Political Innovation no 3: Assertion-flagging: for less partisan, prejudiced blogging

This is a guest cross-post by Andrew Regan – originally posted on the Political Innovation site here.

Most political bloggers are motivated to fight what they see as bigotry, prejudice, and ill-informed, unjustifiable assertion.

Pic: Click for credit

This is a fine and noble cause, because the spreading of false beliefs – without the evidence to support them – is bad for all of us, as is the displacement of informed argument by mere rhetoric. All the more so when the perpetrator is powerful or influential.

However, bloggers – regular journalists too, and political representatives such as MPs – are only human, and frequently counter the prejudices and assertions of their political enemies with those of their political friends.

We need a solution that allows writers to write and thinkers to get their thoughts into print, but that gives the ultimate power of scrutiny over blogs, online newspapers, and think-tanks – whether they like it or not – to their millions of readers. A service that makes it easy for readers to flag-up the unsubstantiated assertions that bloggers and journalists make – in a seamless, a structured, and a visible way – so that they may be held to account, and asked to back up their claims. Addressing public concerns is good for politics, as well as for one’s reputation. Not responding would give out a less desirable signal…

I believe that a centralised service like this would encourage more thoughtful blogging, reward the best bloggers, and penalise those who are the most shrill, the most partisan, the least constructive, and the least conversational – all without the need for ‘codes of conduct’. Do you agree?

If you do, you’ll be pleased to hear that a solution is just around the corner. I run a site called Poblish.org that aggregates all kinds of political content, creating a central, searchable hub for the output of 2000 (and growing) of the most popular and influential bloggers and journalists. In other words, it’s the perfect place to find political bigotry, prejudice, and assertion.

Once a reader has identified an article – or just a section – that they feel needs substantiation, Poblish will guide them through a very easy-to-use process describing their request, passing the request to the original author (by email, or via TheyWorkForYou for MPs), handling their response, asking the reader to review it, adding or subtracting Brownie points as necessary, and recording the results so that other readers and authors can learn from what happened.

Most of the work has already been done to create this system. There’s even an API for accessing the results. The next stage is for bloggers and political representatives to commit to being part of this; for their readers to start flagging assertions, confident that their efforts will be rewarded, and that online politics can improve; and for developers and the political data community to help perfect Poblish’s solution.

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  • Seymour Major

    A good idea in theory but I think, in practice, it would give bloggers an importance which is above their station.

    One of the differences between bloggers and online journalists is that the latter have their reputation on a plate – from the title of the newspaper. Bloggers build their reputations from scratch. Many of them are already acting as a foil to the excesses of Newspaper journalists and other bloggers.

    As for the policing of bloggers, the power of scrutiny by readers is already there. It is called commenting!

    No, I am not convinced by these proposals.

  • I’m not convinced either, but for a different reason. If bloggers are not as well-informed or rational as they should be, surely their commenters will (in general) be worse? One only has to look at CiF to see how the quality of debate degrades the farther down the comment section you go (even this site is not immune). I read quite a few science blogs, where the problem is orders of magnitude worse.

    My worry is this: if authors have to respond to every spurious accusation of poor thinking, they will end up teaching Economics/History/Philosophy 101 ad nauseam. If something like this is to work, then it will need a standard body of reference to back it up, so that tiresome queries can be easily shunted off (i.e. RTFM). This in itself would be a mammoth undertaking, and still wouldn’t deter denialists.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Bloggers take themselves (actually I should say “ourselves”) much too seriously. I dont really mind that we take ourselves seriously but I draw the line when they expect me to take them (er “us”) seriously.
    A person can have the most extreme opinion (of Right or Left) or the most lunatic series of conspiracy theories but the only mortal sin in the world of blogging is not taking it seriously.
    The “new Journalism”, the “citizen journalist” has produced very few Huffington Posts, Guido Fawkes or Baghdad Bloggers (arguably the latter was the zenith of the Blogging craze).
    The great problem serious bloggers have is that they are undermined by the “crazy” end of the spectrum.
    Yet to re-organise….re-allign……..awarding a seal of approval to a group of serious blogs (while covering the full spectrum of opinion) is entirely contrary to the Spirit of Citizen Journalism which once proudly boasted that we were all journalists now.
    Seems that some of us are more equal that others.
    It has seemed to me that the #1 subject in the world of blogging has been ……blogging.
    The constant angst that bloggers should not be dismissed as 30 something Comic Book Guys who have never had a girlfriend….and who pontificate on serious conspiracy theories while their mum makes dinner….does nothing for the stereotype.

