What kind of blog is Troppo?

On reading Margaret Simons classification of blogs I wonder what kind of blog Troppo is.  No doubt others have joined in on other blogs.  Anyway, she puts Catallaxy, LP and Andrew Norton’s blogs in the category of ‘pamphleteering’ blog.  That’s interesting because although I would have said that Troppo was in the same family of blog as those blogs, it is definitely less pamphleteering – though there is a bit of opinionated commetary.  Anyway since we’re not really a pamphleteering blog (or I don’t think of us as doing that very much – I can’t think of any campaigns run from here other than to raise money occasionally for worthy causes and get bulk Crikey! subscriptions) I’d call us a discussion blog.  And if LP and others want to call themselves that, that’s OK with me.

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25 Responses to What kind of blog is Troppo?

  1. Jacques Chester says:

    That was a pretty confusing taxonomy, if you ask me. There may be some terms she could pick up from existing circulation:

    For “Popular Mechanics blog” read “Special Interest” or “Knitting”.
    For “The Advertisement” read “Astroturf”.

    But there’s too much duplication for my taste. This sort of social science musing sounds like a job for the Andrews Leigh and Norton.

  2. gilmae says:

    Club Troppo pushes the cause of radical centrism? As defined by Noel Pearson, &c, &c

  3. Jason Soon says:

    I have no complaints with the ‘pamphleteering’ label. It’s a noble old tradition.

  4. SJ says:

    I would suggest simply that Margaret Simons experience and/or imagination is too limited to be useful in category creation.

    Jason is correct, it’s pamphleteering in the old sense. The problem is that she defines it incorrectly. What’s the point of trying to apply antiquated terminology to new phenomena, when one doesn’t even understand what the antiquated terminology means?

    She may as well have said “Larvatus Prodeo, Catalaxy, and Andrew Nortons blog are examples of Christmas blogs, where the posts are all about astrology”.

  5. Ken Parish says:

    Maybe the pamphleteering label has some degree of utility, although not much. It’s certainly true that LP, Catallaxy and Norton exhibit much stronger, more aggressively ideological orientations than Troppo does. Even the label “radical centrist” to a considerable extent just defines Troppo by what it isn’t: – aggressively, narrowly ideological. That isn’t to deny that LP etc very often exhibit broader analytical discussions that aren’t all that tightly ideologically confined/stereotyped, just to assert that “pamphleteering” fits their house style much better than it fits ours.

  6. SJ says:


    You’re a pamphleteer. Nick’s a pamphleteer. Jaques is a pamphleteer, etc. Club Troppo engages in pamphleteering.

    Simons’ adaptation of the term “pamphleteering” just doesn’t work, because her definition requires that you all pamphlet for the same cause.

    Most bloggers are pamphleteers, which really just means something like “self publishers of short tracts”.

  7. SJ,

    We often are, but we’re often not. (Like the other sites, though they’re in pamphleteering mode somewhat more than us.)

  8. SJ says:

    Nick, just to be clear, I fail to see any utility whatsoever in Simons’ categorisation.

  9. SJ,

    I’m not really too hung up on it. It doesn’t really matter. It was a fairly idle post. But I don’t really know what you mean when you say there is no utility’whatever’ in Simons’ categorisation. I think the fact that this conversation is not meaningless, suggested by the fact that we’re participating, means that there’s some utility in it. She’s trying to make some distinctions that we all feel make some sense, but they’re not satisfying us – we want better. But it’s not easy to come up with better. So it seems to me anyway.

  10. SJ says:

    I am also not going to argue the difference between “utility” and “usefulness”.

  11. Nabakov says:

    “I have no complaints with the pamphleteering label. Its a noble old tradition.”


    So I look forward to all the things that Doc Nick could say on the record about the Cutler Review that he can’t say off the record.

    I mean really Nick, half of it was pinched from the NIA, half was just stating the bleeding obvious (Yes son, a tradition among consultants) and the half with good ideas was not the half with new ideas. Basically it was put together by people who couldn’t add up four halves.

    And instead came up with “Ventorous” as a buzzword. It’s like “Incentivation” – which, as Hawke beautifully explained, sounds like something you do to cats.

  12. MeatWork says:

    When I was at university I bought a monochrome poster of Michelangelo’s David (remember how you used to buy those big posters from Poster Shops and put them on your college room wall?). When I got sick of it, being b&w and all, I got out a pencil and marked it up into areas of what I considered to be four shades of grey. Then I painted each area a different colour, probably purple, red, blue, green or something. What I created was an interesting image, I thought. I was very pleased with the very striking effect. But it had nothing to do with the David, except for the outline and it utterly hid, by intention, any nuance. So while it might have been interesting it no longer bore any relation to the reality of the artwork or the sculptor’s intention. It was interesting but it wasn’t “useful”. It didn’t tell anyone about the David, but it told them quite a lot about me……

  13. MeatWork says:

    Guido, re Mark Day, I was struck (as Mark would say) by his opening line:

    the most valuable role of journalism in a democracy is to peek behind closed doors, to keep a watchful eye on the workings of politics and power.

