On blogging; or the art of irritating as many people as possible
The comment thread is compulsive viewing, with most of the heavyweights weighing in at one point or another, but it also sheds light on one of the central difficulties of blogging. Damien states in the thread that "I wish I could say I hadn’t seen its like since I was an undergraduate" but that sadly it's all too common these days. However, during the course of the argument he also employs one of the classic JCR debating techniques, the sneery hyperbolic rhetoric used to disparage the other's argument.
Don’t curl your toes like that, dear reader; this is part of the Web 2.0 revolution, the new coffeehouse culture, the revival of satire. It’s punk all over again, but, unlike the Sex Pistols, Chicken Yoghurt and The Devil’s Kitchen—crazy names, crazy guys—really will smash the system this time (rather than leave Yes touring stadiums 30 years later with a separate pantechnicon for their money and Johnny “Rotten” appearing on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here).
Hey, it's a usually good, usually funny way of attacking someone's argument and I'm not knocking it as such. The use of the 19th century 'dear reader' is a particularly nice touch - what could distinguish the writer more from the sweary Kevins of the 'bloggertarian' persuasion (which is, incidentally, a very good neologism).
But the problem is that this sort of sneery attack on specific bloggers is no more attractive than those bloggers' own addiction to opprobrious epithets. I don't particularly have a dog in this fight: I read and enjoy all the above blogs, and can find something to chuckle about in all of them too. For what it's worth, I find the attacks from Damien on the three bloggers above arguably more unpleasant than the bad language in a DK post on Gordon Brown for example. I think also that, in so far as he argued from the specific Justin post to a wider theme of shoddy blogging, he misses the point that while it is certainly the case that swearing in and of itself does not make for good or enjoyable reading, its presence in an otherwise cogent piece does not rob that piece of its validity.
Ultimately we can't all be like Oliver Kamm, and post, with slightly ponderous majesty, impeccably well-researched arguments complete with a bumper stack of footnotes. For those of you who like that thing, and I'm one, Kamm is a great blogger. It's not the only way of blogging though.