  • anne warren

    Let no one, particularly not the lower orders of bloggers, ever get “above their station”
    We would be forced to take them down a peg or two and maybe make them eat humble pie – all in the spirit that built the Empire and forged the bonds of nations.
    We can’t allow bloggers to get uppity with journalists, can we Seymour? What is the world coming to?

  • Alias

    So, how is the master plan for world domination of the “Overclass” coming along? *rolls eyes*

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Theres actually historical precedents.
    A revolution (Reformation, French, Russian, Womens Movement) happens and is perceived as being out of control or oing in a direction the main players did not actually intend.
    So they set up “controls” to bring the “extremists” back into line. Arguably negating the “freedoms”.
    I see this controlling measure in the same light.
    Blogging is ABOUT Chaos.

  • One could argue that all life is about the interplay of order and chaos. Too much order stifles creativity, ingrains bad habits, imposes blanket solutions thus creating the desire for change, bringing much-needed chaos. Too much chaos creates uncertainty, increases risks and brings new fears, thus creating a greater appetite for order. No revolution is without its downsides.

  • Munsterview

    “……….As for the policing of bloggers, the power of scrutiny by readers is already there. It is called commenting!……..”

    Except it do not work, and slugger is a good example of this. What percentage of readership actually comment as distinct from just reading ? That was my own situation for years.

    In academic round table discussions of thirty or so historians discussing a political topic, if some one there is being deliberately disruptive or trading in personal insults, they are quickly hauled into line or told to leave and not come back. Not that it would arise in the first instance as civilized standards of exchange are required and observed in such events.

    If somebody in that group purports to have experience or expert knowledge to comment in a specific and do so, then that in turn is subject to comment moderated through the chair and this ‘expertise’ if lacking is quickly exposed. Such a person doing this on a consistent basis would quickly loose all credibility and audience.

    Here in slugger when such exposures occur, the exposed party can ignore without sanction their wrong or bogus contribution and continue much the same bluster on other threads. Sheer volume, stridency and abuse win out as any sensible poster, especially one with time constraints will just bow out and not contest with proven cranks or posers.

    One of the lessons quickly learned in adult life that if one enters into a public argument with a drunk, the drunk always wins! However by default that leaves the bogus or junk contributions right up there not alone on equal footing, but devaluating other genuine content !

    The politically literate readership can discern these things for themselves, they have a correct read of the political landscape to begin with, they will deal with things on an issue by issue basis. Most of these however will not respond and so the nonsence is allowed stand unchallanged. Even where Readers are responding the ‘ arguing with a drunk principle stands ‘ stands and they realize that they can only engage with cranks at the price of their own credibility !

    This then distill the weakness of a site such as slugger : to those with undisclosed agendas every thread is not about the subject matter per se, it is just another opportunity to obsessively advance their agenda and they often do so under more than one posting persona.

    Most commentators are just that; like fitzjamseshorse etc they may have certain interests that give them historical of other insights but for all of that they are just commentators, whatever political axes they have to grind, like mine are out there for all to see!

    In other threads I have described the Southern Government, ‘media watch’ growing from a designated civil servant under the Cruiser keeping watch on his perceived enemies to the well staffed, sophisticated response media response unit it now is in the Taoisetchs department.

    The response takes three main forms

    1 ) live broadcasting direct intervention : a TD on standby duty is given a quick call, the response line and Joe Duffy then has that particular TD on line with the usual….” I cannot speak for the Taoiseach but…….”

    2 ) Putting counter information out or changing the context of the debate by introducing a smothering issue. for example the ‘Frank Connoly Colombia passports issue’ raised by McDowell as the Inquiry Frank was involved in was about to break the Docklands Corruption Scandal, where the Government can literally call on all state resources including Civil Service and police to cover corruption.

    Had that report been published the whole Anglo scam would have been exposed at least a year earlier and the tax-paying public could have been saved billions of Euros.

    3) Where something like Fianna Failure expansion into the Six Counties is involved and something more subtle is needed, a call is made to the law library, a favor called in or requested and the ordinary Joe soap here can find themselves arguing with a Senior Council who has the full resources or the Law Library behind them and their expertise and agenda hidden behind an innocuous name.

    Add in Garda Inte and Senior Civil Service back up and the playing field is as about as level for an ordinary commentator, as it is for Gerry McGeough regarding justice, in his battle with the Northern State!

    Can anyone politically literate and knowing how Brit Intel operated in the North during the conflict, now believe that sites such as sluggers and the ‘hearts and minds’ struggles are ignored by these forces or that they do not have an input through cypers?

