Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don't Just Leave That Junk Alone

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.

Easy Targets

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.

Non-Dialectical Blogging

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.


templar said...

Well done Harry. Kamm gave you the perfect opportunity to lay into him. These guys Kamm, Cohen, Pollard are so up themselves ; they couldn't bear not to be part of the blogsphere, but are terrified that their once sacrosanct media territory is under attack from people who may well be more knowledgeable and less partisan than themselves and so slag it off in the mainstream media whenever they get the chance.

Harry Barnes said...


Kamm gave some sort of response, which reads a bit like a white flag and an ignoring of the issue. See -

Colin Campbell said...

Yes Snotty Media Toffs need to be called on issues like this. His blog is just an advert for his other writing. I believe blogs that don't do comments are generally just public relations and miss most of the point. I also find him a little dry and long winded.

Harry Barnes said...


I feel that Kamm has strengths and weaknesses. I read him when the subject matter interests me. He sometimes quotes interesting sources which I am liable to follow up. But a blogger should have a comment box (which can be managed) and should make use of other people's comment boxes. He does not do the first of these (but says he used to) and I have never come across him doing the later.