Thursday, December 14, 2006

On blogging; or the art of irritating as many people as possible

There been a little bit of a spat recently, all started by this post by Paulie at Never Trust a Hippy. The essential point is that the style of blogging espoused by, in Paulie's example, Justin at ChickYog, but perhaps more extremely by the DK and Mr Eugenides, is infantile; or possibly merely an unnecessary lowering of the tone of debate. This thread was taken up with gusto by the PooterGeek in a post that accused Justin and the others of "head-slapping, irrelevant, adolescent stupidity."

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good observations. Glad I'm not the only one infuriated by the Geekster's down the nose style. While impressive it's not necesarily pleasant.

9:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Oliver Kamm as well.

But his lawyerly style means that he does come across as a bit insincere.

I think that, sometimes, you have to be a bit snarky to provoke a response.

Maybe this is one of the downsides of online conversation. In the same way that we are more nasty and agressive when we are in cars than when we are walking around, maybe we are less civil when arguing online.

4:39 pm  
Blogger Tim J said...

I think there's certainly a risk of that - the absence of any real face to face element in blogging does lead rather often to more forcefulness than might otherwise be the case.

And you're certainly right that while a tortuously balanced 'on the one hand' piece tends to be overlooked, the addition of a jibe gets it rather more attention...

4:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It depends why you are blogging. If you are seeking to get some anger off your chest and readership is an added bonus then a certain style will work. If you are trying to convert people then an alternate style might be more successful. The blogs in the frame are all entertaining blogs but whether they speak to the unconverted I don't know.

For what it's worth, I don't think of Pootergeek as a political blog. Maybe that's what he aims for but my liking for it is based upon his sense of humour rather than his politics. I have shamelessly stolen his Michael Jackson’s story is Darth Vader’s in reverse post.

6:20 pm  

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