Wednesday, September 27, 2006

On Blogging

There's a somewhat fierce debate underway between Richard North and, well, everyone else as the focus of his rage has moved from the EU and MoD to the UK blogosphere. I think he has rather missed the point. There are a few different kinds of blogs which I will roughly characterise under the following headings:

1) The investigative blog

Searching for administrative errors and exposing 'cover-ups'; this is the category EU Referendum fits into. These are always going to be rare: investigative journalism is, as DK points out, a time consuming affair which many amateurs just do not have the time for. Equally, it is not an overriding priority for blogging: most of these discoveries are of minority interest and will not change the already existing public perception that the EU is a bit venal and the war in Afghanistan is not going great. Investigative work is worthy pressure on military and political leadership which is a decent way to spend one's time but is not important to the exclusion of the kind of political debate upon which governments rise and fall.

2) The analysis blog

This is the type of blog that mine aspires to be but the finest, and purest, example is the Becker-Posner blog. While there are few blogs which are as pure examples of this kind of approach as the Becker-Posner high minded effort they are certainly more common in the US than here. Their primary contribution is to regularly present some, hopefully interesting, new analysis of existing knowledge and contribute to the debate over its significance. They are usually less immediately topical than rapid reaction blogs and have a less adversarial approach.

3) The rapid reaction blog

This is the most populous category; the swearbloggers and the Daily Kos are examples of rapid reaction blogs. They will usually be the first to respond to new arguments presented by their opponents and will often also contain the most broadly resonant rebuttal. These blogs are important as they mean that the Toynbees of this world do not go unchallenged but for the rare occasions when some other columnist deigns to intervene. They are the lifeblood of the new debate which shapes thinking democratic opinion.

4) The gossip blog

This is the category Iain Dale and Guido's blogs fit into. Just because they are focussed on people instead of issues does not make them cheap. In a representative democracy issues of personality and interests are important. As we are electing someone to represent us for a period of years in which they can do largely as they please it is important that we know they are upstanding people so that when issues come up, as they always do, for which there is no prescription in the manifesto they will respond appropriately.

5) The round up blog

Examples of this are the ConservativeHome frontpage and Instapundit. There do not need to be many of these blogs but a good one is a huge asset to the community they serve. Their primary function is to highlight good stuff in the rest of the blogosphere and the mainstream media.

Of course most blogs are a mix but the important thing to note from this analysis is that all good blogs do not and should not look the same. Becker-Posner and Devil's Kitchen are polar opposites but both enrich the political debate. Richard North does not have the handle he thinks he does on what the blogosphere and media should consist of.

One final point, this was in the EU Referendum blog of a few days ago:

Conspiracy or carelessness? A vicious desire to do down the West or merely an ignorant and nasty desire to break up everything of value? Whichever it is, the BBC, the Guardian and the New York Times, together with their acolytes and followers can take responsibility for the murder of Sister Leonella Sgorbati.

This is both based on incredibly spurious research (that the BBC and the Guardian reported growing Muslim anger before it became obvious to the rest of us is hardly surprising from major news sources and does not indicate they imagined it) and shows a deep lack of moral sense. Anyone who blames those who report early incidents of rioting for someone murdering on the basis of a slight to their faith clearly doesn't have the right to lecture us about our immorality. If you kill someone because you heard about an insult to your faith that does not make the person who told you that insult occured a murderer. EU Referendum's search for conspiracy and media chicanery has led it to lose sight of even the slightest notion of what real responsibility means.


Anonymous said...

I think isn't such a good example- because it's analysis ect is also very good-it's a bit of a protean blog

good post though

Anonymous said...

I have recently had a similar piece on the Guardian's Comment is Free site

The reality is that blogs do 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.

Bel said...

Thank you for this informative article. I found it very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I think that the EU Referendum blog contains material which might be regarded as investigative, analytical and "rapid reaction".

Along with Guido, Iain Dale and ConservativeHome, EU Referendum is a must-read-several-times-a-day blog; to its credit, I have not found such consistently quality output anywhere else.

But I agree that it doesn't help to win frinds and influence people by being quite so tetchy about so many of the supposed comrades...

dizzy said...

hmm I wonder what my blog would be considered as (apart from boring of course)

dizzy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ed thomas said...

I think that at his worst Richard North has half a point, whereas at their worst many other bloggers have 0 or are in negative territory (I guess that makes me a North fan).

Take the point about the nun, mentioned in the post above. Isn't it at least conceivable that the BBC in particular had a part to play in the dissemination of the Pope's "offence to Islam"? It's not for nothing they translate into Arabic, Farsi, Somali, etc etc, is it?

Bryan Appleyard said...

Er, fine, except Becker-Posner is so unreadably dull and ill-written that had to have a lie down after just two sentences. Blog posts should be sort.

Ken said...

Dead right, Matthew. People should take up blogging because it's fun, not because they want to influence politics. There are many more effective ways of managing that than venting your spleen all the time.