    In a site like this, that is supposedly read by all with political interests in the North and everyone from the President down in the South, several agendas are percolating away beneath the surface.

    Accordingly genuine contributions and exchanges must play out between the pesky, irritatingly crude obvious in your ‘face’ agenda at the lower end of the scale and the sophisticated expertly media managed and hidden agendas at the other end of vested interests spectrum.

    Is there enough remaining uncomintaminated middle ground between the crank obsessions and the media sophisticated handling, to allow for any meaningful exchanges?

    Having participated in slugger for some months now I am not as assured that there is as I was at the beginning of my postings.

  • Munsterview

    Given the subject matter of the Thread, this may be of interest !


  • Munsterview
  • Granni Trixie

    I do not know if I am taking exactly the same line as FJH, but I certainly see that I am a contributor who does not take commenting seriously. Its to do with my homorous/ironic take on the world. Its difficult for me to understand the seriousness with which others take their commenting but overall I think diversity and spontaneity is to be valued.
    But is there room for all with Political Innovation?
    If not, they are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Granni Trixie,
    in my case it comes from a lifetime taking life and especially our little local conflict far too seriously.
    I am much too old to take people half my age seriously because at their age I thought I knew it all……and funny as it seems now, I didnt know it all.
    Now of course I do know it all…..and its my sole purpose in life to remind people I do know it all.
    If I had access to “blogging” 35 years ago…..I would be a bigger eejit than I am now.
    Yet 35 years ago I was wearing bell bottom jeans and platform shoes and had hair down my back.
    Now of course those photographs are as big a source of amusement to my children as they were to my late parents.

    Eventually the “blog” will go the same way as the “cassette recorder”….and in 35 years time old men will look back in amusement and embarrassment at their blogs written in 2010.
    The Blog is nothing more than the 2010 equivelant of the 1960 Hula Hoop and will make the same cultural impact.

  • Munsterview

    Sorry Fitz, cannot agree with some of this !

    I did the bellbottoms too….in fact I wore them so long that they came back into fashion again!

    Yes, the blog may well go the way of the casette recorder but in its current format it will provide historians with a wealth of background information and an insight into a far wider range of views than ‘letters to the editor’ could ever provide.

    In this regard and inside the limitations of the parameters that I set out, in my personal view blogging and posting is providing at very least a good utility for future historians.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Munsterview…of course youre right.
    Blogs will be an invaluable source for future historians.
    But in much the same way that the hula hoop is found in toy museums (although in the last hour Ive been told they are on sale in Tescos!!!) and the cassette recorder or vinyl are curiosities……the proper place for blogs will be in archives….a reflection of how some of us thought in the early part of the 21st century.
    Can we compare blogs to private diaries held in Kew or Balmoral Avenue?
    I dont think so…while certainly some diaries (the worst) are written witha few to publication, the better diaries are the ones of private citizens not intended for publication.
    The Blog is published instantly and I suspect the vast majority are more akin to the Skibereen Eagles editorials (a reflection of bombastic ego rather than real insight).

    Yet I dont envy historians doomed to study the 20th/21st century……can we ever I wonder have too many sources (where info is just replicated). In that sense the existence of Blogs will in fact be a more interesting study than their actual content. “The Rise and Fall of the Blog” might be an interesting PhD in fifty years time.
    Im tempted to make a comparison with the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex but most of the work there is from questionaires and a very large panel of contributors.

  • Alias

    That’s a sharply observed view of the modern post-democratic society – except you probably wouldn’t call it post-democratic yet even though that is what is now being engineered. The trick is to maintain the illusion that folks have the power to determine their own affairs when in reality the unelected elite determines those affairs for them, and presents those determinations through stooges as furthering their national interest rather than the interests of that elite. So ‘The Cruiser’ for example would present the introduction of the British state broadcasting service into Ireland as serving popular demand when it was actually designed facilitate British state propaganda in news reporting related to Northern Ireland and to undermine what was left of Irish culture as presented through the national broadcasting station – the same deal with allowing British newspapers to be distributed in this jurisdiction. Other ‘indigenous’ media such as the Independent group could be controlled by allowing it to expand its titles within the British commonwealth and by providing British state assistance to such commercial acquisitions just as long as those titles adopted an editorial line that was accordant with British national interests. In relation to NI, folks might thin – due to a servile media – that their constitutional settlement is their determination when in actuality the GF was wholly pre-determined by the British state and did nothing more than affirm the constitutional settlement that predated it by almost 80 years and which was also wholly pre-determined by the British state. There is nothing in NI that is the product of self-determination, even though that is what folks have been led to believe by the elite that controls them. All, bar the irrelevant details and sundries, is post-democratic.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    To some extent Blogging is not leading the general public in the general direction it was supposed to go.
    Serious Bloggers strike me as disappointed that the World has swung to the Right politically…as a part consequence of the blogging culture.
    The “tea party” types in USA are nutters who have organised thru blogging. This was not supposed to happen. It has given a lifeline to Populism….which will be played thru for the next half century or so.
    In our little backwater of the world…Blogging was supposed to lead to a kinda internationalism…….respectability.
    It hasnt.

