Friday, February 02, 2007

Wouldn't it be nice for this country to be first again in something

Well, I guess that is not a particularly accurate wish. We were first in something not so long ago. The United Kingdom is proud to announce that it was first in having a TV programme, now world-famous and, unlike the NHS, imitated by many other countries. It was called Big Brother. Some of our readers might recall it.

What I would like to see is for Britain to be first or, at least, close second in something important and advanced in the modern world. For instance, we have blogs but do they play any serious part in the country’s politics?

I am sure Iain Dale (who is a friend, as I had better admit, while my colleague is otherwise occupied) and Tim Montgomerie, whom I also know, would tell me that their blogs play a very important part in Conservative Party politics and that may well be true, though I have yet to see David Cameron take any of their ideas on board.

There are similar blogs on the Labour and Lib-Dim sides and, no doubt, they have some influence within the parties. The problem concerns the wider field of politics, which is more likely to be of import and interest to the people of this country.

The assumption that the blogosphere has an existence and growing importance of its own, so widely recognized in the United States, is almost completely missing in this country. Newspaper readership may be going down, TV viewing is certainly not growing and, as far as the BBC is concerned, actually going down but they are still the measure of all things.

Even on the forum that is attached to this blog we get periodic comments about the need for us to try and get into the MSM or to be nice to journalists. Of course, if the blogosphere were taken seriously in Britain, the MSM would want to publish what this blog puts up often ahead of them. (The Daily Telegraph has finally managed to notice that Germany is proposing EU-wide legislation to make the denial of genocide carried out with racist and xenophobic motives illegal. Duh!)

Instead, our journalists run their own p**s-poor blogs in which they assure the world that the real, independent blogs never have an original story. And the readers nod their heads, the definition of a story being something published in a newspaper, no matter how late in the day.

Going back to the United States, I note that a number of bloggers formed a Media Bloggers Association and this organization has been "credentialed" to cover the Libby trial. As a result, a number of them, from different parts of the political spectrum, are live-blogging. To be fair, it took two years for the Association to negotiate this but they have made it.

Both the Republican and Democrat Conventions last year gave bloggers accreditation. And no, that is not the same as choosing one favoured blogger, as our parties do, and letting him or her produce an official version of what is going on. (On the other hand, party conferences in this country are so dull that live-blogging becomes an oxymoron.)

One of the recent developments on the blogosphere has been the growth of what my colleague calls "clogs", that is corporate blogs. Then there are the various blogs and blogger communities that are being created by news and media outlets. What they are trying to do is to institutionalize and, thus, control this so far unpredictable phenomenon.

As it happens, I do not think that can happen. The essence of the Internet and the blogosphere is anarchy and it has empowered, to use that seriously overused word, more people faster than anything has done since the invention of printing.

Only then England was ahead in the game.


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