[This was published on comment is free today]
One of the characteristics I admire in political commentators on the right is their willingness to repeat a “truth” until it becomes received wisdom for them, and sometimes even for their opponents on the left.
So, we must remember: the BBC is a leftwing institution populated by “metropolitan liberals”; the immigration debate has been suppressed for decades (as the Daily Mail and Telegraph constantly remind us); global warming is fiction; and most problems can be traced back to political correctness.
Did you notice I didn’t mention the phrase conspiracy theorists anywhere?
These aren’t like people who claim 9/11 was carried out by the CIA or that Nasa faked its moon landings. No, these are genuine grievances, dammit, about the abuses perpetuated by a vast liberal conspiracy.
My current favourite “truth” is that the British political blogosphere is dominated by the right. Or so the usual suspects keep telling us. Hell, even Alistair Campbell said it, so it must be true! But is it really?
I have nothing against Iain Dale (he even rated me as 72nd most powerful person on the left), so this isn’t a case of sour grapes. This says more about the state of our politics than about the blogosphere.
All of the top political blogs focus specifically on Westminster, rather than taking a broader view of the world. This is not uncoincidental, since national media attention, the real driver of growth for top political blogs, is biased towards viewing politics with a big “P” and is interested in bloggers who disrupt that tightly knit world. For example, Guido Fawkes‘s supposed influence derives almost entirely from the view that he may leak something embarrassing about a politician. Beyond his occasional discovery of a smoking gun, he can effectively be ignored. For example, his concerted attempts to throw mud at the Smith Institute or Lord Levy have yet to bear fruition. He is, in my view, a useful attack dog for those really pulling the strings.
In contrast to this, there is, in fact, quite a vibrant blogging culture on the left; it’s just more spread out over issues ranging from the environment, media, foreign affairs, feminism, civil liberties, race and identity and so on.
None of the popular political blogs on the left obsess about Westminster (unless they are by people in politics) as many do on the right, which explains why Anthony Barnett can’t find them pouring vitriol over the latest government announcement.
Online, the left has occasionally excelled, campaigning for Iraqi Employees or even something as global as Burma. Three thousand people attended a rally in London for Burma, organised almost entirely through Facebook, such is the power of online campaigning.
But here’s the problem.
While the decentralised nature of online left-wing discussion is a good thing, strategically it works out badly for us. The left has always been successful through collective action. In theory, the environmentalists should be campaigning with civil libertarians and feminists, while those with an interest in foreign affairs should be informing the debate on identity politics at home.
Instead, leftwing blogs discuss social issues almost as single-issue groups, focusing on relatively few areas of interest. This means far too little cross-fertilisation of ideas and conversation.
As I’ve said before: blogs are at their best when generating interesting commentary and new ideas, and when campaigning with like-minded people.
The current state of affairs on the left should change, and not just so we’re more strongly represented in future top 100 lists. It should change because left-wing bloggers are fundamentally under-utilising the collaborative power of the internet. C’mon people, get organised!
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Filed in: Blog,Party politics