  • Mick Fealty

    When FJH has finished telling us how it really is, can I ask Andrew a question? Would do you think bloggers gain from opting in to a scheme like this?

    I wouldn’t mind hearing his thoughts on Andrew and Seymour’s points as well.

  • In the spirit of the thread, I call you out on a logical fallacy: just because you believe the introduction of foreign media has had negative consequences doesn’t mean that those consequences were intentional.

  • Munsterview


    While some of this may appear off topic, never the less it relevant to the thread. I again refer to my own experience to contextualize the content, which no doubt will bring the predictable derision from the usual quarters. However that is a price to pay for open exchange!

    From the mid Elizabethan reign down, my extended family had been in conflict with the Crown, yet because of special circumstances, it produced MPs and as I have said previously during some of the period I was on the Ard Comhairle, another distant cousin, grandson of an IRB man and a Fenian leader was a retired British General.

    One consequence of this was the history I learned from childhood did not conform to the popular account, I learned of ‘hidden hands’ and the forces that played out under the surface. I knew what the reality of the Jacobites as a force was and why it was opposed by the Pope on the Boyne. I also knew what the ‘Gile Mear’ was about ( actually being sung on the radio by Mary Black as I type ) and why it resonated with and was the true anthem of esoteric Gaelic Ireland.

    Appreciation of the ‘hidden hand’ forces that operated through Jesuit, Cannon Dineen and the the IRB Military Council that planned the rebellion did not ‘go away you know’. These same forces can be found in sub rosa all over England and the Continent operating locally, two or three times removed from their open manifestations, all the ways back to the Jacobite exile and forward to contemporary times.

    A plethora of books like Henry Lincons caught the popular imagination and this has resulted what was previously esoteric, secret information coming into the public arena. This coincided with the rise of the internet and since the ‘hidden hands’ could no longer conceal this esoteric information of their presence or manipulations, they operated the old legal response to an unwelcome Court Discovery order against a major corporation, comply by delivering millions of documents with the information ‘lost’ in the deluge of paper!

    The net has now resulted in most of this information being out there, even if buried in the deluge, to the extent that earlier this summer some of the forces advocating ‘open masonry’ held a public International conference in Edinburg where those interested non masonic researchers could get information that previously was privileged and behind closed doors.

    The fact that one of these International scholars was the Gaelic speaking Irish American O’Buachalla from Notre Dame, one of the most Catholic universities in the States and that mainstream masonry had more in common with him than unionism, just shows what an international cul de sac unionists have got themselves into.

    While opposition to these forces is not organized as yet in the same basis as these forces are, the net has enabled exposure of their activities in a way never before possible. The ‘open’ conference was an attempt to direct and channel the interest now that they have failed to control it.

    The ‘Tea Party’ is just another and so far successful effort by the ‘hidden hand’ ( I will refrain from using the usual nomenclature as I will only give another hostage to fortune and opportunity to ridicule and distract from the subject matter, to the usual suspects !) to control and corral ‘The Right’. Media and religious tv stars were creating dozen of loose cannon movements, the Tea Party manifestation is but an attempt to get coherence and control of this into a ‘party’.

    The Tea Party are but the modern phenomena of the brownshirts, the latter when they had served their purpose, were neutralized and absorbed into controlled safe State Forces. Because these have money and organization ( I actually exchange regular em with US relatives that hosted one of these events some weeks back) they seem to be making all the running so far.

    The ‘Left’ has not organized yet, save as in isolated special interest communities, reactive force to this. When it throws up another Martin Luther King ( as it will, since nature abhors a vacuum) that can capture the imagination and bring a unity of purpose to a broad left / liberal coalition defined by what they are for, as to what they are opposed to, the Tea Party will be checkmated.

