Home > Dave's Favourites > Requiem for a Blog

Requiem for a Blog

I began blogging on Labour Members’ Net in the spring of 2007. At first it was a way for me to relieve the interminable boredom of writing and researching essays for my postgrad degree. I hadn’t yet discovered the value of going outside and it brought me into contact with others from the political party I had just joined – the Labour Party. It was a more erudite attempt at the same engagement which came from the OULC events I attended that year.

A year or so later, I moved to this site, picked up some co-contributors and went my merry way. Everything annoyed me, so everything was fair game for comment. I had been known as Mr. Angry on Members’ Net and this soubriquet continues to be applicable, I suspect, but through my blogging the anger was directed at the hypocrisy of our ruling class, the political and moral ineptitude of Labour and no few other bloggers, for one reason or another.

Quite quickly it became apparent that there were limits to blogging. Put simply, it didn’t change anything. Liberal Conspiracy and other agglomerating sites occasionally gathered in commentary from people who organised protests and meetings, though even here there was a tendency for this to be either London-centric (i.e. in a location readily accessible to the disparate network of people who blog and read blogs) or run by and for the commentariat.

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I loathe this commentariat. The hallmark of the commentariat aristocracy, the Toynbees of the world, were recycled truisms, easily disproved but never admitted. Fashionable writers below this level made do with saying nothing in a stylish manner. Still further into the Stygian depths were the political opportunists, endlessly attempting to cobble together bandwagons of the outright reactionary and the pitiably naive.

The “campaigns” on civil liberties by various media luvvies are foremost in my mind here, though there is hardly a lack of such opportunism, each exponent hiding beneath the exclamation, “Something must be done!”

The great advantage of Marxism is that it prevents naive illusions in the leaders of the Labour movement or the capitalist class. Lenin’s beautifully succinct article, “Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism”:

“People always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be until they have learnt to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. Champions of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realise that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is kept going by the forces of certain ruling classes. And there is only one way of smashing the resistance of those classes, and that is to find, in the very society which surrounds us, the forces which can—and, owing to their social position, must—constitute the power capable of sweeping away the old and creating the new, and to enlighten and organise those forces for the struggle.”

No doubt everyone involved found it edifying to listen to so many speeches by so many luminaries, but what did their approach change? The answer was absolutely nothing, and it had the added disadvantage of providing some fig leaves to people I regard as lower than vermin. With respect to Our Nye, one doesn’t have to be descended from the lower nobility or mired in the subjective stink of class privilege to objectively be a poor-bashing Tory lackwit.

If anything stopped me from being absorbed into the commentariat, it was probably less my political views and more my oppositional, anti-social and basely cynical nature. Objectively, whilst I sat idle behind my keyboard, I was little different from them. My equivalent of their dithering-while-Rome-burns was the volume of he-said-she-said articles and daily bemoanings of Westminster events I wrote, and look back on with no little embarrassment.

Hobbies, I suppose, are intrinsically embarrassing because they are personal or milieu-based. Whether it’s building and maintaining train sets, collecting stamps or bird-watching, outside of the groups of people thus involved, these things can look silly. And since what I wrote had no practical purpose, it was nothing more than a hobby. That said, there’s one area which is not so easily dismissed, and which I believe have continuing relevance for the blogosphere.

That is writing which is essentially agitational propaganda. I like to think I did a good job striking down manure Labour and Tory politicians liked to heap on workers. Accounts of industrial disputes, defences of union actions and reports of the meetings I was involved with strike me as being the most salvageable articles, because they provide a socialist response to practical issues of the day and point the way towards actual, physical engagement.

I don’t believe there is any substitute for this. I value the writing of numerous authors active on the internet. Duncan Weldon and Chris Dillow, for example, regularly produce food for thought on matters economic. I find these useful as they help me to process information I acquire elsewhere into a useable format that can inform my political judgment and which then has further practical uses, in discussing with and recruiting people to the Socialist Party.

It was this emphasis which led me from Labour to the Socialist Party in the first place. There are 17 constituency Labour Parties in Kent and two branches of the Socialist Party, and I’m pretty much certain that the campaigning capacity of the SP massively outweighs the much larger Labour Party in this county. The reason is quite simple; Labour is turned in on itself, or else it is focused exclusively on certain institutions such as the press or local councils.

The blogosphere, in large part, provides an easy analogy and is equally ineffective. More worryingly, the blogosphere also seems to have become a method of choice for personal advancement, rather than a means for informing collective struggle. All the internet-based venom in the world won’t actually fix these  problems, and that’s why I don’t blog anymore. I leave it to others, whether they are part of that collective struggle or just more hamsters in a particularly public wheel.

