Monday, July 21, 2008

You see? I told you...

When I hyped Iain Dale's blog list yesterday, I also mentioned the Left's attitude to the whole exercise.
Of course, last year all the Lefty blogs resolutely refused to endorse Iain's voting drive, and then complained when they weren't anywhere near the top. "It's the Top 500 as voted for by Iain's readers," they complained.

Oh look! That didn't take long, did it?
However, I won't be participating in the exercise this year, and I would quite understand it if other left blogs did the same. Over the last year there have been a few occasions when Iain Dale has been rude and derogatory about the standard of 'left' blogs. Whilst I recognise the top right wing bloggers currently have more traffic, that doesn't mean they are better quality. The Sun sells 6 times more daily newspapers than The Financial Times, but that doesn't make it quality. I think it is well out of order to describe left wing blogs as comics, and then ask people to help you to compile a list of the best of them.

Of course, if Bob Piper had any balls, he might think, "do you know what? I might prove Iain wrong by compiling a list of really good Lefty blogs" (because there actually are some around. Not many, but a few).

But unfortunately, Bob Piper is a Labour Councillor and, as such, his balls have been removed and are now stored in Harriet Harman's office cupboard. Every time that poor Bob votes with his conscience rather than the party, Harriet takes them out and boots them around her office.

And it is, of course, no surprise that the tedious Sunny Hundal is also not taking part.
For a start there is the obvious bias—most of the participants will be his own readers and they will inevitably skew the results. As Chris Dillow said last year, “people who like blogs like Iain Dale’s like blogs like Iain’s - whoda thunk?”

Except that Iain is deliberately trying to get a better balance, Sunny. You said, earlier in your article, that Iain has "asked us to link to [the article calling for submissions] naturally". By which I mean that I assume that Sunny received the same email that I did, outlining the rules and asking people to invite submissions on their own blog.

Now, I know that logic and coherence are not exactly Sunny's strong point, but I do believe that when Iain asks Lefty blogs to invite their readers to submit their favourite blogs, he just might be trying to even out any bias as best he can.
And this feeds into the narrative that left-liberal blogs are non-existent and boring and there’s nothing going on there.

And the Left's refusal to take part in the only fucking book that is going to get published on this subject simply reinforces that narrative, you thick bastard. What you should be doing is encouraging your readers to vote so that those who read said books do realise that the Lefties have a blog presence.

Unless, of course, you are going to release your own book—Socialist Blogs Are Good; No, Really, They Are: Honest, perhaps?
The Tories are always desperate to push this idea that they dominate the British blogosphere...

Hold it right there, Sunny. The Right does dominate the blogosphere at present. However, please do not confuse "the Right" with "the Tories". Some of us have no more love for the Tories than we do for Labour—most of the libertarians and classical liberals for a start—and there are a lot of us about.
... and no one else is worth listening to.

And your lack of participation simply reinforces that image. As I have said before, there are good Lefty bloggers around (although I tend towards liking those who describe themselves as Left Libertarians) but your refusal to participate puts you out of the game.
The lazy journalists who can’t be arsed to do any original research buy into this.

Quite right; the media are piss-poor. And here isIain, really is interested in upping the profile of blogging generally, and your message is "Lefties: don't vote for any blogs because that way we'll show the lazy journos that there are no good Left blogs out there. Oh, hang on..."

Sunny Hundal is an absolute tosser, but he has made efforts to bring the "Liberal" Left together and so he should be represented. If Lefties don't vote, he won't be. And everyone, including the media, will continue to ignore the Left blogosphere.

And so the narrative that there are no good Lefty blogs will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nice one, Bob! Nice one, Sunny!

Either that, or the Left realise that no one actually reads them and are eschewing participation on the grounds of embarrassment. If the Left is thrashed, again, the Lefty blogs can all, like last year, stand around and say, "uh, well, obviously we didn't... like... vote and that's why there's so few rated, yeah. 'Cos like, it's just working for The Man, an' that." So, let's see how many other Lefties refuse to participate; and do remember to watch out for the post-publication moaning.

Fucking hellski, what a bunch of fuckwits...

UPDATE: just to expand slightly, I feel rather closer to this loose community of bloggers than I do to many people that I know somewhat better. We are all engaged in a similar aim: that is, we all attempt to tell the truth (no matter how we might see it).

Further, there is a certain symbiosis amongst the different types of blogs. Your humble Devil fully admits, for instance, that he is a polemicist—a rabble-rouser. But my rants would be largely ineffective were I not able to link to decent data: I would simply be another ill-informed pub bore (shut iiiiiit!).

I rely heavily on what I call "Resource Blogs"; those bloggers that get deep into the nitty-gritty of the data. For instance, a while back, I featured on the front page of The Telegraph, talking about the EU Xenophobia framework.

However, it is unlikely that I would have been able to write in an informed manner about that had Unity not given it the once over and flagged up a few crucial clauses.

Now, no journo (hard-pressed or, let's face it, fucking lazy, as many of these journos are) is going to read through one of Unity's immensely long and, occasionally, interminable posts. It just isn't going to happen. Ordinary audiences are unlikely to do so either.

They will however, read someone like myself. Although I, too, tend towards the prolix, my posts are also usually punchy, easy to read and, frankly, a wee bit fluffy. But, I couldn't write the posts that I do without those who, like Unity, are prepared to trawl through massively tedious documents or arcane web archives to find the relevant information.