    He misses the most important step: “AND TELL PEOPLE ABOUT IT.”
    The reason the bloggers, particularly the pamphleteering bloggers, have had helathy readerships is because the MSM too often fail to take this last step. “I could tell you a thing or two about what really goes on in Canberra that would make your hair curl, if only I could.”

    The reasons why they don’t are probably numerous but one of the main ones may be that in order to learn what is really going on journalists must maintain access to their sources, which means they have to nurture a relationship with their quarry that often, and ironically, precludes revealing the truth. Politicians and journalists are symbiotes. They feed off each other. This is truer in the US than in Australia and the UK, perhaps, but it is still true here.

    The most notorious recent example of this failure in the US, the UK and Australia was in the lead up to, and the aftermath of, the invasion of Iraq.

    As Mark Day says, newspapers are businesses which have to make a profit and in that context Journalism is a Career, after all, not a Crusade. Bloggers, on the other hand, can be crusaders and that’s why the pamphleteers are necessary.

  14. Invig says:

    Mine’s a ‘I’m in charge of the world’ kind of blog.

    And Margaret knows what she is supposed to be doing right now!

  15. Melaleuca says:

    LP and Catallaxy are certainly cause-pushing blogs, for soft-cock leftism and libertarianism respectively. Club Troppo is less consciously ideological, conservative in the best sense of that word, less egotistical and generally more nuanced and reflective than your average blog.

    BTW, I think Club Troppo needs to take on two or three new contributors to keep up the volume of posts and hold on to its readership.

  16. Robert says:

    What kind of blog is “Troppo”?

    How’d it start? If memory serves, a bloke with a sense of humour and clearly skilled background to say the least, which from admission had swerved to the left at times, had chosen to walk the middle path. As armadillos do, apparently.

    KP from memory wrote some riveting pieces, and engaged in the rough and tumble. While the work at the time has ebbed, what lingers (sadly, for my part for sure) are the times when KP went full bore, and if that didn’t work at his site, comments were deleted, included the author’s, with the bat and ball solidly packed in the bag and homeward bound.

    Obviously I’m going to be corrected here.. happily so. But those days were remembered by this commenter as passionate, concise but for the dummy spit (well, they were concise, but about people not topic), obviously articulate and knowledgeable while not for me to make a call on the latter.

    And that’s a point. As a blue collar reader, KP’s original blog allowed us some entry into the space published. We sat back and thought upon the posts, if we didn’t understand them we felt a part of it in some way at least. Some chose to throttle the bastard, some picked up on a bitchiness living within, but while raw in today’s standards it was open.. well, except when it were shut.

    But it was always clear cut, and driven by a person(ality), who had achieved in the blogosphere serious cred.

    How’d it go then?

    Nicholas Gruen entered – invited, or self-promoted? One remembers some early days as promotion for Peach Home Loans (and Alan Kohler comes to mind) and the whole blog had changed.

    Sure, great posts have been made by today’s two owners, while all of that was happening.

    You want a reader’s answer to your question?

    The blog as one man’s vision and effort with all its foibles had established clear success for that person’s quality of effort. It became then “Club Troppo” and a new element had entered (not just personality). And for quite a while it was a Club.

    But as a blog it is a club no longer.

    No doubt where Troppo excels is in its own hemisphere. When the brilliant minds of KP and NG do their focused thing. As a reader, I sit back and watch those years of study, hardship, training and knowledge go. When it’s delivered in concert with the writer’s area of expertise it is riveting reading even when as a reader I know nothing about it. KP on this blog has a history of writing this way (and probably much more aways), and Nicholas Gruen kicks it to bits when on professional task.

    Those things obviously this blue collar guy can’t comment on other than to table the above para as the beginning of the mark of respect.

    To continue to answer the question posed at top, tho, it has to be acknowledged that those professional skills and that serious history talks really only to an informed crowd.

    Outside of that, “Club” Troppo does not succeed. It’s not a club, as one expected it to be from its early design and as presented, but a clique. A brilliant clique, no doubt, to those in that brilliant professional sphere, no matter those challenges or conflicts as presented from professional compatriots. And but a poor club with flubbergut or poncy attempts to “strongman” others from it who “don’t get it” accordingly. The latter is worth a second and third look, with respect, if you want those readers to stay on board, though it could be said many have been lost in the while.

    Pamphleteer? No. Deservedly vying for unique apace, yes. A force or power? Yes.

