The Adam Smith Institute held an event on blogging last night. There were about sixty of us crammed into its tiny foyer. Some wit has pinned a picture of Arnold Swartzenegger up in the ‘bathroom’, just to remind any of us wayward visitors which side of the political divide the Institute unambiguously falls on. Stephen Pollard began by saying “I couldn’t care less about blogs. I just get on and do it!”
He went on to argue that UK blogs have not yet exercised the kind of influence their counterparts in the US have routinely had. “Given that most journalists are fundamentally lazy, we may see blogs have a fact checking function in the next general election.” Stephen also had a bit of a ruck with one member of the audience which continued later over on his blog!
Sandy Starr from Spiked saw a widespread desire on the part of the media to see some generic significance in blogs per se. But he asked, “why can’t we just wait for blogs to establish their own significance as websites?” He cautioned against the flash mob mentality and argued new media techniques had led to a general vacuity and lack of content in some ideologically led pressure groups; not least, the anti globalisation movement.
He also suggested that sharing thoughts in public, meant a loss of private time in which to think through problems and figure out genuine solutions: “Sometimes it’s better not to answer the mobile, and to sit down and read yesterday’s news rather than the latest news from five minutes ago.”
Perry de Havilland from Samizdata, sees the easy route to publication that blogging enables ordinary people to give voice to their views, quoting along the way Henry Mencken’s pithy observation that, “freedom of the press is limited to those who own one”. However he argued that political bloggers are not in competition with journalists. Although the ability to disaggregate news outputs and reconnect them with other contextual material may in some case constitute a challenge to editors.
Above all, Perry argued, blogging is conversation. What arises from it is a mix of affinities and disaffinities, a network of discussants who don’t necessarily share the same world view. Something that Long Peace co-author David Steven supported when he pointed out that the distinguishing feature of following the US election for outsiders this year (as opposed to four years previously) was the multiplicity of views and sources within the blogging community.
Brian Micklethwaite noted the “possibility of making politics much more global, as people discover they have more in common with someone in a faraway country than someone just living down the road”. Other bloggers I met there included Times journalist Clive Davis, Peter Nolan, Abiola Lapite, the dissident Frogman, Mr Freemarket and Philip Chaston. Sadly I just missed Norman Geras and Andrew Dodge.
Radio 4’s Westminster Hour was there to cover proceedings, present and is due to be broadcast on Sunday evening at 10.45pm.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty