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.