Marshall Claxton’s painting The Lifeboat is housed in a small art gallery in Rawtenstall, in North West England. It portrays a group of people clinging desperately to the mast of a ship which is sinking, screaming and pleading for someone to rescue them. In the distance hope is at hand in the form of a lifeboat, paddling through the rain in a desperate fight to get the group before they’re taken by the sea forever. It came to mind this morning as I read the blog post of one paulinlancs, which I confess I have misread for many months as ‘Pauline in Lancs’ – my rheumy old eyes, I guess – it seems that Paul is not a big girl’s blouse after all, but a strategic thinker on the thorny question of why the left wing blogosphere exists in a permanent state of semi-submergement that requires strategic thinkers of the calibre of the definitely male Paul in Lancashire or even of Damian McBride and Sion Simon to hove to on the horizon and pull them out of the proverbial.
Collectively, they have a profound misunderstanding of the blogosphere. I never appreciated that more than today. Blog. It comes from Weblog. Essentially a private on-line diary to which you consign your daily ramblings, and which the marginally technically competent can eavesdrop on. It is reminiscent of the old shared telephone lines, where you could, on occasion, pick up your receiver and listen in bliss to the Vicar’s wife confiding her innermost secrets to her aged Aunt in Aberdeen. You can even be naughty, as we were long ago, and anonymously shout ‘knickers’ into the conversation to the consternation of both Vicar’s wife and her Aunt. Or ‘Quite so, I agree’ if you were so minded. Or you can depart in silence, bored by the fact that the Aunt’s cat has died, or annoyed by the religious ramblings on offer.
The Blogosphere was never intended to replicate the antics of Odysseus, who had himself tied to the mast of his ship so that he might hear the song of the Sirens. Nor of his crew, who filled their ears with wax, that they might not be tempted to drive him onto the rocks in desperation.
I don’t think it is any accident that the blogs I find most enjoyable to read, and which are coincidentally most successful, are those written by the anarchic cats of the Libertarian movement. They are the people who throw caution to the winds and just write whatever they feel like, whenever they want. They are the people who have struggled to fit themselves into the pigeon holes of the established left and right, and just wish to be left alone to pursue their lives and thoughts with a minimum of interference – from anyone. Eavesdropping on the thoughts of those who pursue an original path through life is more exciting, more exhilarating, than reading the formulaic outpourings of someone who has nailed their ‘colours to the mast’ – a phrase which encompasses both a declaration of intent, and a firm resolve not to be deterred from it, no matter how stormy the weather.
I struggle with the notion that there is any particular view of the world which a Libertarian should hold, or espouse, beyond a desire to be left alone to hold them. It seems to be the ultimate oxymoron. So I was saddened to see a comment ’somewhere’ – I apologise, I simply cannot find it again – which asked how ‘Anna Raccoon, Guthrum, and Leg Iron’ felt about sharing a platform with Old Holborn given his views on Zionism. The answer is, ‘just fine, thanks, just fine’. For they are just that, ‘his views’. They don’t impact on me in the slightest, nor, I would imagine, does my obsession with the Mental Capacity Act impact on him. Or demean him, or enrich him, or label him, or quite probably, even interest him. He is free to eavesdrop on my conversation, as I am on his. I don’t have to shout either ‘knickers’ or ‘Quite so!’.
If the right wing blogosphere is successful, it is in no small part due to the fact that those who do nail their right wing colours to the mast, tend to be the self motivated, those who take personal responsibility for themselves, who don’t require any help from the state in discovering how to access ‘blogspot.com’ , nor funding in order to do so. If it costs a few bob, they cheerfully dig into their pockets – they have jobs in the main, some have demeaning jobs, but anything is better than relying on the state, and once they have their blog, they set about railing and ranting on the iniquities of the system. They fit their blogs in around their real lives, they get up early, or miss Goldenballs, or twitter from their mobiles. They just do it. They also happen to do it at a time when the Fabian notion of Socialism has reached biblical flood proportions in our lives. Pure coincidence. It could well have been the other way round. Except. Except, as Paul in Lancs says…..
“What is needed to get local activism-focused left blogging going properly can be summed up under the following sub-headings:
Costs, funding and content – My initial workings suggest that a local blog covering a population of 30-40,000 people might be able to survive on turnover of around £80,000 per year inclusive of a living wage for two staff and operational costs, but exclusive of delivery costs (see below) which will need to remain volunteer based in the short term.”
Money, we must have money……! You see? Straight away it becomes a lack or ‘resources’ that is preventing the left wing blogosphere from being successful. In order to counter all that inexplicable success in the right wing takes around £80,000.
Legal form – We need a discussion and agreement on the best legal form for local blog set-ups and for an accompanying national network; the legal status should allow both maximum opportunity for fundraising while at the same time guarding ensuring worker control of the overall direction…
We gotta have a committee or two…..and then we need regulation, lots of it, to make sure nobody has any ideas of their own…..
Blog targeting – A clear, replicable methodology for the development of local blogs of the appropriate size and reach is essential, but with the right level of flexiblity built in to suit local circumstances.
Uniformity, that’s what we need, but allowing for diversity, we must target niche groups……
Beyond the blog medium – There also needs to be a commitment to getting blog-generated information and propaganda into areas which are or have become depoliticised; […]and towards workplaces and other environments in which class relations and rightwing hegemonies can be highlighted (e.g. benefits offices).
The Benefits Office as ‘right-wing hegemony’ – truly inspired!
Integration with other media – […] once the initial pilot blogs are set up, there needs to be an engagement with the NUJ about union membership for these paid bloggers, so that they can benefit from the solidarity, support, and access to training available to members.
Come on! Hands up if you’re a right wing blogger who gets paid to blog or belongs to the NUJ?
This is the Eddie the Eagle of the blog agony aunts, kind of endearing, but only arriving at the finishing line in an ungainly heap of misplaced optimism. Humourless, Centrist, with that left wing obsession that it takes money and union power, committees and focus groups, regulation and targeting, in order to succeed at anything.
Paul – you are a big girl’s blouse after all. Just get out there and start a blog – if people like listening in to what you say, even if they just like being annoyed by what you say – it will be successful.
- Longrider » The Coist of Blogging
- January 17, 2010 at 15:24