    In Brown Shirt Germany capital had, well capital, and therefore controlled the media and popular perceptions when opposition media was closed down. In the West and North America in particular, the mass access of the net hindered the close down of the opposition unless the net per se is closed, hence the moves by Obamas Administration to bring in legalization to do just that on the grounds of ‘ National Security’ ( Can Ireland, Britain and the EU be far behind)

    When the dust settles just as America was the first true democratic Republic in the modern era, so it will also probably provide the first manifestation of post modern ‘democracy’ in practice as referred to by ‘Alias’. Thanks to the internet also, the American model will rapidly repeat and parallel in Europe!

    Meanwhile ‘ back at the ranch’ business as usual…. only it is not as usual. In fact there is an uncanny parallel with the troubles and the lead up to the Boyne : for a brief moment Ireland was then the cockpit of European History before history moved on to other battlefields leaving the ‘Irish Situation’ to splutter on and wind down to raparees, Tories and economic stagnation.

    The battlefields have too moved on from the Six Counties, as it is no longer a threat to the European status quo exporting ‘peace’ rather than ‘revolution’, we will be left get on with it. On the face of it I would not take issue with too much of Alias analysis. However unlike him I know it was not just a matter of throwing in the towel, I was close to many of the events that shaped the process and informed the thinking behind the decisions taken.

    While it may provide a nice sound bite and comfort to describe the republican armed struggle as having gone nowhere, for republicans it was a matter of the armed struggle having brought them somewhere.

    It brought republicans from a marginalized peripheral force completely excluded from Northern politics and insignificant in the South, to one election away, two at most from controlling the political power that had excluded them from human rights never mind office in the North!

    For the first time since the Flight of the Earls somebody from Gaelic Ireland will be the International recognized political figure head and voice of Northern Ireland.

    The elected leaderships North and South will then reflect the true aspirations of the majority on this Island regarding National Unity. Interim unionist victories like that I can live with !

    While the outworking of the GFA have fallen far short of what was promised, I also see a new Nationalist generation coming into their own and I know their attitude. It is not so much that the croppies are up off their knees, they have never known what it was to be on their knees in the first place !

    A quick skim through the republican sites and almost the same contempt and arrogance for unionists is now manifested as unionist showed to catholics / nationalists in the late sixties and up to the nineties. The net has ended the ghetto isolation. Dungarvan, Kenmare and Kilaloe etc individuals of like mind are now part of a network interfacing with their Northern counterparts in Derry, Armagh and Belfast in a, self reinforcing, self enhancing community.

    The old paradigms are gone for most of the new republican / nationalist generation. There is neither appreciation or identification of the new ones operating save by ‘Alias’ and a handful of others on this site. Neither are they being explored here in slugger, despite the financial tsunami and the shakedown it has given politics on this island, as the Fr. Chesney threads have shown, we have more passion for still fighting battles of 1972 rather than preparing for 2012 !

    Back then to the final ‘ bread and circuses ‘ aspect of the net, my time is finite, I always had a life, several in fact apart from politics and Sinn Fein. Back to my first posting on this thread, why should I waste time arguing with someone more interested in dispute than information exchange, when I can use that time to communicate and exchange information with those in other interest communities on a respectful and productive basis ?

    Last night I had an exchange with among some others, somebody in Germany. This person do not share my politics but has an exceptional appreciation of Irish history for the first quarter of the 20th century. He has been following these exchanges on Slugger. He also pointed out to me that I had not probably changed one view in the unionist side about anything since I started posting and he is probably right.

    Because in latter years my interface with the North have been more cultural and academic in circles where politics are deliberately avoided, until I got involved in slugger I had forgotten just how God damm awful and in your face the abuse of nationalists of whatever shade could be !

    The net has ended isolation for individuals : the examples I have given on the republican side shows what a powerful tool it has become and the measures that are constantly being made in China, Russia the EU and US shows how much the authorities fear it.

    As to the net itself it is the old story medium and message : the medium cannot be responsible for the message, it is a new and evolving medium, it is gloriously anarchist in that every time the big guys seem to have got a handle on it , the net takes off in another direction and shrugs off ‘media control’

    As somebody that was subjected to almost a quarter of a century of State censorship, fine with me, long may net anarchy reign!

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    If we leave aside the historical precedents for limiting access to democracy (which too often “liberals” have supported)….excluding women, religious groups, people without property, without liteacy, age grounds etc…..there IS another tendency that says “too much democracy” leads to the Right.
    Issues such as race…capital punishment…private versus public…..divides Right and Left. But the liberals who push the openess of the Internet get frustrated that it has produced the political results that it has.
    Its a circle they cant square.
    The downside of the Internet has been that the issues we thought we had dealt with in the 1970s……racism and sexism for example……have been given a new lease of respectability thru the largely anonymous Internet.
    This has allowed racism, sexism and ultra conservatism (eg the BNP) to re-assert itself in a stronger position than ever.

