Blogging and the importance of the individual…

The question of the media and politics is a vexed one. Too often the debate is closed down in ad hominem badinage before it gets properly going. Over at Comment is Free today, amongst other things, I have argued that there should be proper separation between the two. Politicians should be allowed govern, and the media be allowed report. Blogs, however, throw another layer of complexity into the mix. The principle Slugger is built on is that of the individual’s right to call the world as they see it – whether as bloggers or commenters. All too often thought that right is corrupted of obscured by gross incivility. Civility, on the other hand, as Kennedy once noted, is not a sign of weakness. Indeed, it is an essential precondition to allow the rest of us examine the perspicacity (or otherwise) of an individual’s view. But too often contempt blocks the right, one for an individual blogger to speak, and two, to have his work critically examined.

I spoke on blogs and democracy recently in response to George Osbourne’s advocacy of a more open relationship between politicians and the people at the RSA in London. But the most impressive speaker wrapped up the importance of the individual voice thusly:

“Back to democracy – as Churchill pointed out, it is the least bad system of government we know, perhaps the internet holds a key to an organisation that establishes the balance between the individual, the society and its institutions. This is essential as for me the knowledge, creativity, innovation, morality and all things social start with the individual.”

More over at Comment is Free…

  • dáithi

    Brits out!

  • Zac

    I think you are being either too kind or too naive when you suggest threads are tied down in “ad hominem badinage”. That suggests little more than good-humoured leg pulling. Why not call it as it is? It is frequently more sinister than that and threads are more likely to be tied down with “ad hominem derision”. Unless identifiable names are done away with, I think the derision will be with us for the foreseeable future; that is unless the moderators sit and monitor the threads 24/7! After all, if you bring the man down, the ball goes out of play and prevents the offense. It’s often a lot easier to go after the man and not the ball but then, that’s just not cricket is it?

  • I plucked this out from Comment is Free, as I think its worth pasting in its entirety.
    Because the individual can have their ideas tested in the blogsphere better than anywhere else.
    Anonymity of commnetators can help or hinder; but its the feedback and the generation of electricity than can be produced through the instant interaction that’s the big plus.

    “The blogosphere doesn’t ‘do’ decisions – even if politicians choose to draw on blogger-led insights, it is still their own judgment that counts in the end.”

    But judgement is reliant on ideas, and ideas are powerful little critters. Once they are in your head, who knows what they can do.

    Ideas can’t really be unthought. You may forget the details, but down deep in the subconscious, everything you’ve ever experienced is nestling quietly, waiting to spring forward into the conscious. When you see a sight, smell a fragrance or hear a sound that instantly transfers you back to former times, good or bad, that is your subconscious recalling details you thought were gone forever.

    Ideas are powerful, and once they’re out, there is no putting them back. The elites understand this, which is why they are keen to prevent ideas from being broadcast. The single biggest thing they fear is the individual with the fresh idea that catches on and smashes their careful plans into dust.

    Ideas can flatten empires, whether they are spread by blogs, books or word of mouth.

  • Mick Fealty


    I had linked to Tubridy’s attempt to sponsor a grown up argument on his radio show recently which just got drawn down series of accusation of bias, and never got near talking about the substance of the matter. But what you say is all too often true about some of our threads, sometimes even a majority of them.

    There is something to be said for a well moderated comment zone. But I’ve not yet found an efficient enough way to do it. If you could automate the penalties for misbehaviour (in the way that perhaps eBay does) you could incentivise people to play well. Though I am not sure just how practical such would be.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    parcifal: “Because the individual can have their ideas tested in the blogsphere better than anywhere else. ”

    Bollocks. A great many things can happen to an idea on the internet, but being tested, unless we’re being very broad in our definition, is not one of them.

    The innovations in the Edsel, on paper, looked brilliant. And they were, but it took the testing of actually creating and applying those ideas to show that they were, if nothing else, ahead of their time. No amount of naval-gazing and mental masturbation would have demonstrated otherwise.

    Likewise, some ideas only work in certain situations — Gandhi and passive resistance would have been an icicle in a blast furnace if used against Imperial Japan or Stalin’s Communists. Likewise, the idea of EU “soft power,” circa. 2007, looks a lot like “appeasement,” circa. 1938, re-branded for a new era.

    Only ideas whose time has come — ideas for which the public is ready — have power.

    A great many more generate a great deal of smoke and heat, but illuminate nothing.

  • perhaps the time for the dreaded idea of a united ireland has come,
    and the public are being prepared.

  • zac

    Mick, as you may be aware, I try to avoid the use of an identifiable personality in order to avoid any possible ad hom’ transgressions. Is it possible to allocate a random name/number when a post is submitted, (and so avoid the ad hom’ pitfall)? Failing this I think we just have to accept it is going to happen. I suppose 24/7 moderation is out of the question? Furthermore, I doubt there is a grammatical/word filter which would be up to automating the process of issuing sanctions.

    Incidently, I noticed the Slug was bombarded with quite a lot of malicious posts the other day… Did a filter remove that or was done manually?