engagement. Political blogging was also pretty much an American invention.

I’ve been interested in how blogging has developed here over the last couple of months. ‘Back Pages,’ given Chris Sheil’s strong election focus, prodigious and well crafted output and growing band of aficionados, has probably become the pre-eminent Australian Lefty blog. There’s undoubtedly far more exploration, exposition and erudition on the Left of the Ozblogosphere, while there’s a definite dearth of the Andrew Sullivan-type persona on the Right. That’s not to say that bloggers like the Catallaxy crew, Currency Lad and Sam Ward aren’t eminently readable – they are. It’s also not to say that Chris Sheil’s comments threads can’t at times be as boringly and predictably partisan as some of Tim Blair’s – and there are of course times when partisan commentary on both can be eminently entertaining.

It’s more that Leftish bloggers tend to be more interesting to read, at least from my perspective. There’s just so many times that the fact that Mark Latham has had testicular cancer can be rendered as a perjorative insult before you begin to yearn for some more original approach. It’s election time and all that so it’s kind of the ultra-partisan blogging moment, but the heady whiff of cordite and the “formez vos bataillons” approach certainly won’t hold my interest longterm. I’m not attracted to the cheerleader approach to blogging and in fact find myself developing a dangerous contrarian tendency just for the sheer hell of it sometimes. In fact, I should check out the Merck Manual to see what these symptoms might indicate…..

Ken’s idea of a kind of ideas exchange – conducted with civility – is a laudable aim but increasingly it looks a bit difficult to realise. And on that point, I wonder how much control Oz Bloggers have ultimately over how a political/ideas focussed blog shapes? Obviously, a great deal if the blog doesn’t have a comments facility. Much less if it does. The tendency is to preach to the converted, moreso as the traffic increases. We all look for approval and affirmation but to some extent that innate tendency militates against the sort of dialogue that Ken seeks.

To potentially disprove my own point, I’ve been interested in Andrew Sullivan’s very public movement away from support for the Bush administration and the enormous amount of negative email comment it’s apparently generated. And he doesn’t have a comments facility. The desire to be where your audience wish you to be might be no less irresistible for a high profile blogger than it is for a high profile opinion piece writer.

I find unpredictability interesting in itself but that’s pretty much me it seems.

mark
2021 years ago

There’s a point, Geoff. There’ve been several times when Sullivan has started talking about gay rights, and has gotten soundly abused via email by his core audience, who are shocked — shocked! — that someone they previously thought of as a thoughtless sycophant had opinions of his own, and that these opinions didn’t always coincide with theirs.

In a similar (but far less rabid) way, there’s been a few lefty commentators on this very ‘blog who’ve been Utterly Disgusted when they discovered that the reason Ken calls himself a centreist is that he can, in fact, see the Right’s point from time to time. Watch whenever Ken pens a right-leaning post after a good run of left-leaners, and see the commentators who’re surprised and horrified that Ken really is a centrist, and not a glorified lefty.

It’s that echo chamber thing. A great many people visit ‘blogs only to get the echo chamber effect, and sometimes they stumble onto writing by people who don’t, in fact, agree with them, without realising it. Then there’s howls of outrage. How dare he! I thought he was a righty/lefty! And here he is not following the party line! I’ve been tricked! Betrayed!

Rabid righties reading Sullivan’s ‘blog (or partisans of any stripe reading Ken’s), and looking for mindless agreement might be compared to Manly Man’s Men unknowingly hitting on a cross-dresser. For the most part everything seems to be going according to plan, but eventually the awful truth will out and, of course, it’s never the MMM’s fault for having such poor eyesight.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Geoff and Mark

Sometimes I get worried or even depressed about what Mark calls the “echo chamber” effect, and Geoff calls the “cheerleader approach to blogging”. It’s very evident on many if not most political blogs. But then I remember that humans, even very well-educated and thoughtful ones, are tribal animals, and mostly prefer hanging out with members of their own tribe. There are relatively few compulsive (or rationally convinced) outsiders who don’t (or won’t) happily fit into any tribe. But that’s OK. I feel pretty comfortable being an outsider and non-tribe member. I wouldn’t do very well on Survivor, but blogging is a comparatively comfortable place for an introspective, anti-social outsider like me, as long as one doesn’t aspire to a vast audience of adoring fellow tribe members.