  • Suppressing intolerant viewpoints doesn’t make them go away – they just resurface wherever there is an opportunity. Yes, democracy gives space for the unpleasant as well as the noble – the only real cure for that is education, and unfortunately it seems every generation must relearn the same lessons.

  • Munsterview

    “……..The downside of the Internet has been that the issues we thought we had dealt with in the 1970s……racism and sexism for example……have been given a new lease of respectability thru the largely anonymous Internet.
    This has allowed racism, sexism and ultra conservatism (eg the BNP) to re-assert itself in a stronger position than ever…….”

    “….Suppressing intolerant viewpoints doesn’t make them go away – they just resurface wherever there is an opportunity…..”

    Agreed with both points, in fact the second perfectly highlights the concerns implicit in the first !

    The old dichotomy in politics and philosophy, can there they be too much freedoms in practice ?

    Which was preferable, the old Yugoslavia with fairly modern infrastructure, joint education etc, a progressive gender equal society with what communists argued were necessary restrictions to keep the old horrors at bay……. or the removal of communist restraints that allowed ‘freedom’ and all the horrors that were unleashed that destroyed the region for generations ?

    Should intellectual freedoms be such that any philosophy can be openly expounded ?

    Apparently not : one of my other interests is in hidden history and underground religious ideas. I regularly attend conferences on this subject. The seminars are open to the public, we have a good sprinkling of old fabians and of liberals, yet intense discussions and exploration of ideas can only take place in an after hours convivial surrounding within the groups and behind closed doors.

    Quite simply most academics and authors there have reputations to protect, by perusing a genuine research interest and taking part in these conferences, they are only one twitter away from being mired in a red top controversy that could seriously damage their academic and literary reputations.

    Take the issue of child sex abuse : many parents of abused children know that their infants were photographed and that these photographs are now out there on the net. Many of these same parents could use the net to search for their children’s images and help in identifying criminal sexual deviants. They are well motivated to do so, time and dedication no object.

    Yet what is the reality : in the South as in England both Police and publicly funded vested interest ‘research center’ activities, have completely restricted this search for victims.

    They have criminalized the search activity to the extent that even victims cannot now search for their abusers in their own time and resources by accessing sites where this activity is catered for.

    The ‘professionals’ cannot deal with even a full 1% of what is out there yet any attempt to challenge the vested interests club is met with a ferocity from police and ‘centers’ that sexual offenders are not subjected to.

    Abusers of course are free to continue as business as usual with just the tip ot the iceberg exposed and a few dozen international sacrificial criminals thrown to the public justice maw ever so often.

    I use the last above example to illustrate where the net could have made a tremendous contribution to damaging a vile sex traffic and practice, yet the vast majority of victims and their family members most affected are not alone prevented from doing so but also but criminalized to protect a failed status quo.

    Attempts by other forces to ‘streamline’ or ‘ enhance’ the net is often nomenclature to cover other agendas and vested interest control.

    As somebody who was subjected to State censorship, I am very suspicious of any attempt to ‘organize’ the net as this is often a cover for control the net by forces who have reason to fear the asymmetrical intellectual warfare on their restricted knowledge citadels, privileged information kingdoms and vested interests !

    In this regard viva net anarchy!

  • Comrades/Friends

    I think Paul’s idea run’s a bit too close to the rules and constraints of the academic journal than to the freedom of opinion and cut and thrust of debate enjoyed by the blogging community. It’s not always right, it’s not always pretty, it can piss us off sometimes but if we didn’t get anything out of it we wouldn’t do it. And as Seymour Major put it very succinctly on this thread, there are actually moderating influences out there. Your blog post can be read, considered and generate debate; it can be read, considered but not commented upon; or it can be read and forgotten like a bad dose of the flu. I’m happy with that and I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

    But you know what? It’s a lot more fun than FaceBook. Telling all your unknown “friends” that you’re scratching your arse at 4.24pm, that your cat’s just back from Iraq and has given birth to a half baby/half kitten, or that you’re lost in Lidl, wondering what to have for dinner? What’s that all about?

  • Thanks for the questions, Mick, and sorry for the slow response, all.

