I really need to eat something and watch That '70s Show (I really fancy Donna—tall, slim, broad-shouldered, wide-smiling, intelligent and doesn't take any shit: how could I resist?—so you can imagine my disappointment when I found out that Laura Prepon was a certified loony) so this post wil probably be split into two parts.
In the first part, I shall take a look at this wonderfully cliched article by Mike on Comment Is Free.
Political blogging has become immensely popular in the UK over the past 12 months. Blogs like Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale's Diary receive hundreds of thousands of hits each month and are proving to be influential in setting the news agenda ahead of the printed and broadcast media.
Welcome to my introductory boilerplate, wherein I try to establish that a practice, that has had a minor influence on one or two news stories and almost no impact on people in general, is important.
I will quote Guido and Iain because I cannot think of any other blog that might possibly have been mentioned in the news and, even though I know that it is probable that the general public has never heard of them, maybe when they have they will look back on my article and declare it to be almost supernaturally prescient. Besides, these are the two that the rest of the media have quoted and it will piss Richard North off even more if I don't bother mentioning him (and this is one of those instances where your humble Devi believes that Richard and Helen should get more of a look-in).
There's no question in my mind that political bloggers are a major new development in British politics.
Well, newish. Someof us have been plugging away for years; the fact that anyone in the MSM (and, thus, the establishment) is because of two stories involving Prescott and, typically, the MSM chose to concentrate on the more prurient and least important of those.
They take the media out of the hands of the corporate world and put it into the hands of anyone with a computer and an internet connection.
God! Is this the best that you can do? Or is every MSM journalist compelled to put this line in as a condition of their contract?
Their audiences tend to be political junkies who have almost non-stop access to a computer and large amounts of time to surf the internet for breaking news.
More tediously obvious, boilerplate crap.
This is what makes political bloggers so powerful - their ability to influence the influencers.
Really? What, Poly Toynbee surfs the 'net to see what Iain Dale is saying about Gordon Brown's speech to see if she agrees? I doubt it.
However almost all of the popular, and populist, political blogs in the UK are both anti-government and anti-Blair.
Ah, yes; "populist". Talk about being damned with faint praise.
Left of centre, or even vaguely pro-government blogs are rare and not at all influential, few (if any) are read by the likes of Nick Robinson and Adam Boulton.
Yeah, well, the problem is that a lot of people turn to blogs because they are fed up of reading boring, poorly-researched, left-wing-biased reporting in the MSM. Out here on the 'sphere, you can have any combination of boring, poorly-researched and left-wing-biased that you like. But you can also read swearbloggers and libertarians; free-trade advocates, economists and designers; you can read about theatre, social theory, tech, and just about anything else.
But mostly, you can get away from the pussy-footing, liberal Left who dominate the MSM and the ranks of university lecturers for whom socialism is the only "humanitarian" creed. Out here, there are people who say that socialism is utterly inhumane: and there are people who are discovering that they agree with those bloggers; people who are finding that what the Right is writing appeals to their heart and mind but they have never been entrusted with this knowledge.
What knowledge? Whisper it quietly, children: the knowledge that the state is not the solution but the problem.
This is not the case in the US where there tends to be a much looser allegiance to a political party and where you can be pro-government without being pro-Bush. In the US there are liberal, conservative, libertarian and near-anarchist bloggers. The one thing they all agree on: blogging. In the US bloggers discuss the new medium with proselytizing enthusiasm. They know each other's blog names, they use links, which enable internet users to jump from one web page to another, to publicise each other's work. In the US bloggers feel so strongly about blogging, they even promote bloggers they don't agree with.
I'm sorry, Mike, you have completely lost me now. Many of the US bloggers that I have read and who read me express immense surprise about the looseness of UK political party affiliation, not to mention the sheer diversity of positions. The only reason that anyone on the US might not dwell on party is because it is taken for granted that they are either a Democrat or a Republican; and since it is going to be so obvious from their writing, it is not worth mentioning.
And I don't know if you've noticed, Mike, you pig-ignorant sod, but over here we use each other's blognames too. We also, you know, link to each other; yes, even people that we disagree with. I've linked to you in this post, after all. But I promote bloggers that I don't agree with, ChickenYoghurt for instance, and there are bloggers who promote me too, though they think that I am a loon.
I see from your archives, Mike, that you have been blogging for nearly a year. For fuck's sake, Mike: where have you been? We do all of this in the UK and you don't seem to have noticed. Perhaps you should take you head out of your arse.