Niall
Niall
2021 years ago

I’d say that like most things techno, we’ll be around 6 to 10 years behind the US in the uptake before the Oz media decide to take a gander at who’s saying what in the Ozblogosphere that just might be worth reiterating.
Yobbo…..you might want to take a good hard look at the two majors. There are some dramatic differences, just not the one’s you’re looking for.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

Watch what happens after the election. If Latham loses, there’s a bunch of very funny newer and probably younger bloggers who will offer consolation to use lefties.

If Latham wins, we will start to disagree with each other as policy and direction gets properly critiqued and the ALP confronts reality. In that case, our pose of civility will be under test, though I believe it will stay intact and lead to a heap of interesting discussion.

One of the heartening keys is when people start asking each other what they think.

mark
2021 years ago

One thing I’ve just thought of, this could harken back to the whole “compulsory voting” thing, too. In Australia, ‘bloggers are no more an indication of how voters feel than /Today/’s famous phone-in polls.

But in America, where so few people vote, political ‘bloggers are almost guaranteed to show up. In America, there are enough political ‘bloggers and few enough voters that what the ‘bloggers think could well actually matter.

Cameron Riley
2021 years ago

Mark,

Another aspect of US elections is the importance of money. Many of the US political sites have fundraising ventures. In essence these sites have become special interest groups with their site hierarchy representing their communities interests in the same way K-Street lobbyists are.

The K-Street folk however lobby directly to have legislation targetted for their special interests and concerns. These sites havent made that change yet. I am busting to see if Kerry gets in, if dailykos will become a lobbyist site for the community there.

If they manage to have some common thread or special interest that site might keep its 500,000 daily visitors coming back, donating money and being weighty enough to have legislators adopt their interests.

They are already attempting to influence races in Congress with money and those candidates post there with many thank yous. This is no different to Disney giving Fritz Hollings money for his races and then demanding Mickey Mouse not fall out of copyright.

It will be interesting to see what happens. The possibility is also there that the dailykos community is united by ABB (Anybody but Bush). If Kerry gets in that common meme will be gone and the site may splinter to every corner of the already balkanized internet.

Martin Pike
2021 years ago

Tony T- my head’s good, don’t know about me career. Thank god I’ve got blogging when the footy’s over!

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Australian political blogs already perform a relatively significant fact-checking function in relation to the media, and issues raised on blogs not infrequently filter out into mainstream discourse. I can’t recall any instance, however, where Australian bloggers directly impacted the mainstream political process itself as the Bush memos affair did.

However, frankly, I don’t think fact-checking is blogging’s most important function. I’ve always thought that the participatory/monitorial potential of blogging is much greater. That is, the quality and depth of political debate (and therefore political accountability) are enriched if more people read and participate in blog discussion. The fact that dogmatic left and right wing bloggers like Chris Sheil and Tim Blair apparently attract 10-20,000 or more hits per day is potentially significant to the political process. It suggests an even larger audience reach than that, because most readers don’t browse every single day. And some of the readers will themselves have a degree of influence over some of their friends and family, so there’s a ripple effect.

The fact that dogmatic, ideologically committed bloggers like Blair and Sheil seem to be far more successful at attracting a large audience than sceptical, uncommitted group blogs like Catallaxy or Troppo tends to confirm my suspicion that the “montorial” role is more important and more likely to sustain a large audience than a true “participatory” democratic model. As I said in an earlier comment, humans are tribal creatures, and mostly prefer to remain within their tribe, especially at “crunch” tmes like elections. That isn’t to say that genuine discussions and differences of opinion don’t take place on ideologically-committed blogs, but they take place between people whose ideologies and world views are very similar, so they don’t have to leave their comfort zones or think about ideas or opinions they find irritating or unacceptable.

