Monday, 7 May 2007

Blogging in 'a roaring, foam flecked sea'

I was alerted to this piece in the Guardian by Nick Cohen by Dr Crippen. It seems that someone is rather keen to go on the attack against the blogging medium in a rather clumsy and hap-hazard fashion. The piece centres around the esteemed author being one of the judges for the 2007 Lulu Blooker prize. Reading between the lines it seems that this policeman of culture concurs with the following 'in general':

"Bryan Appleyard of the Sunday Times and Andrew Keen, author of the forthcoming The Cult of the Amateur, both argue that the web destroys culture because when editing goes and every opinion becomes equally valid, anyone who tries to distinguish between Shakespeare and a fool is dismissed as a bow-tied dinosaur."


"In an article for the Guardian, political commentator Oliver Kamm argued that, far from democratising intelligent debate, the 'citizen journalists' of the political blogs were sallow dogmatists who screamed abuse from behind the coward's cloak of anonymity at any writer who confronted their lame prejudices. 'Blogs typically do not add to the stock of commentary,' he wrote. 'They are purely parasitic on the stories and opinions the traditional media provide."

It is amusing that Mr Cohen comes up with no solid argument of his own, he simply repeats the statements of others on the matter. He is also rather keen to hint that bloggers are typically those with 'lame prejudices'. Is there not an incy wincey smidgen of hypocrisy here?

The argument of Appleyard and Keen seems to reek of the logic of arguments around moral relativism. It seems ludicrous in the extreme to argue that a lack of editing leads to all opinions becoming equally valid. Does Mr Cohen really think that readers are so thick that they have no ability to discriminate between the validity of different sources? Editing can be both good and bad, as it is sculpted by individual opinion, very much like blogging! For example would Mr Cohen argue that the Sun is valid opinion because it is edited? Thus I fail to see how this argument, backed up by an almost Utopian faith in editing, holds at all. In fact the vote was only won in this country thanks to a lot of hard work from people such as the Levellers who exploited the unedited medium of leaflets,
for example does Mr Cohen think that their leaflets should have been produced via the official edited channels?

Mr Cohen carries his argument on to insinuate that all journalists can be assumed to be 'fine writers' just because their stories end up in print; if only he cared to venture across the Guardian's corridors towards Polly Toynbee's desk, then he might see first hand how wrong this assumption is. He also thinks that bloggers are merely parasites feeding off traditional sources, it appears that numerous examples of traditional sources feeding off original blogger stories may well have passed Mr Cohen by.

Mr Cohen thinks that we should all see things through his eyes, then we would all be able to see his uniquely 'valid' view. Unfortunately I do not choose to freely believe all the edited material I read in the Guardian comment section; it is just the chatter of people like you or I, or much more highly evolved people like Nick Cohen who are therefore qualified to tell us exactly what to think. It is healthy to have a good mixture of sources from which the reader can choose, no one medium will ever be justifiably proven to be the objective holy grail. People are no fools and do not deserve to be treated as such, there is simply no need for an autocratic 'thought-police'. I wonder if someone doth protest too much?

(Ironically wasn't Shakespeare's success down to his immense popularity - people did not need to be told to go out and buy his unedited works by the 'culture-police'?)


HospitalPhoenix said...

Bryan Appleyard is a bloody excellent journalist, but he also has a fairly successful blog.
Perhaps he thinks only real journalists should be allowed online freedom of speech?

And on Shakespeare - I always htought he was successful because he wrote plays which even the illiterate could enoy ;)

Anonymous said...

"Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy."

Thesis number 7 in the Clue Train manifesto:

Bad luck Mr Cohen, the genie is out of the bottle, and you are hacking your way resolutely towards irrelevance.


Garth Marenghi said...

It is just incredible how wrong these hacks are!

In areas on which I am more qualified to comment, such as science and medicine, the newspapers are amazingly bad and misinformed in covering these topics. I have found much better stuff on blogs.

Obviously man cannot live off blog alone, but a but of blog certainly is healthy!