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

Some things blogs can do « Previous | |Next »
May 13, 2008

In consideration of the the Victorian blogging debacle, in the context of the budget, bearing in mind the state of the Liberals everywhere, in relation to Brendan Nelson, and from the perspective of a political expert, Christian Kerr had a little dig at the blogosphere yesterday.

The headline (probably not Kerr's idea) reads:

Blogs help Libs divide and conquer themselves

Powerful things, blogs. Andrew Landeryou, blogger, who seems to have broken the story, expects much worse to come since it looks as though very few Victorian Liberals didn't know what was going on. Perhaps the Victorian Liberal Party bloggers can claim to be the first Australian bloggers to claim a political scalp. Does it still count if the scalps in question are their own?

It hardly matters since, as Kerr observes:

Real political professionals know that the Australian blog world is insular, often ignorant and has virtually no influence on mainstream debate.

Jeez, I don't know about that Christian. The bloggers in this case were real political professionals, as pathetic as their levels of professionalism may have been.

When you said the Australian blog world is insular, were you aware that you were blogging? Did you mean to infer that the many commenters on your blog are all part of this insular Australian blogdom of which you are a part?

Often ignorant. If you're talking about particular blogs or bloggers that may be true, sometimes, but as an interactive network it's far from ignorant. In fact I'd argue that the sometimes scary levels of expertise are part of the reason the blogosphere is so small.

As for having virtually no influence on mainstream debate, I'll assume you're not using the term 'mainstream' in the Janet Albrechtson sense, in which the mainstream doesn't really exist. That mainstream is too busy watching Australia's Funniest Home Videos to debate about the Victorian Liberals. You must be talking about politics in news media, in which case 'mainstream debate' refers to infighting among the commentariat.

Or perhaps influence is supposed to be the big idea here. If that's the case, I'd suggest that Victorian Liberal Party bloggers currently have an enormous influence. Big enough to help the Libs divide and conquer themselves, in fact. And ruin the budget for the whole Nelson-led party in the view of political experts. Experts who get published in mainstream media.

Maybe debating mainstreamers everywhere will be tempted to take time out from Australia's Funniest Home Videos to find out what this blog thing which brings down oppositions is all about? Or will they explore the Ozblogosphere only to be disappointed at its insularity, ignorance and lack of influence? In which case they'll have to settle for reading about how a blog can wreck a party in the newspapers. And on telly. And the radio.

| Posted by Lyn at 4:05 PM | | Comments (7)


nicely done. Kerr is just parroting The Australian's line that blogs are useless despite the Australian---and News Ltd---- having lots of blogs.You have a sense that behind the conservative's distaste for blogs stands the meme of the "revolt of the masses". What Kerr misses is the way blogs play with, and toss around, ideas. He has little time for ideas.

I love Kerr's line about real political professionals, given that most of them are factional party hacks as opposed to policy wonks. Just like Kerr was--a Liberal Party hack. He is now more of a publicist in the process of becoming a television pundit. These pundits are saying that the blogs 'gotcha’ commentary and attributions of bad faith causes the decline of reasoned discourse that Kerr and the Australian stand for and defend. It's mythmaking.

However, it is true that the characteristics of insularity and lack of political influence do apply. Are the political bloggers trying to gain political influence? I doubt it. They are more about widening the forum of debate and discussion in a liberal democracy at this stage. The political blogs are marginalised, but that says more about Australia's public sphere than the quality of the political oggers.

On the other hand, the political influence of intellectuals waned during the years of the Howard regime whilst academics have focused more and more on writing for other academics. Weblogs have facilitated the rise of a new class of non-academic intellectuals, even if the A class weblogs are academic based.

Bloggers continue to be spurned by the media gatekeepers who seem to live in some kind of fortress of their own making. So there is no open flow of ideas between the journalists, bloggers and think tanks. It's still all back channel stuff in the market of ideas.

I wonder whether these misunderstandings of the blogosphere are genuine or wilful. If blogs are so useless why bother acknowledging them at all?