A monitorial blog informs its readers of current political developments and tells them what they should think about them. It will be effective to the extent that the blogger has convinced readers that his judgment can be trusted because he understands the issues and has a broadly predictable political viewpoint with which they are happy to identify. A sceptical, politically uncommitted blogger like me can never fulfil that sort of role, because I don’t have a predictable, dogmatic viewpoint or any party affiliation at all. As Mark observed:
“Watch whenever Ken pens a right-leaning post after a good run of left-leaners, and see the commentators who’re surprised and horrified that Ken really is a centrist, and not a glorified lefty.”
Readers can’t trust me to tell them what they should think in a way that will necessarily reflect their own ideological slant, and that lack of tribal comfort is compounded by the fact that this is a group blog with a number of voices with different viewpoints. As Geoff observed, I aspire to develop this blog as an ideas exchange where people with divergent viewpoints can meet and discuss things civilly, and thereby enrich our mutual understanding. It seems that only a minority of readers are interested in that sort of discussion, but we only need enough to keep it interesting and diverse.

I frankly couldn’t imagine anything less interesting to me personally than the “echo chamber” mass cheersquad atmosphere of Blair’s blog (we are all individuals, who all just happen to think exactly the same i.e. exactly what Tim thinks, and anyone who thinks different is a commie fuckwit), but the “monitorial” role he (and left wing equivalents especially Chris Sheil) performs is potentially a valuable one in a polity where most citizens don’t have the time, knowledge or inclination to keep abreast of the details of current events. Like their radio counterparts Alan Jones, John Laws etc (though on a somewhat smaller scale), Blair and Sheil are dogmatic, opinionated, sarcastic and somewhat intolerant. It seems that those are essential qualities for a monitorial guru.

The beautiful thing about blogging is that there’s room for everyone, from dogmatic demagogues to sceptical centrist naive idealists to political and economic theory devotees like Jason Soon, and everything in between. I don’t think bloggers should especially aspire to become mega-fact-checkers with the mass public visibility of the NY Times, or see themselves as competing with the opinion pages of broadsheet newspapers. Our strength lies in the diversity and sheer anarchic pleasure of blogging, and in the unfiltered almost-real-time dialogue between blogger and audience. Those are qualities the mainstream media can never match.

Rex
Rex
2021 years ago

I think the great thing about the blogs is that it shows up most of the newspaper columnsists for what they are: opinionated tossers, with no special qualifications. The same as the blogs god love ’em.

Paul Watson
Paul Watson
2021 years ago

There’s been some good points made above, but I don’t think that any of them have quite pointed out the real reason for the dearth (after taking into account differences in population, Net access etc) of Australian pundit blogging. It’s the problem of where to begin! AKA the Australian mass media is *so* crap, so consistently, that the pundit blogger ultimately can’t win. If they go shallow and wide, they can be criticised for lacking follow-through/specialisation; while if they drill-down through just one or two issues, the criticism will be that they are obsessive and have lost the bigger picture.

On a tangential note, Niall wrote:

“Yobbo…..you might want to take a good hard look at the two major [parties]. There are some dramatic differences, just not the one’s you’re looking for.”

cs
cs
2021 years ago

Blair and Sheil are dogmatic, opinionated, sarcastic and somewhat intolerant.

Unlike you Ken?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Chris

They’re matters of degree, and I reckon you are generally more dogmatic, opinionated, sarcastic and intolerant (or at least short-tempered) than me. On the other hand, I’m not claiming I don’t have my bad moments. Like yesterday. I shouldn’t have slagged you on the Medicare Gold comment thread, and I apologise.

cs
cs
2021 years ago

Ken, thanks for the apology.