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  1. paulinlancs
    August 9, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Not a surprise announcement to those who appreciate what you’re about. Appreciation of your time as a pioneer Marxist blogger to follow soonish.

  2. Rob the cripple
    August 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Life can suck, but to be honest I have been sitting and watching bloggers who gain a job within Labour or the Tories from blogging.

    It’s been interesting but not unsurprising.

  3. August 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I think your best blogging was as you described it: agitational propaganda. I wouldn’t be so harsh on the wider activity though. I think it has many similarities to being a teacher. Not because it is didactic but – rather – because you never know the impact you’ve had (or will have) when someone stumbles across your writings. Intellectually coherent bloggers are more common than you might presume and just because some notable use blogging as a lever to greater power doesn’t mean we all do.

    We’re not all the blogging equivalents of churnalists, though there *is* a lot of that – where people coattail the main news to spike their hits.

    Myself, I’m very occasionally read and I may be spitting in the well of insignficance but in order to feel at peace with the awfulness of this world I do have to bear witness.

    Bearing witness means more to myself than my readers? Yes, perhaps it does. But, in the worst case scenario, it’s better than being locked up in a hospital because one can’t deal with what’s out there.

    And in the best case scenario, it fills that well just a little so that one day someone may be able to climb out of it.

    We’re small. I am, anyway. I have to take small steps. Blogging is one of those steps.

    And just so you know, the only reason I now blog on the open Internet – instead of burrowing away inside Members Net and trying to reason from my mindset of relative privilege with your determined class anger – was because of the things you wrote.

    You didn’t intend to teach me, Dave. But I did learn from both your behaviours and your content.

    I don’t, after all, think I could have written the stuff I’ve posted in the last couple of days if I hadn’t escaped from the self-serving cosiness of the aforementioned environment.

    So you see. You saved at least one soul – can’t that sometimes be enough?
    :-)

    Good luck with all your endeavours, anyhow. Even when you’re wrong, as I think in part you are in what you say above, you’re engaging. And I’ve never got the feeling I’m wasting my precious life on this earth whilst I’ve chosen to read something you’ve written.

  4. August 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Sorry to read this. Like many others, I haven’t always agreed with you but have always found your stuff honest and principled. Most importantly, your best posts have always been agitational and not just passive commentary. There’s not enough of that in the present blogoshere. You’ll be missed.

  5. August 11, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Mil, far be it from me to criticise anyone attempting honest intellectual engagement with the world. But as a great man once said, philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. Writing, however public, is philosophising, in this analogy, unless it seeks to interact with the real powers for change – in my view, the working class.

    The problem with the blogosphere is that it is not an engine for change, but merely a mirror, reflecting the state of play amongst the politically-educated minority, or some particular section of that minority. One person convinced this way or that means nothing if the convincing has no real-world ramification, no move towards an activist orientation.

    In short, not by conquering the blogosphere will socialists change the world, but only by changing the world will socialists conquer the blogosphere, making political literacy and political power the birthright of all, and not the rather insipid, mediocre minority which currently holds sway, the so-called left wing of which is neatly skewered by Lenin’s remark, above.

    We are small, and we do have to take small steps – but if the question is, “What steps shall we take?” the answer must go beyond writings, however convincing. Not even a William Morris could say differently. I am pleased, for all that, that people have found value in what I’ve written; I enjoyed writing it, I have to say.

    • August 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

      “But as a great man once said, philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”

      Yes. That is very true. I still do wonder if what we need out here is a better feedback mechanism. So much of what we have written gets taken onboard (that’s my firm belief) – and yet we can’t be absolutely sure it has at all, because a comment isn’t made even as a conclusion is quietly reached.

      Blogging see-saws between furious trolling on the one hand and an uncommon reader silence on the other. The happy medium – where the comments are just as important and frequent as the OPs; a happy medium which I have to say has often been found on TCF – is not widely apparent elsewhere. So if you were looking to engage people and get them off their backsides, in our monitor-facing virtual world you already achieved quite a lot.

      It’s clearly not enough, of course – and your appeal to change the real world in order that as a side-effect the blogosphere be conquered is revealing. Everyone wants a job. That individuals use their freely offered-up writings to lever such positions of paid employment is only human. That it should corrupt the potential power of the blogosphere was perhaps inevitable. That the solution is to retire from a game you feel you cannot win – and which you conclude in any case is secondary to the real task at hand – is, however, in my gently expressed opinion, not a viable option.