On the purpose and function of blogs, I'm hard pressed to think of two that do the same thing or serve the same purpose. Some do a whole bunch of different things. Clearly they don't all seek influence, though some do.

Considering the current state of journalism, would many bloggers really want an open flow of ideas? Lovable as he is, I can't imagine too many bloggers longing for Andrew Bolt to share his wisdom with them.

by bloggers The Australian means leftwing blogs.The latter's writers offer a critical commentary on its conservative agenda and commentary. The Australian is not happy about the media watch practices of these political bloggers.

todays public intellectuals include the bloggers. Online publications and weblogs have enabled public intellectuals to express their ideas beyond the narrow confines of elite op-ed pages and network television and nurtured a new class of commentator who attract readers people beyond the ivory tower.

Some intellectuals used to take the job of high profile commentators in the media's op ed pages and free-to-air television. Now, there are more commentators. Much of the academic work being done these days is academic---not written, that is, for a popular audience. Bloggers and public intellectual now tend to focus on niche markets rather than write for the broad public. There's little room for the logic of reasoned debate in the world ruled by the tabloid media and its blogger commentators like Ackerman, Bolt and Blair. That's a niche market.

As Daniel W. Drezner says:

The growth of online publication venues has stimulated rather than retarded the quality and diversity of public intellectuals. The criticisms levied against these new forms of publishing seem to mirror the flaws that plague the more general critique of current public intellectuals: hindsight bias and conceptual fuzziness. Rather, the growth of blogs and other forms of online writing have partially reversed a trend that many have lamented – what Russell Jacoby labeled the “professionalization and academization” of public intellectuals. In particular, the growth of the blogosphere breaks down – or at least lowers – the barriers erected by a professionalized academy.

Blogging democratizes the function of public intellectual, which used to be elitist.

That makes a lot of sense to me, but taken with what Gary has since said, bloggers are probably more of a threat to the commentariat industry than right wing traditional media.

It's true that the barriers around intellectual, public intellectual, wannabe intellectual are breaking down. I had a couple of long discussions today and we generally agreed that the walls have been breached and it's fast becoming unrealistic for academic practices in particular to maintain their exclusivity. Your comments about the Griffith Review paywall are a case in point, although that's got more to do with ABC Books I'd think than being deliberately inaccessible.

Access is everything.

I think I'd go further than niche market in the case of blogs and push towards personalised, tailored or something like that. It's probably a problem with the notion of market, which implies a certain level of consumption to ensure survival. Maybe past individualism even, since a given individual might access different blogs on different days depending on all sorts of things - a bit of intellectualising one day, a cat blog the next, messing around at YouTube in the process.

As you say, the media bloggers are catering to a niche market in the market sense, but is that sustainable? I don't think so. Watching young people particularly, I can't see how anything that's static in any way can survive very long.

Even so some journalists in the quality media in Australia are as concerned about their own authority as pundits being diminished as their bosses are about the bottom line by the rise of the online commenteriat.

The online commentariat is causing ripples in the media world. Journalism is changing: its going to increasingly online and multimedia, and produced in convergent newsrooms. Some journalists are already under considerable pressure: standards are being compromised by under-resourcing and time pressures.

Yes, I saw Jason's piece. I wonder how many lurkers are media pundits? It's pretty obvious in the blogosphere that the professionals have no monopoly on good punditry.

The other thing that the pundits choose to ignore is the difference between investigative journalism and reporting, which is their role in theory, and the kind of gossip/opinion column they all do in practice.

Proper investigate reporting is a strength the blogosphere can't hope to match on the 4 Corners kind of scale. It's also something newspapers won't fund anymore.

The public is spoiled for choice between traditional media and the internet when it comes to gossip/opinion/entertainment/celebrity columnist stuff. Since the commercial networks have chosen to go the popular/populist version of investigative reporting, the ABC is gaining the monopoly on 'real' news. Since that's so important to democracy, it seems to me that public funding of the ABC is justified, so we'd be looking at the ABC becoming the major mechanism of accountability-related news.