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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

political blogging is untrustworthy right? « Previous | |Next »
June 29, 2007

A joke. I have no idea who Darren Levin is apart from him being a staffer and blogger at the Australian Jewish News; a newspaper that dislikes voices critical of the actions of the Israeli government.

Levin's views on political blogging need to be taken with a grain of salt. He starts thus:

the blogosphere - a virtual soapbox of citizen reporters, self-proclaimed experts and armchair commentators - is looking less like Drudge's utopian vision and more like the wild west. Populated by anyone with a viewpoint and an internet connection, it's a daily ping-pong match of unfiltered opinion.

Unfiltered opinion? A lot of the opinion on political blogs in Austrlaia is informed and is a part of a national conversation.

By unfiltered Levin seems to mean unaccountable. Levin asks: 'without the traditional checks and balances of mainstream media, can we really trust what's being said?' My response is why should we really trust what the op-eds in newspapers say? Aren't many of these polemical and partisan?

Levin quotes Mark Pesce, from Sydney media and technology consultancy FutureSt., to the effect that there are checks and balances exist in the form of bloggers being accountable to each other and their readers. Levin is not convinced, as he asks whether this vote-with-your-feet model is enough when bloggers are becoming major players on the political scene?

Levin says not. This is how he argues his case--by appealing to the authority of Crikey:

In Australia, despite the veracity of opinion on sites such as Mumble and Poll Bludger bloggers have failed to make the same impact as their US peers. The most frequented news sites are still those owned by corporate media."I don't think blogging has particularly set the world on fire here in terms of political coverage or political results," says Stephen Mayne, the founder of the influential Crikey.As blogging proliferates, it's becoming more of a cacophony," he says. "How do you know where to go to find a good blog? If anything, there's going to be a throwback to trusted, reliable media."

So Mayne dismisses political blogs to defend the accountability of the online commentary of Crikey in an internet world where being online means cheap and untrustworthy. Levin uses this viewpoint to defend the trustworthiness of the poltiical bloggers at the Jewish News.

So which political blogs in Australia do Mayne and Levin have in mind in making their judgements about political blogging? Levin says:

Outside the political sphere, bloggers have become influential voices on everything from gadgets and technology to music, film and popular culture. But unlike political blogs, which are mostly approached with a grain of salt, consumers are relying more and more on gadget sites like Gizmodo ( and engadget ( for product reviews.

None are mentioned. There is no engagement or evaluation of any political blog in Australia. All political blogs are dismissed as untrustworthy. It's a joke.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 06:55 AM | | Comments (11)


the bsphere is a world of blather, but if you live in a society where citizen discussion can lead to substantive action, then you will quickly form a subset of like minded contacts to achieve your goals.

most of the world does not have this possibility of action. in that case, talk remains blather- or seditious.

The posts and conversations on this site are more than blather, don't you think?

Citizen discussion needs to be encouraged ---it's an educational process.

Well I guess it really depends on what blogs you read. Lots are crap like all those Lefty ones. Lots of political blogs really are just "Pasted Opinion" and really have no originality or display any effort to make the world a better place. They just criticize what the daily news events are and move on.
They are all wankers and should be whipped!

if that's the criteria then this kind of material would fall into your crap box.

Reads much like Mr Levin has a gob full of sour grapes.

since ozzies can't vote for officers of state, and can't initiate referenda, they are in a permanent state of political adolescence, old enough to have opinions but incapable of effectuating them. if genuinely young, they march, if adult, they merely chatter.

neither gets results, yet there is no impetus to change the system. there is a genuine atrophy of the political muscles, due to growing up in a culture where politics is something only politicians do.

A lot of the opinion on political blogs in Austrlaia is informed and is a part of a national conversation.

Most of the Australian blogosphere are the fringe public intellectuals. Rather than write to the MSM (which some do) they moved online. MSM wasn't big enough to include them (such as yourself Gary), but the internet was. I would argue that the quality of the Auian blogosphere is higher than the US one.

Should also mention that the Australian market isnt as big as the US one economically in blogs; so we havent seen punk entrepreneurs in the same way we have in the US. Au hasnt produced a dailykos, a tpm or a redstate (the latter which got sold recently) because the market isnt big enough.

I have never written to the mainstream media in my life, though I do read the letters to the editor.

Fringe public intellectuals? Interesting idea. Australia has few public intellectuals and those we do have like Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute are not that good.

Probably the media celebrities such as Ackerman and Bolt are public intellectuals in postmodernity.

Ackerman and Bolt are performers that hit their audience very well and deliver what is expected. Not much different to a Vegas act who do the same show five nights a week and leave the audience's expectations satiated . Public intellectuals they are not.

Australian public intellectuals have in the past gone through politics or academia. Most of the 'names' in Auian blogging are from both. Dunlop, Quiggin, Bahnisch, etc from academia; others like yourself, Norton, Gruen etc have been involved intimately in politics in policy roles. That is the normal path.

The successful business leaders and celebrities - which dominate US politics - are rare as horses teeth in Au. Turnball and Garrett are the exceptions. Public intellectuals in the US tend to be celebrities too. The Kristol's got elevated to celebrity status when their policies became the Administration's blueprint. But most of PNAC were heavily involved in government and business.

I suspect the reason that Auian blogging is so dominated by former fringe public intellectuals is that there was no room for them in the MSM and the Au market for blogs is too small for the entrepreneurial punks to dominate the landscape (like they have in the US).

though Australia has a public intellectual network I regard public intellectual as a function that is specific to an area (as in the media or health or environment) and not universal. The JP Sartre conception of the public intellectual no longer applies. So artists or writers can be public intellectuals.

Secondly, lefty public intellectuals have been treated as scapegoats--charges of failure, betrayal and irrelevance levelled at the intellectual class---by Ackerman and Bolt in the culture wars. True, what we have now is an infighting or factional warfare within the ‘intellectual field,’ as various cohorts of intellectuals fight for cultural hegemony and seek to negotiate intellectual orthodoxies and heterodoxies.

These ‘culture wars’ over the role of intellectuals are increasingly fought out less between different professional groupings in the intellectual field, such as between writers and journalists, historians and literary theorists, academics and journalists than between different political factions of the intelligentsia.

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