      But I do respect the thought processes which have led you to such a conclusion. Those I cannot deny – they are as totally coherent as one could want.

      Perhaps you’re simply not a natural editor- and blogger-in-chief? Too impatient to sit back and let ideas take their unpredictable and unrecognised course?

      Or perhaps you were once a natural editor- and blogger-in-chief – and now you’ve grown into something else? Doesn’t mean you have to reinterpret the past – or conclude that the tool that got you thus far is generally corrupting, weak and inappropriate for left-wing agitation.

      That the big bloggers scurry rapidly to become as MSM as possible is their choice. It doesn’t, however, have to be ours.

      Each to his own is the principle which I think might operate here.

      I’m never going to be able to stand up physically in front of a crowd and lead them intelligently through the steps a revolution should take. I simply cannot do it – I would physically shake. I *can* gather my thoughts in front of a computer screen and put them together reasonably cogently. If you are prepared enough and capable enough to do the first, and are good at organisation, and can see clearly enough to communicate your vision in first person, then do so. And let others, who are only just setting out on their journey of understanding, creep there slowly by beginning to write and communicate tentatively in public. Where that is what *they* want to do.

      The blogosphere often serves as a mechanism of self-initiated consciousness-raising. Yes. It’s inefficient, lumberingly repetitive and leads to so many people reinventing the wheel. But it also means that once such a state of awareness is reached, a real sea-change of understanding is auto-cemented.

      Truth of the matter is that what we’re unable to achieve right now is a useful appreciation of how to tap into those very permanent sea-changes – and take advantage of them for our own ends. But they *are* out there – and they *do* exist.

      Don’t give up on social media, Dave. Even if it simply means you choose to use it behind the scenes, only.

  6. August 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    I don’t think I have given up on social media – but I’m unsure what role you see it as playing. I feel closer than ever to the army of socialist activists across this country because we communicate via social media; we share tactics, experiences and plans.

    Some of them we pulled towards the movement by discussions and agitation on the internet – which is not much different from having the same conversations in a workplace or on a stall. But the fullest stage of that development is only reached when there is a real-world movement into which to integrate these interested minds.

    That real world movement is one of people, intervening in a physical world of processes, only one of which – and not a central one – involves the internet. Insofar as social media can organise – sharing times of meetings, topics of debate and experiences – I’m all for it. I don’t see social media as having the capacity to replace leafleting, door knocking, stalls, community meetings, workplace conversations, union branches and the revolutionary party.

    • August 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      Yes. I understand that – and agree to an extent. But I am also mindful than in a globalised world – which has been globalised on the terms we now witness – we have to act with a similar breadth of vision. And the only way we can do so is to use social media – to communicate online as well as organise offline: any other way is too costly and time-consuming. Yes. It will be open to intervention by states of one kind or another – but in a sense we should also act in the belief that we have nothing to hide. It is clear what the enemy wants: absolute rendition to an ideology which is evermore apparent. It can therefore come as no surprise to anyone when one chooses to oppose such a rendition – or, indeed, by so doing, what in the end one must stand for.

      The real world stuff must continue – but it must also require a technological support strategy not even traditional parties are very good at. I’m probably going to be slated for suggesting this, but where I admired the Lib Dems the most was in their former ability to work at local level. Not how they did it (telling the most convenient half-truths) so much as what was clearly an overarching and well-understood strategy to hit the grassroots hard and running.

      That is what a socialist approach to winning over minds needs. Not the same how, of course but surely the same strategy. And if you do want to successfully reach the width and breadth of a society, you must multiply the diffusion of both process and result. Whether we like it or not, realistically this implies the continued use of sophisticated technologies.

      No?

  7. August 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Well, no, not really.

    First of all, I don’t think the Lib-Dems did anything differently in terms of how locally they campaigned. Anyone who thinks they did hasn’t seen an active Tory or Labour constituency party at work. They are all much of a muchness in sum total, though quality varies by area.

    The perception that they worked at a local level is more a triumph of the very half truths you then dismiss; the Lib-Dems at local level, like Tories and Labour are bound by paradigms that stretch far beyond the local. Nevertheless your approval of such a local focus indicates that your heart is in the right place; opposition to the global order begins locally.

    I’m not suggesting that local organisation can survive in isolation – and I agree that sophisticated technologies can help break down that isolation. But on a local level. opposition to the status quo is first and foremost physical – because all the institutions that can be turned against that order are physical.