    Middle of the road? Centrist?

    Only so far as a silent elitism can go.

    Sorry, guys, and I don’t include here the wonderful contributors otherwise, but for KP, and NG, seeing you have asked, I would say Club Troppo has grown with a stain of elitism pulsing through its veins which renders it brilliant but isolated at best (as a public space); a wary acceptance into that space – a clique – covered quite well by acceptance of the norms of rational argument/procedures; into tryhard efforts to say you’re actually good blokes when we inherently feel, or want to feel, you are; into, well… so-called Club Troppo lost a lot of people recently with its “competition”.

    What kind of blog is () Troppo? Dunno. You guys have to choose, and then make it so.

  17. Stone the crows, things are evolving. Whoda thunk it?

    This is still a more civilised and thoughtful place than nearly anywhere else of the “main”/”known”/”insert appropriate adjective here” blogs that I can think of.

    Viva la evolution.

  18. Invig says:

    Hi everyone at Troppo.

    Just to let u know that I’m developing an expose of Margaret’s intellectual bankruptcy, so you may not wish to put much stock in her analysis of the blogosphere (or anything really) until you read it.

    Good times, good times.

  19. Invig says:

    Point taken.

    I will not engage in further self-aggrandizing behaviour on this website.

    (Hope I can fix what has been broken…not mine you understand)

  20. Invig says:

    Actually, the entire expose is unnecessary.

    Blame it on a lack of sleep and my mother’s lecture on the importance of expressing oneself without swearing.

    She just doesn’t understand that swearing is sometimes appropriate, especially when it indicates a real level of disgust with someone else’s behaviour. Although in this case that behaviour was not intentional, just a result of an unwillingness to get to grips with complexity.

    Or so I hope…

    But why Margaret??? When the answers were out there? Why did you not raise the possibilities I had suggested? Possibilities that did not require excessive red tape?


    You were my ally…

  21. Invig says:

    Oh yes, I remember now.

    There was no bloody point at the time was there? Sol wasn’t going anywhere and the government weren’t listening.

    You were sick of bashing your head against a brick wall and had other stuff you wanted to do. Stuff that needed good relations with the hierarchy.

    I was pretty happy to call it a day at the time come to think of it.

    Still, the wheel turns and things move on. Things resurface. Maybe its time to get back into the bear pit?

    If it makes a difference, you’ll have it all to yourself for the time being…

  22. Vee says:

    I must say I’m in agreement with Melaleuca, whose blog I’ve just discovered and I am slowly taking a peek at. I certainly wouldn’t describe Troppo in any vein of elitism unless you count when economics is discussed, the other two main blogs mentioned are leaps and bounds ahead on that front.

    Out of the options provided, I would go with a Gate Watching blog and assessing things solely on their documented merit and the evidence. I differentiate this from the “Pamphleteering” described as those blogs seem to be based on their opinion of the evidence.

    I guess it could be described as “Popular Mechanics” for Public Servants.

  23. John Greenfield says:


    An expose of Margaret’s intellectual bankruptcy? Dude, get a grip. She banged together in a few hundred words a quick and dirty of Australian blogging. She has not lied to the UN that Iraq had WMD!

    A far better use of your expository passions would be the Sarah Palin hating hypocrites among the white bourgeois leftist misogynist wymyn!

  24. Margaret Simons says:

    I am surprised that people seem so upset by the “pamphleteering” word. I certainly intended nothing pejorative. Pamphleteering is indeed an old, honourable and important tradition. Pamphlets have been at the centre of every social movement of the last few centuries. If blogging is reviving pamphleteering after their near crushing by the dominance of mainstream op ed pages, I think that is something to be celebrated.

    Nor did I mean to suggest that LP and Catallaxy and the others only sing one song. Rather they are a venue for the publication of “pamphlets” from different people with many different points of view on different issues. Certainly, like most “publishing houses”, these blogs have a particular range of interests and world view, but I did not mean to imply that these blogs are only ONE pamphlet. They are publishers of many pamphlets.

    As I said at the start of my piece, it was a first stab at a taxonomy aimed at getting some debate going. The main stimulus was the way in which Mark Day and others – including some of my fellow speakers at the recent Melbourne Writers Festival – tend to make all or nothing statements about the effect and usefulness of blogs. I think blogs are now doing so many different things that statements such as Day’s are close to meaningless. We need to try and define the terms. If others can do better – go for it. I am not claiming any special expertise here.

    I considered whether Club Troppo was pamphleteering or not, and couldn’t make up my mind. Sometimes it seems to me to be more of an alternative op ed page, which is different to a pamphlet – but perhaps not all that different. I’d probably tend to say it is a pamphleteer, and I mean that in the nicest possible way!

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