The loudest shouters

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 11, 2007

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

This entry was posted on
Wednesday, April 11th, 2007
6:19 pm and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement.

Jonathan Freedland – The blogosphere risks putting off everyone but point-scoring males: Predictably, Wales and O’Reilly have now felt the wrath of the blogosphere themselves, their idea torched by net users who detected an assault on their free speech… Yet it would be a mistake to dismiss Wales and O’Reilly too quickly. Their specific remedy might not be sound, but they are right to see a problem. Nor is this some techie issue, of interest only to a few hardcore web nerds… Ah, but this free-for-all is democratic, say the devotees. Any change would be censorship. But imagine that public meeting. Would that constitute a democratic debate, or a shouting match in which the loudest, most intimidating voice wins? Surely the more democratic encounter is the meeting properly chaired, allowing everyone their say and ensuring no descent into bar-room brawl. That’s certainly how we operate in the real world, so why should the virtual realm be any different?

Imagine that public meeting he mentions with debates being ‘won’ by one or two loud and intimidating individuals, each cleverly disguised as a dozen loud and intimidating individuals and you stand a good chance of coming to grips with the current problem.

The new Iain Dale microsite should be ready to roll tomorrow. Three static articles for newcomers need to be fine-tuned first and, yes, one of them deals with this matter specifically.


  1. farnboro says

    Looks like Guido has been ripping off your ideas — check out his latest.

  2. Manic says

    Hahahahaha! Point missed on wrong target… and it's not even Staines' own work. I'd call it 'pathetic', but I wouldn't wish to be accused of attacking the man.

  3. Manic says

    UPDATE – I've just had the chance to pop over the RM's blog:…He actually seems quite proud of it. Now I'm confused. Was the intention to show RM in a positive light? If so, then….(holds head in hands)(rocks back and forth)

  4. kris says

    I never really appreciated what you were on about until I decided to make a comment on Donal Blaney's webshite.While I don't know how helpful it is to speculate as to the reasons why, one my final response has not been published. Given that there were no obscenities and that my response was a point by point response to his comments, I was somewhat taken aback by his apparant unwillingness to publish contrary views. Indeed, on close examiniation of Mr Blaney's blog, there appear to be very view comments that meet the "echo chamber" test.In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I am obliged to conclude Mr Blaney is indeed a prawn sandwich eating Rovian wannabe.Nevertheless, I don't think he should be obliged to follow any code. He is free to write whatever shite he likes- just as we are free to warn others of his apparant manipulations.

  5. Bel says

    "But imagine that public meeting."Hi Tim, but isn't it the point that the 'blogosphere' is not 'one' public meeting, but many such meetings. Kinda like Edinburgh festival.Far from one public meeting, I see many. If I go to a meeting and it is rowdy and full of unsavoury types, I wander to the next one which is full of old ladies taking tea, knitting and bemoaning the state of the world. I may be more comfortable there, and that is a good thing.We are not all one community. That, I would have thought, was the whole point of blogging.

  6. Manic says

    But what happens when:a) the astro-turfers start invading your meetingsb) those who attend your meetings have been unknowingly influenced by astro-turfersc) the results of your meetings never see the light of day, because everybody is busy talking about the nonsense cooked up by astro-turfers

  7. Bel says

    Good points, Tim. I will attempt to answer.Let's see, what would I do if:a) the astro-turfers start invading my meetings.I would ban them. As it is my blog, it is up to me whom I allow to speak there. I know the kind of reputation I want for my blog, and I will ban anyone who attempts to undermine it. No need for a code, I take personal responsibility for my blog.b) those who attend your meetings have been unknowingly influenced by astro-turfersEverybody is influenced by something, good or bad. It doesn't become a problem for me unless they behave in an unacceptable way on my blog. Then I will act as I outlined in a) above.c) the results of your meetings never see the light of day, because everybody is busy talking about the nonsense cooked up by astro-turfersI have this belief: 'quality will out'. People who are looking for good quality, well written blogs will find them. I agree with you that sometimes the noise is so great as to make this hard. (I get very irritated when some people are described as leading bloggers, when they are clearly nothing of the sort. But the media are lazy, so there we are.)It's a bit like tabloids etc. Some of them sell very well, while some quality newspapers don't do that well. It's not because the tabloids are better written. It's because those who are buying them want to read them. Even if all the astro-turf noise were silenced, some blogs, however good, may still never see the light of day. That's just the way it is.An example. After Guido's interview on Newsnight, some people made the very good point that he had made political bloggers look like unprincipled rumour mongers etc. I thought that way as well, but upon reflection, I concluded that anyone who cared to look into blogs would find easily that not all blogs are full of gossip, etc.This is a big space we all occupy. We each have our own rules. We do not expect the Daily Star to operate by the same rules as the Daily Telegraph. That notwithstanding, they are both governed by the laws of the land. So long as no one is breaking the law, I say let everyone write whatever they wish. There are laws that govern what one may or may not write. Hand-in-hand with these laws, there are consequences for breach. Outside of that, there is no need for a code.

  8. Manic says

    I used to share your belief that 'quality will out'… but not any more. I suspect that our major difference on this matter lurks within that (you may not be aware that I am not calling for a new code, only a return to the level of conduct that used to make it a much more cohesive, inclusive and constructive community).It is very easy to infect people with false information and poison their debates without them being aware of it.There is also the matter of our community being a growing one. I worry about how newcomers approach it, and I am far from impressed by recent forays into weblogs by MPs and representatives of the MSM. It seems they want all of the benefits without the responsibilities.

  9. Bel says

    Sorry, Tim. I should have worded my above comment as a general point – I know from your previous post that you don't support the code.You would like 'a return to the level of conduct that used to make it a much more cohesive, inclusive and constructive community'.Did such a community ever exist? (I remember the bad old days of usenet) But the wider society (ie outside of the internet), is not 'cohesive, inclusive and constructive'. How then can one expect the internet to be like that? This is on the assumption that we are all one big community in the first place.

  10. Manic says

    Why I oughta…;o)It wasn't all green grass and shady trees and sunshine, no… but it was better than what we have now, and the general direction of growth, slow as it was, was positive.Let me give you an example; a couple of years ago, not many campaigners, MPs and councillors understood what blogs were, but those that did knew that they would have to deal with things like comments, trackback and (*gasp*) conversation if they wanted to participate. Now, many more campaigners, MPs and councillors *think* they know what blogs are, which has led to such brilliant 'interactive' projects such as Miliband's blog, Webcameron and Alastair Campbell's football blog.Meanwhile, those who might actually have something positive to offer are often shown Guido as THE example. They take one look and say "No fucking way!"There are also those types of politicians and members of the media who have a vested interest in avoiding blogs or keeping blogs out of the picture in general. They like to point at Guido as THE example for reasons that should be obvious*.(*Not that this was what Mr Kamm did recently.)And, diverse as we may be, we are still a community.

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