Thus we have an unofficial symbiosis. Unity trawls the documents, I spread the word (and, surprisingly, since he is a horrible Labour Party member, we disagree relatively infrequently).

It is this collective way of working that makes bloggers so powerful; much like Iain, I think that we should push for greater recognition of the work that we all do. After all, one thing that is abundantly clear to most of us is that, as Tom Paine points out with no small amount of anger, the MSM has utterly failed us over the last few... well... decades.

Of course, after we have become more well-known and generally powerful, we can start squabbling in public rather than simply amongst ourselves...

UPDATE 2: Sunny takes me to task in the comments for, amongst other things, not representing the second part of his argument which is that Iain doesn't link to his sources properly.
For example, in this post where Iain Dale props up his mate Guido Fawkes’ lame-duck vendetta against the Smith Institute, he says:
Incredibly left wing blogs are trying to claim that the Smith Institute has been totally vindicated by the Charity Commission report. Delusional.

But why not link to what those blogs are really saying so you could let them speak for themselves? This is just bad etiquette isn’t it?

Actually, yes it is. It's also fucking annoying. I've seen it happening quite a bit recently (especially at Iain's)—and have taken at least one Tory blogger to task for it. Link to your sources because I want to know whether that blog or media report actually says what you say that it says and I don't want to have to waste my time trawling for it.
When Iain wants to rubbish left-wing blogs and misrepresent them for a particular issue, then he has a habit of not linking to what they’re actually saying. But at other times he wants their support to make a representative ‘top blogs’ list.

It’s this sort of partisan behaviour that makes me think Iain is probably not the right person to position himself as the grand-daddy of British blogs.

Which is fair enough. However, I would argue that, in terms of pushing the influence of blogs outwith the blogosphere, Iain is the only game in town at present. Sunny says that he's not interested in that audience... well... fine and fair enough.

I still think it's a silly attitude but, as the old saying goes, each to their own.

UPDATE 3: 'orrible pro-EU, Lefty blogger Jon Worth gets it.
The reason I will be voting (and indeed will even contribute an article to Dale’s book) is that he has, more than anyone else, helped political blogging entering the mainstream of British political discourse. He’s also done that in a way that has broadly as part of the system, rather than as a dissident poking fun at the system, and I have respect for him for that. While I disagree with him on all kinds of political questions, his energy for making politics and politicians use the power of the internet is infectious.

This entry from Tom Harris MP really sums it up—his blog, one of the very best to emerge this year, is motivated in part thanks to Dale’s guide from last year.

Quite. My attitude is precisely the same as Jon's (and I didn't think that I'd write that sentence—mind you, he is a Mac fan: there may be hope for him yet) and I still think that it is the right one to take if you wish to increase participation in blogging—and I do.


Old Holborn said...

Left wingers can't blog. They can only act as a collective because the individual has no worth, no value and no voice. It is all in the common good. One voice, not many

Sad, but true.

Ian_QT said...

There are some good lefty blogs (even if obviously I don't always agree with them). I'll be voting for Obsolete and Dave's Part to name 2.

I was going to include Liberal Conspiracy in my top 10 also, but since Sunny is playing the "it's my ball and..." card (see here) I suppose I should respect his wishes.

Oxbridge Prat said...

I gave Luke Akehurst my last vote based on recent amusement value.

Sunny said...

I prefer not to reply to you DK since you prefer ad hominems than actual reading of what people are saying. And in this case you've done it again.

And your lack of participation simply reinforces that image. As I have said before, there are good Lefty bloggers around (although I tend towards liking those who describe themselves as Left Libertarians) but your refusal to participate puts you out of the game.

This is fine with me. I've done relatively ok at building up an audience at LC (mostly down to the other bloggers incl Unity), but NONE of this was down to linking from right-wing blogs like Iain Dale. When we launched, even you linked and talked about it my plans. No such interest from Dale or Guido.

So my point is, I'm not really interested in pissing contests or gaining Iain's affections. He's a nice chap generally but I'm not the "please sir, can I have a link?" kind. I'd like to think if LC is interesting enough it will attract an audience, and it's done an ok job.

I'm interested in expanding my readership from other sources, not trying to get Iain's readers to come to me.

Lastly, you completely missed out the second point in that article, which was the main reason Bob and I are giving it a miss. I thought you liked to "expose the truth" or whatever it is. The least you can do is air the whole argument and let people make up their own minds.

Sunny said...

Another point about numbers. Your numbers here are, in all likelihood the same as I get on Pickled Politics.

By my reckoning, there are top traffic blogs, second tier blogs (PP, this blog, Dizzy, Libcon, ChickYog, Harry's Place, LabourHome, The F Word, LibDemVoice, Samizdata and a few others) and then the third tier blogs that get daily traffic in the hundreds. In that second tier, lefties look more represented than libertarians and about the same as the Tories.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

I bet Harry's Place isn't having such a strop. Then again they are reasonable left and always have been.

TheFatBigot said...

Mr Sunny must not ignore the utterly irrelevant 17th tier blogs which combine poor writing with poor thought and only get any readers at all because they choose a silly name. But enough about me.

Letters From A Tory said...

There are some excellent left-wing blogs such as Harrys Place and Dave's Part who appear to still be taking part in Iain's poll, showing that they still think it's important to see the strengths and weaknesses in the blogosphere across the whole political spectrum.

Grow up Sunny, seriously.