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Burchell's attack on political blogs « Previous | |Next »
June 23, 2008

David Burchell's transition to conservative political commentator in The Australian is now complete. His latest op-ed is an attack on political blogs in Australia, which he defines as representing the dark side of the internet. This implies that The Australian and its op-ed pages stand for the side of light--the Enlightenment, as it were--- against the darkness of unreason or irrationality--the Counter-Enlightenment.

Burchell says that the political blogs are often marked by imposture, akin to those students who always seem to have read everything even though you never actually saw them reading a book. But they are more than this as:

..the chief purpose of the political blog isn't the production of argument, but rather the staging of ceremonies of degradation and purification. The blogger's goal is to solidify a tribe of acolytes around them, and to ritually degrade those who are seen as renegades from the cause... This vast outpouring of pseudo-expertise and vituperation serves mainly as a testament to Western societies' tendency for producing self-important, opinionated folks far in excess of our capacity to employ them.

He says that we should leave the splenetically challenged Western bloggers to mud-wrestle among themselves, since their aspiration for freedom is just a pose or a lifestyle choice.

Since Burchell's universal Western bloggers would include Australian ones he is targeting the Oz blogosphere as being self-important, opinionated folks staging ceremonies of degradation and purification.

Note what is going on here. There is no attempt by Burchell to engage with any Australian political blogger. All are condemned and tossed into the waste bin without any argument. Burchell's position is one in which the bloggers reasoned arguments of Australian political bloggers on public issues is characterised by pseudo-expertise and vituperation whilst the rants and raves of the News tabloid bloggers are marked by expertise and reason. So what Burchell offers is a rant in the form of an op-ed marked by resentment.

Burchell, in so reversing the actual state of affairs, has shown himself to be a Murdoch hack running the Australian's party line against the independent media. The credibility of the latter must be destroyed to save that of the journalists at News Ltd. It is an attack to shore up the authority of News Ltd and its journalists who must argue their case rather than pronounce from on high.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:34 AM | | Comments (22)


The political bloggers really get up The Australian's nose, don't they.

He's just trolling on an op-ed page.

"He's just trolling on an op-ed page."

True. Baiting bloggers is the new tactic for attention seekers.

"The blogger's goal is to solidify a tribe of acolytes around them, and to ritually degrade those who are seen as renegades from the cause ..."

That strikes me as an excellent description of Bolt, Ackerman, Blair and sundry other hacks who blog to attract hits.

I realised long ago that most MSM pundits are constitutionally incapable of understanding the nature of blogging. The notion that people might write from conviction without a care for 'audience share' or reader approval is outside their whole mental model of the world.

Have to agree. A quick way to get linked to is to troll bloggers.



I ahve been posting back at the google thread, however when i try to Preview my post I get this message:

Publish error in template 'Comment Preview Template': Error in tag: Error in tag: The MTCommentFields tag is no longer available; please include the Comment Form template module instead.

I couldn't find a link that I could post to about this so i am just writing this knowing you'll get it this way.

the trouble with Burchell is that he has nothing to say apart from defending the social conservative working class from the elite lefty cosmopolitans ad naseum.

So much for his academic training in western Sydney. He's ended recycling cliches and prejudices. But that's Australian conservatism

thanks. It happened to me to when I tried. Presumably, the MT system needs an upgrade to 4.1. I'll get onto tech support.

Ken Bernard Keane in todays Crikey says:

the size and structure of Australia’s media doesn’t help. We have the disadvantages of oligopolies with none of the advantages. We’re too small to support a diverse media. Our electronic and print media are heavily concentrated, and dominate debate and disproportionately influence policy. Our media also compete for the same mainstream audiences, encouraging sameness and conformity of analysis. And we lack both the size and sheer level of online engagement to have a US-style influential blogatariat.

Sounds about right to me.

Reading political blogs is a bit like shopping at Aldi.
They don't have everything but they do have stuff thats good. And,its nice to be able to say hi to the other shoppers. Even the ones with their pants pulled up too high.