    I think it’s a mistake to reduce the purpose of the article to the realm of the comment-box and the individual blog. Yes, the way blog comments tend to work at the moment is good for speaking one’s mind, plus it’s a handy way to send a notification to the original blogger. In theory comments could work well in an iterative way: start off with a crude thought, and let the group evolve it towards something wiser. In reality, though, comments become a muddle; they go off-topic; there’s little incentive to work collaboratively; tiny, brilliant insights can get swamped; they reflect competing, individual styles; they become harder and harder for existing commenters – and new readers – to follow; and it’s not really possible to say: ‘OK, let’s take this particular thread and work on it separately to see where it goes’. In short, blog commenting is too crude to be really *useful* for politics.

    Speaking one’s mind imposes a cost on everyone who has to listen, and this surely implies a *responsibility* on the part of commenters to engage with the development of their ideas and schemes, to declare their personal interests – their roles and what they might have to gain, and to accept the consequences of their actions if/when the ideas are ever put into practice. This is why, however wise the contents of a blog discussion, I suggest the results are unlikely to contribute much to the policymaking process.

    Furthermore, blog comments are private to the source blog, and are almost never aggregated. In other words, there’s no attempt to bring together the many discussions that take place on the same topic every day, which has the effects of: (a) costing us time, (b) denying us access to (significantly) challenging views, and (c) denying the rest of the world to the *results* of our discussions. We live in a world of shared and overlapping ideas, so if the reason we’re not progressively building a ‘web’ of political knowledge – that absolutely anyone can hook into, really use, and learn from – is just a symptom of the way blogging software happens to work at the moment, then it could be time to look for something more ambitious…

    As for what’s in this for bloggers, well, one result of integrating the blogosphere is that the incentive readers have to comment at blogs that currently enjoy a high profile and high visibility, is reduced. If that means fewer comments are sunk into Westminster-elite-style blogs such as Iain Dale’s, and that more are spread across blogs where there are particular areas of *expertise or experience*, that ought to produce a more diverse, plural politics. It should also provide the long tail of low-traffic bloggers with greater opportunities.

    A service that aggregates blog posts and comments also provides an opportunity to build up a reputation on the basis of the *perceived quality* of their various contributions. Of course online “reputation” is hardly a new concept, but a system that was broad enough to get good and fair coverage of the blogosphere, and also sensible enough not to gauge reputation purely on the basis of media coverage, blog hits, incoming links, etc., but to try to measure *constructive political contributions*, e.g. forcing a retraction from an elected member, or letting them uphold their statement, would, I think, feel fairer.

    I guess it’s also worth adding that taking part in an international, non-partisan blogging project ought to give bloggers access to a much wider audience – and in this interconnected world, the most open-minded bloggers will be right most often.

  • There are a few things here that, on reflection, could have been more explicit.

    1. Reputation management – surely if there is a reputational risk to bloggers, MPs or journalists in misusing evidence, that would be a good thing?

    2. Putting ‘facts’ into some kind of directory – if on Monday, I assert that 9 out of 10 cats prefer dogfood, get questioned on it and provide a non-credible source for this, it then gives you something to hit the next person who makes the same assertion with.

  • Granni Trixie

    Although it would be difficult to be absolutely sure without a well thought out piece of research, I do not think it is tttoo much to claim a role for Slugger in influenciing the news agenda in NI (and perhaps beyond NI). I mean some event happens and one way and other on Slugger we work out its signifience or meaning.

    Now if I were employed by the BBC or Newsletter etc I would be scouring Slugger for new angles. I may have reached them in time but the process on (hothouse) Slugger gets there quicker.
    Sometimes when Im listening to Nolan or Talkback it seems obvious to me that they are cogging ideas from Slugger.

    Also, as someone in a political party I find Slugger useful for understanding the take and strategies of people who are involved in or who support other parties. The UUP internal selection is one and the hotly contested EB at the General Election is another.

    Unlike some here however, my perspective is restricted to NI as I can only base what I say on experience of commenting to one site, Slugger unllike some slugger contributers who seem to be multiple contributors.

  • Munsterview

    Paul…… a brief comment on the foregoing.

    Repetitional Management……

    I am a published author and even have some national and international literary awards to my credit. I give lectures on cultural and historical topics. Several professional academic colleagues, international friends and relatives living abroad skim slugger and read my contributions. As such I have a reputation to protect.

    Because I have unionist and masonic friends that I have made in cultural and academic circles and arising from conversations over the years, I try to contextualize what I write as in some of the foregoing on this thread resulting in what has been described as ‘mini essays’.

    As part of attempts to undermine my credibility this contextualization have been constantly derided by one slugger poster in particular in his (or her) multiple posting personas. Anyone farmilar with the way Intel works can discern the patterns and where the agenda is coming from.

