13 April 2009

How, exactly, are we to blame?

Isn't life wonderful? You're already tainted by association with Derek Draper on account of hailing from the same neck of the woods as him (other famous sons of Chorley Borough include Myles Standish - who captained the Mayflower - Barry Mason - who wrote Delilah - Ken Morley - Reg Holdsworth from Coronation Street - Dave Spikey, Kevin Simm from Liberty X and Michael Jennings, the Welterweight whose teeth made a separate journey back home from Madison Square Garden a couple of months ago) and all of a sudden, he manages to bring the entire blogosphere into disrepute. Or at least, Iain MacWhirter thinks he does.

Now leaving aside the irony of the blogosphere being criticised by a man who reproduced his newspaper columns on his own blog until recently, I really must take issue with him.

Firstly, the row that started this - the Damien McBride e-mails - has actually little to do with bloggers. Derek Draper's first attempt at bloggery led to something of a humiliation for the man, mainly at the hands of Guido Fawkes. Now, I must admit that I've never really bought into the Guido hype, even though it was seeing a news article about his blog that made me think about joining the blogosphere myself. Maybe it's just the pure, unbridled cynicism. Maybe it's the venom. Maybe it's the fact that the blog is a hotchpotch of tittle-tattle. Nevertheless, whichever the reason, I don't like the blog. I have nothing against Paul Staines, and I recognise that there's a decent amount of work that must surely go into it, but I simply don't read Guido except on rare occasions - it just isn't my cup of tea. He's good at what he does, but it's not my thing. But I will say this for him: his stories can at least bear a passing relationship with the facts.

But when Draper attempted a left-wing equivalent of Guido - Red Rag - he e-mailed his old chum Damien McBride to ask for possible stories. McBride proceeded to make stuff up. And Staines found out.

So you have a spin doctor who's tried and failed to blog before, getting duff stories from another spin doctor.

And yet MacWhirter seems to be citing the blogosphere - which after all broke the story of the spin doctor so low that he would do such things - as the problem.

Instead, the blogosphere did what the MSM wouldn't: it blew the whistle. Rather than a problem, it showed itself to be an antidote.

This new frontier of hackery is not subject to the same standards of accuracy, taste, style and legality that newspapers like The Herald are subject to.

No, Iain. Try writing a post filled with glaring factual errors, and see what happens. Try subverting any idea of decency, and watch the fur fly. Talk to the likes of Alex Hilton and the Scottish blogosphere's own Kezia Dugdale, who have bitter experience of being threatened with unjust legal action.

It is fashionable to condemn the "dead tree press" for being unreliable and sensationalist, but we are like academic research journals compared to the stuff on the web.

Ah yes, over-generalised guff such as that evidenced in the previous sentence is the mainstay of academia.

Why is the new journalism of the web so nasty? I really don't know.

Why did The Sun show a picture of the SNP logo fashioned into a noose? Why would a spin doctor go to the trouble of fabricating stories? Why would politicians go into witch-hunt mode agianst one another when it suits their purpose? Why would the newspapers go along for the ride? Why do journalism and PR have their own nasty streaks and why should the online row be singled out?

Blogging should have been the opportunity for all sorts of interesting people from all walks of life to start provoking debate with original ideas.

And indeed it is. Just check out a couple of example in the blogroll. Ideas of Civilsation, for one.

Whistle-blowers had a new noticeboard on which to post information the authorities didn't want us to know about.

And they still do. Which is why we know that Damien McBride had decided to make stuff up for Derek Draper to publicise.

Instead the blogosphere has been hijacked by sociopathic egos with extreme views, who spend most of their time attacking each other.

Ah, yes, is that why we can co-operate on various projects of interest, name each other in our Top 10s and promote each other's posts on the Scottish Roundup? Is that why, for example, I can squabble with Caron on matters of policy one minute, then compare notes with her about Strictly Come Dancing the next? Is this why the SNP bloggers, planning a meetup at Conference in Glasgow thought it might be an idea to invite local Labour blogger Yousuf - who, incidentally, has produced an excellent post on precisely the same issue?

There is no quality control on the web and no editorial discretion.

Of course there is. No blogger seriously wants to produce crap. Every blogger has to make a decision about what they want to publish and what kind of blog they want to show to the world. And any blogger can come a cropper if they fall short of their readers' standards. Derek Draper has found this out the hard way.

And since nothing on the web can be longer than a couple of hundred words, argument and insight has been replaced by bark and bite.

Nonsense. Anything online can be as long as the author needs to make it (or as long as the audience wants to read). And the good blogger is the one who researches the arguments, digs out the facts, and produces a cogent piece of analysis to back up the points being made - something which, in his newspaper piece, MacWhirter has completely failed to do!

Bloggers don't write, they ejaculate. But then, I'm just a boring old hack, so what do I know?

Judging by the sweeping assertions made in the rest of the article, it might be better if I refrained from answering that question.