    Everything that does not feed into that is ephemeral – and social media is thus only of use insofar as it feeds into that. I think the problem all too many bloggers face – with notable exceptions such as Paul C – is that they have not identified the institutions around which to congregate resistance, i.e. they have refused party politics for whatever mistaken reasons.

    • August 12, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      “I’m not suggesting that local organisation can survive in isolation – and I agree that sophisticated technologies can help break down that isolation. But on a local level. opposition to the status quo is first and foremost physical – because all the institutions that can be turned against that order are physical.”

      True. But when sophisticated technologies (ie non-physical means) are used by the status quo to get *their* message across, and when more and more young people organise their lives around what they receive via the virtual, you will simply lose out on a vast potential space of communication because you make of the local a necessarily physical thing.

      Local agit prop, organisation and consciousness-raising via virtual and mobile technologies can also take place, as you will be only too aware.

      Sadly, too, local is often interpreted as parochial – which in its literal sense it is, and always will be. But parochial as in the sense of limited in vision and intellectual coherence doesn’t have to be the case if we use globalising technologies to connect. The key here is to make massive the literally parochial – to connect all those parishes where local activities spring up – without allowing them to lose their local natures and characteristics. Global should equal diversity/plurality should equal local multiplied a millionfold.

      Refusing party politics? You need agreement on a relatively large raft of policy proposals to avoid that. In times of dramatic Western mainstream crisis such as now there’s really too much confusion and aftershock bewilderment for most people to be able to believe *anyone* knows what they’re doing. Thus the reluctance *I* certainly feel to sign up wholeheartedly to that kind of action – though, as you say, Paul C for example does seem, despite all they’ve thrown at him, to continue to believe in the long-term need to commit.

      Maybe you’re right Dave. I’m trying to justify something that’s unjustifiable. I do still believe very strongly in the power of mission-driven and properly focussed publishing to achieve certain political ends, though. And will probably continue – I guess foolishly for most – to sustain such a position for quite a while to come.

  8. August 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I think our key point of difference is where you see many young people organising their lives around the virtual, I do not. I see exactly the same practices and traditions amongst young people, except facilitated by social media. The school or college, the pub, the sports club, the stay over and so on – as factors in young people’s lives, these things have not lost their centrality. What happens in them is not determined by social media either – just reportage happens so that a wider group are now explicitly aware of what is happening at these venues.

    We also disagree on the nature of party politics; I see joining a party as part of political education, not its culmination.

  9. Jacob Richter
    August 12, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    You left the Labour Party for the SP? When?

  10. August 12, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    About 2009?

  11. Jacob Richter
    August 14, 2012 at 2:40 am

    Sorry, I don’t recall reading that from past posts of yours. Again my apologies.

  12. Edgar
    August 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    The internet may not be an engine for change but it is a major development on the road to a communist future. We now have something called collective intelligence, we can share knowledge with each other on a mass scale for very little money. This is something I do in my job every day. If I am stuck with some particular problem I type it in the net and I usually get the answer or enough clues to work the answer out. This adds to my knowledge and I can pass that onto other people.

    The fight over internet neutraiity and freedom is a critical epoch defining struggle.

    Whatever the left do they must become militantly pro internet freedom.

  13. August 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    You say blogging’s been keeping you off the streets and, looking back, that blogging was a hobby, and a detrimental pressure valve. You may feel ineffectual (though how can you know who and what you influenced and why – as a blogger – would you want to?). I’m entirely with you on the desirability of academic economists taking to the blogosphere. But for others with less perfect political development than yours, who are thinking things through online where exposure is exhilarating and brings out their best – who’s to say that’s not ultimately going to prepare them for the rigours of the streets? Why should bloggers only write agit prop? And why should readers of blogs only be told what to do and think as if their minds were empty vessels? To diminish the reflective and auto-didactic capabilities of blogging is a mistake.

  14. August 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Edgar, I’m not sure I’m grasping you rightly. Are you agreeing with me that the internet is not an engine for change, and then also stating that, despite this, the possibilities inherent in the internet readily lend themselves to a communist future? If that’s the case then I agree with you wholeheartedly. But Mil and I had really got stuck on the first part, whether or not the internet is an engine for change.

    More broadly and just off the cuff, I think the left – including the communist left – are indeed militantly pro-internet freedom. If you ask me, the best place to intervene in that struggle would be with the telecommunications workers who are implementing the draconian anti-piracy laws, but again that would be intervention in the real-world physical architecture which sustains the control of the ruling class over the internet.