    Fine as far as that goes, I too have a political viewpoint that I propagate and most posters here have strong views or agendas, otherwise they would not bother to blog or comment. To Intel and their cypers slugger is just another public arena in the struggle for hearts and minds that they take very seriously indeed.

    Attack is the best form of defense and when that attack is disguised in a pseudo ‘strong nationalist / catholic voice’ it serves the purpose of both disguising the source and denigrating an opposition viewpoint from a seemingly inside their own camp.

    Again a regular if underhand tactic in open debate and no great problem with that : other than drawing attention to this ever so often, if these sources are not allowed distract as is the intent, they fail in their objectives…… and loose a lot of face in their own circles.

    The problem arise when there is a challenge on factual information as has happened on a few recent occasions here where al descends to a pantomime ‘oh yes you did’……. oh no I did not exchange’ . At present in Slugger there is no independent verification process on this.

    Could I ask Mick to pick up on one proposal on the article, a factual verification process. When there is a dispute on facts, and both parties claim they are correct, then why not have a slugger factuality where both parties submit their proofs to slugger together with additional personal information that they will not place on the net ?

    Mick / slugger can then quickly verify the facts and post a decision. Three or four such adverse verifications and the spoiler is left with a serious credibility deficit while a genuine poster can have the quality of their contributions enhanced. Under the present system a bogus disruptive poster is rewarded and a genuine poster can suffer a reputational loss.

    This can and will lead to a ‘cranks rule’ for slugger as a genuine poster has too much of value to loose, starting with their own time and reputation to engage in this gameplay. Indeed Turgon named this as one of his objectives, to drive the likes of me off sites such as this. The Intel agenda is no different, other than the fact that it is carried out under a false flag, pseudo nationalist or unionist voice.

    Putting ‘facts’ into some kind of directory –

    Here again I totally concur with the principle only do so in slugger : once a subject is verified on , or a poster has form is exposed as individuals or personas, …..even red carded, that information should be available to other genuine posters and that on its own would stop certain malpractice for all other than genuine ‘head cases’ who like the poor, we will always have with us!

  • Mick Fealty


    That’s a stand in for what now happens across the western world from Conservative Home to Rue 89 to Little Green Footballs… There may be only one Slugger in NI just now, but the next generation is following fast.

    If I’m to see a utility in this idea it is that it could bring bloggers back into some kind of relation to one another. But it’s an opt-in scheme, not an opt out one.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    An interesting thought Granni Trixie. And you could well be right as I dont listen to Radio Phone Ins. Im allergic to the genre. Too many “white van men” and I dont see how Nolan can be a Man of the People AND play football with the MLAs at Stormont.
    I take the opposite view though.
    Again without research. And I only comment on about three Blogs. And of course my own.
    But I think that for political anoraks like myself and others, theres only a finite number of news stories which have a shelf life of a few days. Theres only a limited number of stances and party lines that can be taken.
    Thus I think it would be difficult to differentiate between whats said on Slugger, or other web stuff like the Poison Quill, stuff we hear or say in taxis or round the TV or the water cooler.
    Certainly I dont know these phone in shows well enough (and never will) to have heard Slugger or any other web source referenced. But in “real life” I have never had anyone (including politically savvy people) reference anything Ive seen here……and maybe only two or three who know me have actually referenced anything Ive said here or elsewhere.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ooops “PENSIVE Quill” NOT “Poison Quill”…….normally I mean to do that. This time it was an accident.

  • Granni Trixie

    I have a lot of time for Talk in shows (though definately see the flaws,especially as regards Nolan),infact I enjoy contributing and in my cotnibutions,I have learnt how to do the business and by now am consciously strategic.

    As with write-in shows such as Slugger, I consider all these fora to be an empowerment, particularly as I am a women in a political party not in the extremes. (double whammy).

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Youre probably Nolans biggest nightmare… a reasonable person. Phone-in programmes hate reasonableness.
    In general I think they contribute to the dumbing down of politics.
    The host whether its Nolan, Dunseath, Nick Ferrari, Jon Gaunt, get to pose as reasonable (in the first two cases) or unreasonable (latter cases) people……with a kind of “why oh why oh why” regular folks just like us (in the first cases) or “white van men” (latter cases).
    Of course none of them are regular folks outside the political inner circle. They are insiders and would be mightily offended if anyone suggested they werent.

    Theres a million bloggers out there and most crave reaching the top of the Blogging ladder or anxious to maintain their position on the ladder.