Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Oliver Kamm on Why I Hate Blogging

Oliver Kamm has a new post on his blog, ironically about the corrosive influence of blogging on the political debate. It is one of his worst ever.

"The blogosphere, in short, is a reliable vehicle for the coagulation of opinion and the poisoning of debate. It is a fact of civic life that is changing how politics is conducted - overwhelmingly for the worse, and with no one accountable for the decline."

So what are blogger, Kamm's, objections to bloggers?

i) Blogging's central characteristic danger [is that] it is a democratic medium, allowing anyone to participate in political debate without an intermediary, at little or no cost. But it is a direct and not deliberative form of democracy. You need no competence to join in.

No competence to join? Rubbish. Google reports that the vast majority of blogs have just one reader - the blogger. However the successful (i.e. read) blogs are those that do have something to say in a competent manner.

ii) Political bloggers are ...by definition, a self-selecting group of the politically motivated who have time on their hands.

And politicans are not all power hungry megalomaniacs? And media journalists are not all Oxbridge-educated centre-left tree-huggers? Bloggers by comparison are a veritable smorgsmabord of characters.

iii) Blogs are providers not of news but of comment. This would be a good thing if blogs extended the range of available opinion in the public sphere. But they do not; paradoxically, they narrow it. This happens because blogs typically do not add to the available stock of commentary: they are purely parasitic on the stories and opinions that traditional media provide.

This is also rubbish. Many blogs are popular precisely because they report the news that the MSM is too scared to report (for political agenda reasons). Try getting your UK news solely from the BBC. You won't have a clue what is going on.

iii) The great innovation of web-based commentary is that readers may select minutely the material they are exposed to. The corollary is that they may filter out views they find uncongenial. This is a problem for a healthy democracy, which depends on a forum for competing views.

And readers of the Guardian can expect a feature length 25th anniversary commemoration of the battle for the Falkand Islands? And Daily Mail readers excitedly pick up their morning copy hoping to read of learned discussions of the relevance of Marxism in 21st Century Britain? Of course they don't.

iv) The conversation bloggers have with their readers is more like an echo chamber, in which conclusions are pre-specified and targets selected. The outcome is horrifying. The intention of drawing readers into the conversation by means of a facility for adding comments results in an immense volume of abusive material directed - and recorded for posterity - at public figures.

And public figures should be immune to abuse, Olly? To be fair, this is the only worthy point Kamm makes. Far too many blogs have packed Comments sections that are not worth reading because you know what everyone will be saying. "What Anon said", "Yes, i couldn't agee more" bla bla. Only a few have managed to attract a truly diverse audience - Harry's Place is one, for example. But it provides the exception to the rule.

h/t; Tim Worstall

Read the whole article here.