    Flesh; I actually identify particular aspects of blogging – as I say in the OP, the “he-said-she-said” with the focus on Westminster – that I regard as hobbyist and you neatly sum up, a detrimental pressure valve. I do not dispute the value of blogging per se where that blogging can either educate the socialist cadre or persuade people to become involved in the fights we on the left believe in. I sum those up as agitprop, and I believe those can and do prepare people for the streets. They are hardly different to a branch lead-off or political chats over a few bevvies. In order to do either of those things accurately, I believe they must be from the perspectives born of direct engagement with political struggle in the real world.

    I think the utter inability of the one type and the ability of the other type of blogging to prepare people for the real world is self-evident, to be honest, and I didn’t expect to find any argument.

    If I am allowed to use an example, go back to 2009 (when I was probably at the height of my writing) and the Lindsey Oil Refinery strikes. Myself, Phil BC and, IIRC, Harpymarx all came out in unequivocal support of the strikes. Quite a few other bloggers and organisations hedged or worse. I believe the key difference here was that those who gave a full throated defence of the strikes and voiced the class perspectives since proven sound by events had a history of being out on the picket lines and weren’t in the least dismayed by the armchair moralising over the use of the slogan “British Jobs 4 British Workers”.

    This is the sort of thing that I mean when I say there is no substitute for real physical engagement. Praxis; the reflective use of theory and practice. The things I’ve described above as agitprop points towards this model, and actually it informed all my best blogging, including the deeply theoretical articles. Economics is crucial to this as well, as it is so often neglected, hence my mentions of Chris and Duncan.

    As an aside, I don’t believe I’m treating anyone as an empty vessel, nor diminishing the auto-didactic capacities of blogging – I am a poster boy for the opposite, because when I wasn’t wasting my time with the latest drivel on comment is free, I was reading some article or book because I wanted to bring it up for debate with my readers.

  15. August 16, 2012 at 1:17 am

    On the last part of your aside – why not carry on doing that?

    Nobody was attending our council area meetings, so they thought they might webcast them. Hardly anybody attended the webcast either. The problem is the conduct and format of the meetings, the bureaucracies behind them, and there’s also a problem with a fairly inert electorate which is the same problem on or offline, it turns out. The parts of the blogosphere you object to are a symptom rather than a cause, I think – though I do take your point that armchair pontificating and left wing moral panics set a really bad example to the youth.

    So I’m not convinced that it’s all down to physical engagement. What exactly is the class perspective legacy of the very physical Occupy movement (who incidentally were big into blogging and webcasting, as a widening participation measure)?

  16. August 16, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I am not going to carry on doing that because the people I wound up in debate with here – the Guy Aitchisons, Paul Kingsnorths and Sunny Hundals of the world – are not the people I’m out to convince. No offence to any of them but they are hacks who cooperate with the political establishment, utterly blunting whatever limited perspectives for change their liberal reformism allows them. At least on pickets, on stalls, in my workplace and so on, I’m engaging with real people, rather than the extremely small but extremely loud London set. There’s 24 hours in a day and time spent baiting one group is time not spent out doing other more important things.

    On the Occupy movement, I think they do have a class perspective, however woolly, and I have no problem with blogging as a measure to widen participation, as I say above. The problem is me; I can’t control how angry the liberal blogosphere makes me, and how it drives the urge to piss all over its smug faces, wasting time on an essentially fruitless endeavour. At least offline I don’t have to waste time on such people – they have no credibility amongst the working class anyway. I know that it’s not just me though who finds the whole blogosphere totally overburdened and distorted by these types; cf Labour List and so on ad nauseam.

  17. Edgar
    August 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Dave,

    The engine for change are people, the internet has possibilities that can only be realised by people. But the internet is a tool that can be transformative. A battle is taking place to define what the internet will be, this is an important battle I think. The internet is a very important part of civil society.

    • August 18, 2012 at 11:16 am

      I think we need to differentiate between the Internet and the web. The web has been corrupted significantly by SEO, advertising budgets, Facebook-type walled gardens and so forth for quite a while now. The Internet, the machinery behind it all, is also now well on its way to a similar corruption. Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight both for *their* freedoms and our more worldly ones at the same time.

      The impression I get is that the Internet and the web *should* be an important part of civil society – but the tendencies are towards big interests turning them into simple vehicles for advertisers to track potential customers and their money-generating habits, and for content owners to deliver their exorbitantly priced content. The civil society thing – as in the real world itself – seems more and more a superficial add-on designed to confuse an already bewildered public. Representative democracy as an ideal really doesn’t stand on its own two feet any more – those in power are *so* in power now that they don’t even feel the need to put on a show.