Even if we did have the population, would we really want a US-style influential blogotariat?

I agree with Ken, that MSM pundits don't understand blogs, but I think Keane's comparison with US blogs also misunderstands Australian blogs.

Ken says "The notion that people might write from conviction without a care for 'audience share' or reader approval" and Les points out it's good to rub elbows with our fellow hoi polloi. In those two statements you have a whole other purpose than either the MSM or the big US blogs.

I'm not sure how you see the Oz political blogosphere. What's the picture you have?

I just love Burchell's reference to freedom---'their [political bloggers] aspiration for freedom is just a pose or a lifestyle choice.'
Seems this conservative academic and occasional op-eder has little understanding of positive freedom, the formation of citizenship and the limits of liberal democracy. I wonder what Burchell means by real freedom?

Hard to say in a few words Gary. For one thing, I don't think it's finished becoming yet. It's not yet what it's going to be when it grows up.

I don't think of it as a political blogosphere, but a news and current affairs blogosphere. Like Wark said about the public culture, it's a space where we negotiate who we are as a people in relation to stuff that happens.

I'm more interested in comments than blog entry content or particular topics, so my picture is of a participatory space.

I wonder what Burchell means by real freedom?

Why don't you ask him, Scott? I'm sure he would be happy to provide you an answer instead of having you speculate.

He's right about certain blogs. Lambert's blog was obviously on his mind when he made this derisive comment.

the chief purpose of the political blog isn't the production of argument, but rather the staging of ceremonies of degradation and purification.

And this one:

Junior computing lecturers masquerade as technical experts on the civilian death toll in Iraq, and happily cause to live or die a million or so Iraqi citizens, according to their fancy.

Truer words haven’t been spoken.

Mind you Lambert hasn't in his own field for over a decade and some, yet he's now an expert on surveys held in war zones. Sorry for giggling.

We also have one of the earlier commenter’s, Ken Lovell preaching from up high dissing Burchell.

Ken, can you please explain the thread you posted on Road to Insanity where you suggested the Brown government in the UK was responsible for the London bombing a few hours prior to the attempt in Scotland. Perfect timing. Lol

You may also want to explain the lack of contrition when you realized it was a legitimate attack... or do you still think it was MI5 working on behalf of the government in an attempt to garner public support for the war in Iraq?

you don't read carefully. You mention one blog. You may be right about this. Burchell, however, refers to Western political blogs in general. He is talking about all blogs not just one. So your defence of his attack fails.

I don't need to speculate about what Burchell means by freedom. His text assumes negative freedom--freedom from.

Sorry for inflicting JC on you by linked to your post. Because of his abusive conduct, I banned him from commenting at my blog and ever since then he has been weirdly obsessed with me, posting hundreds of denunciations of me in comments on various blogs.

no problems. JC reads like a right wing troll. Reading your post it would seem that Burchell is targeting you with this reference to 'Junior computing lecturers masquerade as technical experts on the civilian death toll in Iraq'. The interesting thing about this event is the way The Australian is trashing its credibility. It is becoming the print equivalent of Fox News.

It seems that the level of both understanding and debate has not advanced much among the mass media while I was out bush. Oh for a tribe of acolytes! Burchell must have been talking about Bolt et al.

the more things change the more they remain the same.
Nice idea. News Ltd is talking about itself.

what is probably crucial here is building an architecture of empowerment. The new technological digital tools are probably less important than the knowledge and social capital required to build the profusion of civic associations in Australia.

If I understand you right, that's pretty much how I see it at the moment. Right now it's largely the knowledgeable with the social and cultural capital running the blogospheric show and comments, the bit the hoi polloi inhabit, is largely seen as some kind of add on. That's the old media model.

I think it's hugely important for those of us already here to support and encourage participation regardless of whether views differ. Just being visible makes people feel acknowledged. The digital tools are only important to the extent that they allow people to become visible. Participants are where participation begins and ends. The least desirable outcome is for people to feel discouraged because they find themselves not welcomed by others already here. That's a very hard thing to do.