Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Friday, January 19, 2007

DW Randall, run out, 13

Shorter version: We, bloggers, are the people. That's why we're so horrible, and that's why we will never have any influence. (this joke stolen from "The Poor Man")

I am obviously left on the sidelines of the current War o' the Blogs raging between "Guido Fawkes" and "Bloggerheads". I don't link to either of them anyway on my tiny little link list, and all of the people I do link to are mates of one kind or another and therefore not susceptible to de-linking more or less whatever they do. In general, I am not a big fan of ostentatious delinking out of nothing more tangible than a vague sense of it being a bit knobby, but I thought I'd consider this campaign a bit more carefully as it gives me an opportunity to have a go at the progressives again, sort of.

Tim Ireland, proprietor of "Bloggerheads", has a number of worryingly progressive tendencies, specifically a tendency to regard public participation in the bizarre minority hobby of politics as an end in itself, and a little bit of a lean towards self-superiority in his attitude to people who don't regard his projects as politically interesting. And he's about 36% more hung up on the importance of "the media" than I personally regard it as sane to be. But in general, I more or less regard him as a good bloke, mainly because his progressivist projects are directed toward somewhere where they might be of use. He expends his energies for the most part on having a go at professional or semi-professional politicians, telling them how to go about their lives, rather than the more common progressive project of doing the same to the man in the street (or just as bad, to working journalists, who have to earn a crust like the rest of us). Since politicians have by definition accepted that this is an OK thing to do, I regard Tim's projects as no-harm, no-foul, and if his utopia of blogging politicos does come about, at least I can have a pop at them in the comments section.

Guido Fawkes, on the other hand, has the stated ambition of being the British Matt Drudge. This is actually probably a realistic ambition as far as I am concerned; back in the 1990s, I used to read the Drudge site quite avidly, then gradually realised that all the stuff on it was actually extraordinarily dull, and until two minutes ago when I checked it was still there, I probably hadn't thought about it for five years. I am in roughly the same state with the Guido Fawkes blog. The trick that those sites have (and a large proportion of Private Eye too) is that they appeal to your vanity. They present the information in a conspiratorial "not everybody knows this" kind of way, so you look at the story and think "aaahhhhhh, so that's what's going on, actually I do seem to remember hearing about that, I must be an uncommonly sharp and switched-on individual" rather than the more logical response of "I read that in the paper two weeks ago". Every now and then they get a little bit of a scoop, but it is almost always of the variety "hey, have you heard? Bob called Terry a cunt! I wonder what Thelma will make of that?!?". Stuff that might or might not be true, but it hardly matters because in five minutes you will have forgotten about it, because a) it is very rare that you remember who Bob and Terry are, and b) even if something important does happen as a result, you will never connect it to the original story because Thelma will not provide a footnote saying "actually, it was all because Bob called Terry a cunt".

I kind of want to think that Guido is a man after my own heart though, because he does hate all politicians and by and large, so do I, so we're both negativists together. But when you look at that site, I don't think it really actually qualifies as a negativist blog at all.

Recall from the original "shit on progressives" post, that my argument is that I have no particular reason to believe I have any talent at all in suggesting policies or schemes. Therefore, the only way that I can participate in politics for the most part, is to criticise the flaws in the schemes proposed by others. Since the current government proliferates schemes with large and dangerous flaws at such a rate as to completely exhaust the time and effort I am willing to spare on this hobby, a rule of thumb would suggest that my time allocation should be 100% to criticising politicians and 0% to anything else. So my rule is "negative comment only".

But that isn't the same as "negative comment always". The point is that for any political thing you are expressing an opinion on, you have the option of 1) give negative comment, 2) give positive comment 3) give no comment. My thesis of negativism is that 2) is, apart from a few oddball cases, almost always a waste of time, since government projects don't need support from me, and non-government projects are unlikely enough to succeed that a version of the Voter Paradox kicks in. Effort is better expended on projects of type 1), because the probability of being the equivalent to the "marginal voter" is much greater - it's much, much easier for a mass movement to stop something than for a mass movement to start something. Of course, this means that fewer things get started, but I think that I covered that bit in the original progressivism post.[1]

So, from me, you will get negative comment, or nothing[2]. "Nothing", can be interpreted as an integral over the range "sullen acquiescence : enthusiasm". The point is that there is some differentiation between things I regard as dangerous ideas which ought to be opposed, and things that aren't, and this is my gesture of good faith, to show that I am actually taking these things seriously. If I issued a boilerplate statement of excoriation on everything that crossed my in-box, then this would be something different. Just as, my general hatred of Hazel Blears and John Reid has to be juxtaposed with a degree of regard for Hilary Benn and Gordon Brown (and even Alan Johnson, the minister), because if you don't make an honest assessment to assess the competence and honesty of politicians, then you're indistinguishable from a nut and/or idelogue.

This is what I don't like about the Guido Fawkes blog. It's a non-indicator. The author just shoots at every target that pops up, like one of the recurring jokes in "Police Academy". And he's doing it all in order to promote a wider project; a specific, libertarian-in-the-pejorative-sense small government agenda.

That's just more progressivism, with a minus sign in front of it. Constantly giving politicians the benefit of the doubt, in service of the cause of encouraging us all to put up with an encroachment of the political sphere into the rest of our lives, is in my opinion bullshit, but constantly giving the politicians stick, in the cause of encouraging us to put up with a roll back of the political sphere from parts of its proper territory, is no less bullshit. So on careful analysis, I don't consider myself part of that particular strain of politics.

So anyway, I am on the whole not up for a massive blogular boycott, of "The Sun in Liverpool" proportions, but I think that Tim Ireland's post has reminded me that the Guido Fawkes blog is correctly occupying that part of my mind marked "blogs that cause me to lose a bit of respect for people's opinions if I discover that they're really keen on them". Along there with Little Green Footballs and Daily Kos[3]. So if you wanted my opinion, you now have it.

PS: They do this sort of thing so much bigger and better over in the states.

PPS: I am in substantial agreement with Tim Ireland on everything he says about ethical comments section management policies, although to find out whether Guido Fawkes is actually guilty of the specific crimes concerned sounds like more work than I care to do. To be honest, if society has reached the point at which blog comments sections have any influence on anything important, then we are well into book 5 of "Decline and Fall" and the only thing to do is start moving things around a bit to make it more convenient for the cockroaches when they take over.

Conflict of interest declaration: I don't think I've ever communicated with either of them in any way at all. Guido Fawkes did copy me in on a mass email with a fucking great Flash file attached to it around the time of the last election, which I seem to remember irked me a little bit at the time - I'm not going to categorically accuse him of having spammed me, but I certainly don't remember ever having asked for it.

[1] Specifically, I am not in favour of any wholesale reorganisation of politics aimed at making it easier for groups of ordinary citizens to get together and "make things happen" in terms of big or even medium-sized projects of the kind currently carried out by government. The very idea gives me the shivers, frankly. I am of the unfashionable (is it? I don't have any idea what's fashionable these days) idea that parliamentary democracy basically works, in the sense of assembling people into administrative tasks who are more or less able to do them. I have no great belief in the ability of small largely self-appointed groups to do a better job. And (in a phrase that intelligent readers will surely see through as pure bluff) I think that, properly read, Hayek agrees with me.

[2] Obviously I don't stick to this as a hard and fast rule in every single case, what kind of a madman do you think I am?

[3] Just to be clear, I thought that the Daily Kos was a nest of bores and nutters long before I received any death threats at all from them.
12 comments this item posted by the management 1/19/2007 07:31:00 AM

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