Could it be therefore that the main political parties here in the UK are simply failing to exploit the potential influence of the blog?
Finally, something that I agree with! Yes, of course they are. On the other hand, it's a long time until the next election and blogging for two years can become a bit of a strain. I suspect that we will see lots of blogs popping up about 4 months before the next General Election as everyone frantically jumps on the bandwagon. Either that, or we will see a succession of short-term project blogs, like Spam's India Trip blog (I think that this is the way that Spam himself is going to go. Much easier than trying to keep readers interested for more than two weeks: simply don't bother; blog for a week to "connect" and then ponce off again for a while. When you pop back with your next week's stint, there are plenty of Tory bloggers to point people to your "new" project).
Can the present government utilise the internet to help it connect with its supporters and not just its own party members?
Of course: haven't you noticed what a success Miliband's blog (not to mention his Environmental Wiki) has been? You haven't? Oh.
Of course it becomes more difficult for the governing party - particularly for a party that has been in power for nearly ten years - to enthuse and motivate people enough to want to set up a blog that seeks to proclaim its (the government's) many merits and achievements. Difficult, but not impossible.
I'm surprised that they haven't hired Neil Harding to do it officially: he seems to genuinely believe that NuLabour have done a good job; as, we assume, do you. And what about Labour Home? Or what about Unity? He is a card-carrying member of the Labour Party and yet even he seems to hold this government in contempt (mind you, Unity, why are you a member?).
Politicians that seek to engage with their constituents, who are able to get almost instant feedback on local, regional or national issues are much more likely to be in a position to shape policy and to help meet the needs and aspirations of those they purport to represent.
Yes, but that word "purport" is crucial: they don't represent people, they represent their party and their own interests within that party. Party policy has been made a long time ago. If constituents don't like it, well, tough; they'll have forgotten about it by the next election.
Blogs offer a simple, efficient and effective means of doing this.
Unless you are David Miliband.
Likewise they offer a powerful means for ordinary people to set a political agenda in their own area or even nationally. The influential Jupiter study, which focused on blog use in Europe, found that while "active users" of the Internet make up a small portion of overall Internet users, they were starting to dominate public discussions and even have an impact on people's buying habits.
Whoop-de-doo. Tech blogs have been having that effect for years; tech blogs—not political blogs—are by far the biggest and most influential blog group in the world.
"We're seeing this growing," Julian Smith, an online advertising analyst with Jupiter Research and author of the report, told the Guardian in May of this year. "The strongest part of their influence is on the media: If something online suddenly becomes a story in the local press, then it matters."
Oh, brilliant; if some MSM journo reads something on a blog and then pinches it, then suddenly it's news: otherwise, it is an utter irrelevance of interest only to the "geeks" and "rumour-mongers" of the web.
By the way, from now on, after the name of any analyst or commenter on blogging (or the wider net) I want to see their blog address after their name, otherwise I am just not going to take them seriously.
Yes blogs matter and yes blogs are having an influence. Blogs are less important because of their direct effects on politics than their indirect ones - they influence important actors within mainstream media who in turn frame issues for a wider public. Blogs are therefore becoming ever more important in politics and to politicians, and are likely to remain so.
OK, I agree with this to an extent; but how is this news? If you'd written this six months ago then it might be vaguely new. Now it's just so much recycled opinion.
So as we are in the conference season - a febrile period for political bloggers - perhaps we will witness a move on the part of the main parties to encourage the humble blogger to continue to frame political debates and create focal points for the media as a whole.
And the best bloggers will continue to ignore what the politicians want them to do and write about precisely what they want to write about.
Perhaps we will witness the first meaningful moves to harness the power of the Internet and enable political parties to actively encourage instant and meaningful engagement with both supporters and party members alike.
I'm not holding my breath.
I mean, this is writing by the numbers, isn't it? Why do these people bother? And why write this cock on another blog? Seriously, why? And if you are going to write this boilerplate idiocy, then why not quote a somewhat wider range of bloggers than Guido and Iain (lovely chaps though they are)?
Why not, for instance, give Dr North his moment in the sun? It would do all of us much more benefit because he actually writes well-researched articles about issues (albeit embarrassing issues for the Nulabour government) rather than fulfilling the public's perception of bloggers as merely merchants of tittle-tattle.
Part 2 soon.