      I agree with Edgar’s following assertion: “[...] the internet is a tool that can be transformative.” Like all tools it can work for one or be turned against one. The key here, as I think I have already alluded to in previous comments, is working out how to make it work on behalf of the people – even as the powerful have many advisers and consultants who set its optimised functioning out on a silver platter for them.

      I think we need to investigate further how to use this tool to connect and raise consciousness, above all. The drip-feed processes which traditional politics and media have used so often against the people may finally have found their working-class ally in the mechanisms of social media. Only time will tell. But, as always, I am probably inordinately hopeful.

  18. Edgar
    August 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    I think the internet is qualitatively different in that is allows for collective intelligence, shared knowledge on a world wide scale. It isn’t just another tool. Some tools are epoch defining or have that potential. I believe the net is such a tool.

  19. August 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    I do not agree, and I defy anyone to demonstrate to me some way in which the internet has concretely altered the reality of political struggle.

    Mil, it might interest you to know that that last comment probably comes the closest to what I think, particularly in your critique of civil society and the internet.

    Where we really differ is over the “transformative” nature of the internet, which I believe is easily separated from whether or not the web can work on behalf of people, rather than business etc. That the internet can serve us is not in dispute. Is it transformative, in the context of political activism?

    I would contend it is just another route by which the politically active try to reach the politically inactive (or those of one stripe try to convince those of another stripe) but comes with the added danger of invisible problems targeting the people you want to reach.

  20. August 22, 2012 at 11:29 am

    “Is [the Internet] transformative, in the context of political activism?” Big question. Depends on whether its orginators truly manage to put the genie back in the bottle – or whether those who have tasted its freedoms are able to expand them. A turning-point in the life of the Internet and the web perhaps – even if not, yet, a transformation of our politics?

  21. August 22, 2012 at 11:31 am

    It may of course be that the Internet and web are best-placed to transform certain kinds of politics over others. Perhaps better suited to everything-goes libertarianism than socially supportive and human-transforming ideologies?

  22. August 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Again, Mil, your insight here is really good. Whilst I wouldn’t agree that the internet has transformed any particular ideology, I think you’re on to something trying to separate out whether or not particular ideas or models of campaigning have been more or less altered by the internet.

    We can’t ignore the online epiphenomena of real-world politics, like Ron Paul or Barack Obama and their online coterie.

    But at the same time, the actual power-relations of the capitalist state exist in the real world. If you don’t want to challenge those, then the internet is your dream come true, because it is just another way of beaming centrally-approved content into the homes of millions. It worked for Obama, and when he got elected, that movement of millions who supported him, gave online donations etc, was promptly ignored.

    Anyone that doesn’t want to challenge capitalism, which is a relation between people and not an abstract idea, can exist in the aether – as a media face or a net personality, cultivating a select corner of the available total audience. With all their twitter profiles, this is how our current political elite exists. A socialist can’t exist like that, because a socialist wants to challenge people’s passive acceptance of (or even disorganised resistance to) capitalism.

    The best way to win that argument is not simply to make it abstractly, it is to organise. Organisation changes the conditions of struggle, turning them from hopeless to hopeful, and it happens in the real world, as it too is a relation between people. That is why the internet cannot and never will play a “transformative” role in socialist politics. It can merely assist, like distributing leaflets and socialist newspapers and having branch meetings.

  23. August 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Dave, “The problem is me; I can’t control how angry the liberal blogosphere makes me…” &tc . Despite myself I find that quite convincing. There’s a recreational side to blogging where it becomes a sporty, a war of wits, like a squash match. Strong impression some people are having too much fun to be doing justice to the serious stuff. Networking – and not in the sense of seeking comradeship and morale. What a turn-off, yes. But that’s not the extent of the blogosphere. Have you ever read The Sun’s comment threads? Plenty of good discussions to be had there.

  24. August 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I’ve never read the Sun’s comment threads, no. And yes, networking, you put your finger on it. That feeds into the critique which Miljenko draws out (see also the comment thread) at his place in his most recent commentary on our discussion.

    Whilst I know for a fact that the elements identified above are not all there is to blogging, they clearly dominate it, in terms of audience, if you look at the stats.

  1. August 11, 2012 at 8:50 pm
  2. August 12, 2012 at 10:34 am
  3. August 23, 2012 at 11:46 am

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