Blogland,  UK Politics

Nutty Hazel – byting the hand that rss feeds

“Political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy.”

That is, at least according to Communities Minister, Hazel Blears.

She delivered this analysis yesterday in a speech to the Hansard Society in which she attempted to explain “political disengagement”.

To be frank, this explanation sounds a bit like the music industry whinging about downloading. In a similar way, blogging is demonstrating a great revolution in political engagement, not a disengagement. Old timers like Blears have just been too drowsy to notice it, harness it, and translate it into something compatible with the mainstream political system.

Her ‘simply-not-getting-it’ is amply demonstrated in this fine-sounding piece of (hollow) rhetoric:

“Until political blogging adds value to our political culture, by allowing new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair.”

What? What does “adding value” even mean? How exactly does “political blogging” disallow new voices and ideas? Anyone can have a blog. They’re free. There is no governing authority issuing licenses. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a retired professor of political studies or semi-literate teenagers with socialisation issues, you can spout your “ideas and legitimate protest and challenge” till the cows come home.

Indeed, as The Independent points out, “politicians write blogs too”. Blears even has one herself!

The Independent also notes that “Drawing her cue from the success of President-elect Obama, she believes that mainstream parties must learn to use the web as a fundraising and campaigning tool which may lure people away from the bloggers towards ‘considered’ debate.”

Yes, this is just like the record companies. Has she been in a coma? The modern ‘Internet’ hit its stride in 1996, a year before Labour came in to power. They’ve fought and won three election in the age of the Internet. If mainstream parties still haven’t learned to use the web by now, then the “disengagement” problem is with them, not the public and certainly not the bloggers.