Thursday, 26 April 2007

Political blogging

It seemed a good idea at the time. Now I'm not so sure. Next Thursday, I'm at the frontline club with Ben Hammersley - one of my favourite gurus and blogger - and Richard Gizbert - of the al Jazeera 'Listening Post'. Blogger Ethan Zuckermann - co-founder of Global Voices and blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah will join by phone.

We'll be talking about political blogging. An uneven contest, especially since I'm the - alleged - sceptic in the line-up. And even more especially since I'm not in the least sceptical about blogging ... whatever that would mean.

What I am sceptical about is that blogging or any other form of social networking can fix what's bust about our politics and our political journalism. In fact, it's more likely to make them both worse.

Each new alliance of social media and politics has one or more of these claims made about it;
Each of which is fine in itself. But while all of these contribute to the civic conversation, they aren't the problem. I can see little evidence that blogging or any other form of social networking increases the trust - still at floor level - that voters have in politicians or in those who report their doings to them. I can't see how a blogging politician is any closer to his/her constituency than one who holds surgeries, makes speeches at prize-givings and knocks on the occasional door.

From what I see of the successful political blogs - let's take Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes for instance - they replicate the inward looking, metropolitan chumminess of the Westminster village that many in the audience find repellent in both politics and political journalism. Similarly, I'm left wondering what it is or might be that Benedict Brogan, say, or Daniel Hannan (political journalists both, politician the latter) might say in their blogs that they might not say in their columns, leaders or - in Daniel Hannan's case - addresses to the European Parliament.
It's inevitable, too, that - as Joe Trippi told Jeff Jarvis - politics on social networking sites will become dominated by 'makaka moment' videos ... accentuating rather than countering a similar trend in political reporting.

Crucially, though, no form of social networking bridges the gap that has to be bridged. And that's the one that used to be filled by party organisation that joined the civic conversation to political action - formally in the case of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, informally in the case of the Conservatives. It's fine to have a robust and energetic civic conversation ... but a conversation is exactly what it says it is; talk.

I can see how blogging enables that conversation; I can't see how ideologies are derived from it nor how political judgement and action are derived except in a nervy, fractured obedience to some assessment of 'the public mood'. Which is precisely the problem in the three way relationship between people, politicians and political journalism.

Let's see how Thursday goes.


Anonymous said...

Bloggings another way out for information that once stayed inside - be it organizations, Davos committee rooms, you name it. That's what makes good blogs - look at Bahrain's Mahmood al Yousif...

Kevin Marsh said...

Agreed ... but my difficulty is seeing how that connects with making political decisions. My guess is that you and I would both like politics done differently - ditto (political) journalism. Thing is, Herr Doktor Gestalt, we are where we are and it is now. Talk, great; translate to action ... hmmm

Guido Fawkes Esq. said...

I turned down the invitation to be on the panel because, well, some people do and some people talk.

But I can't let that "chumminess" line stand. I definitely have no interest in making friends at Westminster and have more than succeeded in that ambition. So what the hell is that all about?

If you mean, "knows his way round", well there wouldn't be much interest in a political gossip blog which didn't, would there?

Don't forget - it is only a blog, and it is intended to entertain not save the world.

Kevin Marsh said...

Sorry you're not there ... would have been good to talk and do.
I stand by the "chumminess" line - not because you're looking for a pal or two but because your (excellent) blog fulfils all the criteria of the kind of political reporting that many - most - in news audiences reject.
The clue is your line "political gossip" - and that's kinda my point. Great for insiders; a locked door for outsiders. Sure, it's only a blog and isn't intended to save the world.
Problem is, if you do happen to think saving the world is worth it, politics is pretty much your only tool.