Must say, however, that I reckon your dogmatic insistence (in bold, no less) on characterising me when I have never characterised you, let alone insisted on the truth (let alone in bold) of such a characterisiation, puts you a few degrees further on in the opinionated and intolerant stakes. I hold to no dogma.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

I’m dogmatically determined not to have an argument about the extent of our respective dogmatic tendencies. My characterisation of you was in the context of general points I was making about the nature of blogging. They’re points I’ve made before, including in the Evatt article I wrote for you, and the reference to you was intended to illustrate those general points not be be personally offensive.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

Chris and Ken,
thank you for that. I really appreciated the laugh.

mark
2021 years ago

You are remarkably consistent, Chris. And you probably are the lefty equivalent to Tim Blair; you run a constantly on-message, popular Aussie ‘blog where lefties meet to slag off righties. Your ‘blog is also a great deal politer and contains more intelligent analysis and discussion than Blair’s; by any and every comparison, you come up more favourably. Well, except for the thin-skinned part; you’re more or less equal there, with Andrea Harris fortunately popping up to make Blair look even worse than he is.

I wouldn’t call you “dogmatic” myself (I’ll wait to see what happens if Latham wins…), but you are clearly “opinionated” and “sarcastic” (not that that’s a bad thing…), and more devoted readers of your ‘blog will know more about “intolerant” than I. I don’t see the problem with categorising an avowed lefty thus; it fits several Aussie avowed righties to a tee, after all.

cs
cs
2021 years ago

Fair enough Mark, but I’m only an avowed ‘normal’ – it is the severely right wing nature of the ‘sphere that conjures up the left distortion. My position (with historical explanation) has always been:

It would be fanciful to imagine a world rid of the terms left/right. But given the history, it does seem to me that they may well contribute at least as much to ideological obfuscation as political clarity these days. Perhaps we should more simply classify blogs as RWDBs and ‘others’, recognising that the latter are a heterogeneous group more interested in discussing and exploring issues than merely rudely projecting an unbending agenda in favour of Bush and Howard in every matter.

There is only one organised football team in the ‘sphere. But if folks have a psycho need to divide the rest of the world up in the image of that team … well, I spose it could be therapeutic … but in light of my (reasoned, not dogmatic) argument don’t expect me to agree with you.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Chris

In a spirit of deepest civility (as always), I can’t help but note that your observation about “folks hav[ing] a psycho need to divide the rest of the world up in the image of that team” (presumably referring to my blogroll divisions) is a perfect example of the sort of dogmatism to which I was referring. Merriam-Webster defines dogmatism as follows:

1 : positiveness in assertion of opinion especially when unwarranted or arrogant
2 : a viewpoint or system of ideas based on insufficiently examined premises.

I was using the word in connection with you in meaning 1 not meaning 2. Moreover, you’re trotting out this determinedly negative characterisation of my blogroll categories yet again, despite the fact that I have repeatedly (and very recently) explained to you the bases for those categorisations and acknowledged the limitations and qualifications one must necessarily place on such an exercise. To refer to it as “psycho” in those circumstances is at the very least dogmatic in sense 1 above.

Nor, I might say, do I accept the proposition that it’s illegitimate to attempt to describe, summarise or categorise the political stances of bloggers (or anyone else) other than self-labelling RWDBs. Making sense of the world necessarily involves categorising, drawing comparisons and making choices on the basis of previous knowledge and experience. Everyone does this, and necessarily so. However, we should also remind ourselves of the dangers, shortcomings and oversimplifications that flow from those summarising and categorising processes: almost no-one fits perfectly into any neat little box. Nevertheless, as long as we keep those limitations in mind, it’s a healthy and necessary exercise, and attempting to label it illegitimate (or “psycho”) because you happen to dislike a specific label is pointless.

cs
cs
2021 years ago

Apologies for not being clear enough Ken. I meant ‘psycho’ as shorthand for ‘psychological’ (which is how some in my field tend to shorthand the word in causation arguments). I think you have summarised some of the elements that underlie this psychological need.

Re the blogroll, my mixed view remains. I was drawn here not by the blogroll, but your categorisation in the thread. If you continue to presumptively categorise me, I don’t see why I shouldn’t comment with my correction. Isn’t that an exchange of views? I note again that I don’t do this to you, I only reciprocate when you lash out. What is unreasonable or uncivil about this?