Monday, 9 April 2007

Oliver Kamm - Blogs

Error-strewn, insular and parasitic, political blogs tend not to enhance but poison healthy debate” says Oliver Kamm in today’s Guardian (9 April 07; http://tinyurl.com/2ejjm8).

Kamm's piece is a hotch-potch of claims unsupported by evidence. He accuses all political blogs as though blogs were of uniform type and standard. There are too many flaws here and so I’ll examine only a few.

Firstly, he says that political bloggers are the wrong sort of crowd to enable the wisdom of crowds to operate effectively. Why? They are a “self-selecting group of the politically motivated who have time on their hands. If not bloggers then who makes up the correct crowd: professional policitians – guess they’re politically motivated; think-tank “experts” – very few think-tanks are independent in thought each having a particular political outlook and those who work in think-tanks work there because they are interested in politics; academics – well they may be more independent but we would need to know their individual political stances and where their funding comes from?

It isn’t easy to find who really meets Kamm’s criteria. One could argue that bloggers are well-suited: they are interested in politics but come from a vast range of backgrounds unlike many in the MSM who are middle-class Oxbridge graduates.

Secondly, Kamm asserts that blogs narrow the range of available opinion because blogs are “parasitic on stories and opinions that traditional media provide”. Much in MSM would be omitted if this criterion was applied. In my experience, blogs don’t dwell on commentary pieces rather they mention an article as a lead into an issue in exactly the same way as Kamm does (see, for example, http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/2007/04/cash_for_servic.html).

My post is the first time I could be accused of being parasitic because my entire post is about Kamm’s article. What Kamm misses is that if I read only, for example, The Guardian, I will get only one view of a story but if I read its online Comment is Free page I get still one view but the view is modified by a large number of comments. In my, albeit limited, experience blogs increase the range of opinion simply because the range of political standpoints available in blogs is much much wider than that available in the MSM.

Finally, Kamm says that “In its …….. predictability of conclusions, the blogosphere provides a parody of democratic deliberation. This statement should be addressed more appropriately at both MSM and Parliament rather than at blogs.

Almost forgot: Kamm’s Guardian article is also available on Kamm’s own blog (http://tinyurl.com/22yros)!

Oliver, is your blog error-strewn, insular and parasitic? Yes!!

Oliver, do you feel slightly hypocritical? Yes!!

Hey! Now I’ve got it! Your article is about your blog and you were so embarrassed by its errors, insularity and parasitism you widened its scope and labelled all political blogs similarly.

Don’t give up the day job, Oliver.

Note: there is a very good blog on Kamm’s article at Reactionary Snob

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