Wednesday, April 11, 2007

 

Beefs About the Blogospere

Jonathan Freedland today addresses the topic of 'Blog Etiquette' in his article, leading on from the one from yesterday by Ed Pilkington. Abusive comments are an occupational hazard when blogging and I imagine some people are repelled by it; we have the example the appalling threats made to Kathy Sierra with photographs of her head alongside a noose. My instinct is to accept complete freedom of expression- surely a huge asset of the internet- and to suggest those who don't like the rough and tumble, not to join in. I've had some robust comment on my blog but nothing really abusive so far. Inevitably people have strongly disagreed; I have a regular and forthright rightwing commenter who probably regarded Thatcher as too centrist but I regard his far right (but always intelligent) comments as an arguments to be met- as I'm sure he regards mine.

It would be nice if everyone agreed with us but this is not the nature of democracy; nor is it the case that debate remains always polite; my advice in these circumstances is for the sinned against to ignore the abuse and carry on trying to making their points. The aim of democratic debate is to win over the undecided and the best way to lose their sympathetic attention, is to descend into rudeness. What about the suggested code? I'd be prepared to support it- what is proposed would not limit free expression- but would hope that, given blogging is not even a in its teens, we should give it a chance to mature and evolve a natural courtesy.

The second item for discussion is the article by Oliver Kamm last Monday. He concluded what I can only describe as a rant in this way:

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.

He also accuses we political bloggers of being parasitic upon mainstream media but as Norman Geras, in his effective rebuttal, points out, discussion of articles in the press or elsewhere, is surely the lifeblood of democratic debate. Stephen Pollard and Danny Finklestein add their voices to those who think Kamm is talking virtual nonsense. Rereading the article, I got the impression that Kamm, as a regular Times columnist as well as a political blogger himself, sees himself as more than few cuts above the herd. From the tone of his piece he sees himself as superior to the coagulating and poisonous mass of bloggers; presumably he'd like everyone else to close down their sites and fall into line behind his views. As he has no doubt by now gleaned from the robust- and, yes, in some cases, abusive reactions to his article, this ain't going to happen.

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