Editor's Rant; Blog Off!

I read every now and again how so many teenagers are keeping blogs. Now, there is nothing unusual about keeping a record of one's thoughts and feelings – I believe they used to be called diaries.

 

 

Editor's Rant; Blog Off!

Blogs. Interactivity. The red button on your remote (mine, handily, controls the off switch). It's what it's all about, isn't it? Isn't it?

 

No it cocking well isn't.

 

This obviously goes against the grain of the times but here are a few thoughts on political and personal blogs, and why they should all just go away. Taking political blogs first, much has been made of the energising effect cyberspace played on Howard Dean's campaign to be the Democractic candidate at the last US election. His howl of pain not withstanding, Dean ran a pretty good show and much of the credit went to his campaign managers and how they utilised new technologies to drum up support for their boss. Can the internet and the blogs be a force for reigniting interest in our politicians? I say no, and what is more, I say that in this country at least, the blogs actually damage the political process.

 

If you care to peruse the so-called influential political blogs in this country, and the debate that they elicit on their pages, you will soon be struck by one thing. The writers are generally male, early middle-aged and terribly earnest. They are pretty angry about the state of things and are pretty clued up on the subjects they tackle. So are the people that proffer their comments to the articles posted. But do they not realise that they are just one big, pointless talking shop? One of the reasons that people don't vote in this country (or in most other EU states –ed) is that politics is seen as somehow removed from 'ordinary' people. At election times there are no canvassers anymore, no parties offering lifts to the polling station. There are few banners and posters. The meet and greets and controlled tightly so that there is little possible chance of anyone gate-crashing the party and everyone is wired up to stay 'on-message'. Politics needs people to energise the public, to say the things that politicians cannot. Political blogs take that necessary debate and shunt it onto a website where devoted political anoraks can make pithy and witty comments and where no one in the 'real world' goes. A bunch of New Labourites launched the Euston Manifesto recently. (Basically its signatories can be defined as those that think of themselves are progressives but who also think that invading Iraq was still a good thing). Ever heard of it? No, but the blogs had a field day, some of them counting up all the references to it on other blogs. Blogs are just another talking shop for like-minded people to avoid the necessary task of actually getting involved with people and communities and the hardship that this entails. Politics is about getting your message across to other people, not to those that already agree with you.

 

Have you seen, by the way, the futility of certain newspaper's attempts to embrace this new love of the interactive? It is not, to be fair, really their fault, but the fault of those that they attract. What happens is this: article appears. Some people say that the article is wrong. Some more come along and disagree. The first lot get more vehement and so do the second lot. The first lot get abusive and then so do the second lot. This usually takes place within the first twenty or so replies to a posted article but that doesn't stop the people posting. It doesn't matter what the subject is - all the responses follow this pattern. No Hegelian dialectic here, just a bunch of people shouting their mouths off. Has anyone posted to one of these things and said: 'Hey, until today I hadn't thought about this much, but I've read through these comments and I've been able to come to a balanced opinion. Thanks!'? Methinks not. And then you get the instance where the tail wags the dog. One commentator was thinking about the Enlightenment. She didn't know much about it so she thought she'd ask the internet community what they thought. Oddly enough she got some pretty wild and weird answers. She then wrote an article about these answers and knocked down some of the most flimsy straw men you've ever seen. Why didn't she read a book or ask someone who knew about it?

 

Jesus.

 

I read every now and again how so many teenagers are keeping blogs. Jesus again. This is seen as a good thing, by the way. Now, there is nothing unusual about keeping a record of one's thoughts and feelings – I believe they used to be called diaries. Anyone who has kept a diary has feared it falling into the wrong hands. Personal blogs are diaries thrown out in the wilds of the internet for anyone to read. Does no one else think that this is a supremely egotistical act, and one that doesn't bode well for the future? What does it say about the person doing it and what do they expect from it? There are, one presumes, millions of people around the world filling cyberspace with the banalities of their daily life and offering their personal thoughts on subjects both weighty and small. Why? Is the thought that there is someone trawling these millions of pages, someone who might come across their latest burbling and think 'Wow! Here's someone I'd like to know better?' It all seems connected to celebrity culture and the resultant bullshit emoting to all and sundry. Princess Diana can probably be held to blame for some of this nonsense. Why do people want to tell millions of complete strangers their most basic fears and problems? Well, some celebs make a lot of money out of doing it of course, but it is basically another aspect of removing a sense of the inner life and the intimacy that exists between friends / family / lovers etc.

 

And another thing – people just buy the hype. There was a blog called Belle Du Jour that caused a whole heap of hype a few years ago. It was supposedly the blog of a London prostitute and the media got into a right lather about it. A huge book deal followed and then...nothing. Nobody read the book because when put into a format that didn't need hyping the paucity and banality of the material (and the fact that it was clearly all made up) was plain to see.

 

Self-expression is clearly important to us all. We are bombarded with messages that encourage us to conform and there is no doubt that the internet offers a space for people to express their ideas about the world and themselves. This is not a bad thing. But it is not a good thing if this is where such self-expression remains. Ultimately blogging is not adding anything 'new' to the world – it might just be taking something from it.

 

Words: Chris Dawson.