I was chatting to a friend yesterday who works at a British women’s NGO and regularly conducts research and lobbies the government on that basis. As many organisations do. So I said it would be really useful if more of their people blogged about the research they do and feed into debates taking place on the web.
I think that’s important because, as we already know, many (political) bloggers will simply spout off on a subject without having any research to back up their points. They have an opinion on an issue and then get really agitated when the government does something else. Why does no one listen to them, they scream with rage.
Firstly, I think the level of debate on the blogosphere makes it very difficult for academics, anlysts, think-tanks and other NGOs to get involved. There’s too much “drive-by commenting” and people just want to spout abuse because that’s the culture we’ve developed. I believe this needs to change if the British blogosphere is to attract heavy-weights who can feed into constructive dialogue, as is the case a lot in the United States. I’m not saying the Americans do it better but I definitely think the level of debate there is way better (apart from the likes of LGF, Michelle Malkin and sometimes even Daily Kos) because more academics, analysts, policy people get involved.
Secondly, there’s also a fair bit of elitism amongst such organisations, who feel that testing their ideas amongst the masses serves no purpose and they should concentrate solely on lobbying. To an extent I can see their point since resources are usually quite stretched.
But sometimes I get the feeling they don’t want to have that debate because they’re worried it might challenge their own methodology / ideas. It may partly be because they don’t see a constructive debate happening (so it becomes a chicken and egg situation). But unless we get more people working at grass-roots, doing research or developing policy actually engaging with others on their ideas, it means intellectual stagnation. And I see this happening a lot on the left on areas like race, religion, feminism, environment, migration etc – where the same ideas from 20 years ago are being recycled.
That was the main reason I launched New Generation Network – to challenge those ideas and move the debate forward. And I think we did that well. Now the challenge remains to build a broad coalition, to have cross fertilisation of ideas, but also re-think our ideas on other issues than just race and religion. There are far too many single-issue groups just talking to themselves. It needs to change.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Net Campaigns,Party politics