And it isn’t a pretty sight. The US magazine Forbes.com was, correctly, pilloried for its “Attack of the Blogs”[subs req] article recently, as noted by the Guardian Newsblog, which pointed to Dan Gillmour’s corrective. Today the Irish Times produces its own version of the attacking blogs story.. “Truth runs riot in the unruled land of the web blog”[subs also req]. The intro to the article sets the scene – “Brian Boyd went surfing for far-out views on the French riot and found a parallel world of extremist, right-wing opinions.”.. If you look for it, Brian, you will find it..The first thing to note here is that in spite of the headline, the article only actually references two blogs.. one a Scandinavian blog – Viking-Observer.blogspot.com[I’ve linked the post referenced in the article], not a blog I’d previously noticed, and the other is the blog of journalist Melanie Phillips
Those are the only two sources quoted.. never mind that Slugger also carried posts on the riots in France, and here, noting an Irish Times article Brian missed, and here.. and we noted other bloggers’ coverage. Obviously, these views are just not far-out enough for the purposes of the article.
And that is the missing detail in the blog-view presented by Brian Boyd. There are a wide variety of blogs, with a variety of opinions and of variety in quality.. anyone who reads blogs reads more than one.. comparing and contrasting the opinions, the reporting etc that is presented allows the reader to come to a better understanding of what is actually taking place.. more speech not less, as someone else said.
Unfortunately if only the extreme varieties are presented, as in the Irish Times article, you get a distorted view of what is actually happening.
On to the extracts from the article –
While neither Phillips nor Viking Observer have any control over individual contributions made at the end of a story, what is interesting is how bloggers concentrate around certain internet sites (whether right-wing or left-wing) and express themselves in a manner which no newspaper would countenance.
Leaving aside the apparent confusion between bloggers and the readers who leave comments.. Did Brian miss that by now infamous Kevin Myers article? Or Vincent Browne’s response to the ensuing outrage[subs again] back in February-
And before I go further, let me repeat my abhorrence over The Irish Times publishing the column, my rejection of Kevin Myers’s insistence that he intended to cause no offence (manifestly this is false for he exulted in the offence he was causing), my bewilderment over the editorial justifying the publication, and my further bafflement by the elaboration on that justification by Geraldine Kennedy last Saturday.
On to more dismissive commentary about blogs in today’s Irish Times –
Web logs – more commonly known as “blogs” – started a few years ago to enable people to keep online diaries. They were (and still are, in many cases) tediously inane events, with people detailing the minutiae of their life for a global web audience.
More recently, and especially since the events of 9/11, they have increasingly become part of national and international debate. Anybody, anywhere with access to a computer can blog – you can use your blog for a personal attack, to preach racial hatred or merely to solve the world’s problems.
Tediously inane.. personal attacks, preaching racial hatred.. or merely solving the world’s problems. Yep.. those are all the blogs I read on a daily basis, neatly summarised. Thanks for that.
Back to the commentators.. that would be the real journalists? –
Many commentators believe, with apologies to Tom Wolfe, that blogging is the “new journalism” – something which the politically motivated have been quick to exploit.
It is widely believed that political parties and lobbyists now give information to bloggers that wouldn’t be touched by orthodox media for reasons of taste and libel etc. It was bloggers who spread the falsehood that US politician John Kerry had a “secret girlfriend” during the 2004 primaries.
No blogger got sacked or sued for printing the lie.
Victims, like Kerry, of a damaging blog lie, can take defamation cases. But, as David Potts, a Canadian lawyer and world expert on so-called “cyberlibel”, says: “Filing a libel lawsuit, the way you would against a newspaper, is like using 18th century battlefield tactics to counter guerrilla warfare. You’ll accomplish nothing and just get more ridicule.”
Apart from the fact that the more damaging campaign against Kerry was by the Swift Boat Veterans group – carried by the full range of available media – and then there was his own lack-lustre campaign.. nope it was the blogs wot done it. But there is also no mention of the examples where blogs corrected print and television reporting.. such as with Dan Rather.
And finally we get to the end of the article –
There’s a whole new world of reportage out there. It can be fiery, extremist and inflammatory, or it can be unshackled, uncensored and progressive depending on your own leanings or prejudices.
The words with which Labour politician Nye Bevan used to sign off his speeches seem apposite for the blog community: “This is my truth, now tell me yours.”
Words which are equally applicable to the Irish Times article.
Update For those without an Irish Times subscription, Gavin thoughtfully reprints the article in full