When Half A Blog Is Better Than None
Oliver Kamm's attack on political blogging is strange. Not least because he is a (restricted) form of political blogger himself. His limitations as a blogger are (a) that he doesn't engage in debate with his readers even via a managed comment box and (b) too many of his posted items are just repeats of his various newspaper columns or are adverts for his coming radio and TV appearances.
I am not complaining about Kamm only being a half blogger. I know that he is a busy man who needs to earn a crust and does not have the time on his hands which is my lot as a 70 year old. Furthermore, some of his material is fully worthy of serious thought. I am particularly indebted for some of his academic quotes and references.
It is also the case that a great deal of political blogging falls to his criticisms; especially when material being pursued in popular comment boxes such as at "Harry's Place" degenerates into abuse amongst the commentators.
What is wrong with Kamm's piece is that he is in danger of throwing out a great number of babies from a huge tub of dirty bath water.
He starts with a criticism of Guido Fawkes (to whom I refuse to provide a link) who had set himself up as an Aunt Sally by appearing in disguise recently for a TV debate. But Guido is the easiest of targets. It is hardly a matter of the serious dialectics of debate to shout "rotten fish" at such a non-thinker.
But there are numbers who can be searched out who are in a different league to Guido. Some of my own preferences are shown here.
Kamm then takes on some ill-judged comments from a Conservative who is trying to avoid looking conservative. George Osborn's efforts to look modern and with it, lead him to give exaggerated praise to some of the worst category of political bloggers - Tories. Unfortunately, Kamm ends up displaying a form of elitism that is worrying and he condemns efforts at inner-party democracy for he sees bloggers as being in danger of becoming mere versions of yesterday's Militant Tendency and the Monday Club.
Kamm also argues that political bloggers restrict the material they are exposed to and merely link to re-enforce their prejudices. So unfortunately, just what is new about that? It is like buying the Daily Telegraph or the Morning Star each morning.
Yet there are bloggers who appear to surf the net to look for information, sources and challenging ideas. Is Kamm, for instance, aware of "Political Opinions" which summarizes and catalogues a wide range of political blogs so that a quick glance can let a blogger know if anything of interest has recently been posted.
I agree that it is a waste of time to click into an item that tells you that Manchester United have just beaten Roma 7-1, when most people who are interested have just watched it on TV. But there is much more than trivia on offer.
Needed : Philosophical Discourse
Kamm moves on to quote the philosopher Michael Oakeshott who pointed out that politics should be a conversation and not an argument. Something which Kamm feels is the other way round in the blogosphere.
Perhaps, in general, this is correct about bog standard bloggers. But from my scramblng around there seems to be a silver lining.
Kamm then seems to assume that most political bloggers do little else in life and are cut off from normal avenues of political debate. But to me, numbers of them seem to be (shudder the thought for Kamm) political activists.
There is, however, a form of political activism that is neither just politicking nor electoralism. Some of us have an interest in political education. For my local Labour Party I run discussion meetings (which aren't propaganda meetings), address other meetings and attend Conferences and other debates. In fact I have attended a meeting addressed by Kamm in which he had a go at another speaker who put in a good word for the blogosphere.
What Is His Point ?
What is the point of Kamm's continuous crucifixion of blogging ? It is like someone who sees themselves as anti-globalisation. I am afraid that King Canute illustrated the answer to both of these. The developments they criticise are firmly with us and are not likely to be mopped up in the near future. The way to deal with them is to work upon them to transform them.
To some extent Kamm's half-blog already leads by example. He just needs to clarify what he is and could be about.