The fact is that the blogosphere - particularly its Scottish end - really is alive: there are ideas, insight, arguments, discussions and debates bouncing off the online walls. As well as all sorts of new friends and acquaintances being made. But this weekend, that's all been overshadowed by two idiots who thought that you actually could behave like the stereotypical blogger in Iain MacWhirter's piece of uncharacteristically lazy, sloppy journalism. And it's precisely the fact that his assertions are utterly flawed which brought about the downfall of McBride and the humiliation of Draper. Put simply, if MacWhirter were right, if we were just a bunch of vicious nerds, McBride would still be in a job, Draper would have used those stories to launch Red Rag and it would have been a rousing success. Actually, scratch that. If he were right, Draper would still be producing posts for LabourList, spending his days locked in a permanent flamewar with Paul Staines and Iain Dale, and he'd have become the Left's online standard-bearer. It is his failure, compounded by McBride's exposure, which undermines MacWhirter's entire case.

But then, I'm just a nasty, opinionated nerd, so what do I know?


Jeff said...

Well said that man!

I've been toying with a post on the same topic for an hour or two, I've just silently fumed instead.

I can't believe he wrote that, I can't believe anyone would write that. "Bloggers don't write, they ejaculate"?

What a shabby line to sign off on.

Will said...

Amen Jeff... it's dire that he can be so snobby, then end on such a lowbrow note. I expected better from him.

Silent Hunter said...

Interesting that McWhirter hasn't allowed anyone to comment on his piece - quelle surprise.

It's laughable to watch all these dead tree journalists trying to come to terms with the fact that they are fast becoming - irrelevant.

Will said...

To be honest, SH, I think the MSM still does have a role to play with its access to massive news-gathering operations that bloggers on their own can't necessarily compete with, but the blogosphere can complement it with a fresh pair of eyes on current affairs and a willingness to flag up the stories that don't make it into print but should.

The problem is that some bloggers are out to displace the MSM, while the established print journos see us as a threat.

Nevertheless, this is a major goof by MacWhirter. So much so that at the back of my mind, I do wonder if this was some sort of joke. Shame it wasn't funny. Besides, either way, it certainly wasn't clever and his comments will give the bloggers who look down on the MSM extra ammo.

He's disappointed me today.

Silent Hunter said...


I'm happy to agree that MSM may still have a role to play - but I question their ability to be objective, given that they have an 'editorial line' to follow - usually set by the owner of the paper Murdoch et al.

The beauty of the blogs is the ability to link up with other folk who have answers to the questions posed within minutes.

It's also the ability to have wide and free ranging discussions with complete strangers and realise that we are not lone voices and that, like a shoal of fish, we can move as one and defy the big fish of the MSM.

Face it Will - the MSM have been so far behind the curve recently over the death of Ian Tomlinson and now with the McBride and the Corrupt Labour Party, that they really don't deserve to be taken seriously anymore.

And from a sustainability point of view - think of all those trees we're saving! :o)

Will said...

Well, on a day like today, SH, the blogosphere does look more effective and more professional than the MSM - that's obvious. But there will be days like that, and days when the pendulum swings back. Perhaps it will take some sort of symbiosis between the establishment press and the blogosphere for things to really change.

But I remain ever the optimist - as long as there is an MSM, there's a chance it can redeem itself in our eyes.

And we'll only find another reason to get shot of the trees! :)

Scotgirl said...

Haven't you rather missed the point? Instead of slagging Iain McWhirter, for whom I hold no brief, shouldn't you be getting a bit more exercised about the McBride/Draper activities? I mean, you can't seriously think it will all go away if you simply write that it is a disgrace to bloggers and all very childish. There are much more substantive matters of integrity, judgement, power obsession and treating voters iwth contempt involved. And all you can offer is some slagging of Mr McW. Bit pathetic really.

Stuart Winton said...

Er, I think it's you that's rather "missing the point", scotgirl, and being a "bit pathetic".

You make it sound like McBride and Draper are being attacked by Iain MacWhirter as part of the blogosphere, and that they're being defended on here.

I certainly can't see that they are, and IMacW is being criticed for tarring the whole blogosphere with the same brush.

Lallands Peat Worrier said...

Fame at last, Will!


Will said...

Instead of slagging Iain McWhirter, for whom I hold no brief, shouldn't you be getting a bit more exercised about the McBride/Draper activities?With the greatest possible respect, Scotgirl, have you actually read the post? I think you'll find that I do make a point of criticising both the actions of Draper and McBride, and the constant muck-raking of Guido. Frankly, I wish that all three would simply crawl into a pit of the filth that they seem to enjoy.

But the fact is that I come at this as a blogger, and an activity that I derive great joy from is being attacked, one the one side by Draper for his ham-fisted attempts to get involved and shame us all, and the likes of Macwhirter who, as Stuart reasonably points out, seek to tar us all with the same brush.

It's now established that Draper et al are despicable: what more could I add? On the other hand, Macwhirter's article was bullshit and had to be called out.

LPW, I am, as always, available for birthdays. weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Scotgirl said...

Oh dear forgive me precious boys....I had no idea what fragile wee flowers you are and your egos are hurting so badly...........

Will said...

And your point, caller?

Stuart Winton said...

Scotgirl, if the nearest you come to debate is to accuse people of having hurt egos then you clearly have nothing of substance to say on the issue.

My blog readership is numerically miniscule, thus not really much of an ego to bruise, and those that do read my blog won't change their opinion of it one iota because of Iain McWhirter's article, of that I can assure you.

The issue is actually more about gratuitous insult than ego, but if you agree with Iain's unqualified criticism of the blogosphere then I doubt if the nuances of that argument will cut much ice with you!