Thursday, June 19, 2008
I came late to the blog wars that erupted in the Irish blogosphere recently, largely because I was doing other things, like getting drunk down under.
For those of you who don't give a shit about such things, which is basically everyone reading this who doesn't have an Irish blog themselves, plus a majority of those who do, one blogger suggested that the happy-clappy community atmosphere of Irish blogging was somewhat incestuous and stultifying.
They named a couple of names, and claimed that the best blogs didn't necessarily win at the Irish blog awards.
Then some of those named, plus some of their pals, took umbrage and lots of people typed angrily on their keyboards for a bit until the letters C, U, N and T were worn down by the efforts.
I can now hear you yawning, so I'll get to the point quickly.
Blogging is what you make of it, and ultimately it only functions as a modern day speaker's corner, expressing the individual opinions of those of us without syndicated newspaper opinion columns.
As such, it is a democratising factor in new media. You can find out what a postman thinks of the Lisbon Treaty, what gig a secretary enjoyed last night, or what small businesses are trying to do for their customers. You can also hear perhaps too much about some people's sex lives or their cats. And in the darkest corners, perhaps some people's sex lives with their cats.
Some people blog for affirmation that their jobs or lives don't provide for them. And that's fine. Often, for me as a reader, those confessional type blogs are quite fascinating. And generally well written too.
Others provide more of a general entertainment purpose. Sometimes more successfully than other times. But again it seems churlish to cavil, especially when it's free to read them and no one is making you do so.
Some people seem to be cynically emulating popular blogs from abroad. Some people use it as an outlet for their writing talent. Some just rant, like me. All of that is fine, to my mind. The weakness of the blogosphere is also its strength - the fact that it permits anyone an audience worldwide.
But I do also feel that the Irish blogosphere has a few teething troubles as it enters its toddlerhood.
I read quite a few Irish blogs, when I get the chance, and have even met one or two of those behind them. I'm pals with the odd blogger too. And of course, I blog too. That probably puts me in the middle of what I'm criticising here.
There is a lot of backslapping, and there are people who are repeatedly credited and applauded among Irish bloggers without necessarily earning it, I feel. I concur that to my mind the best blogs didn't necessarily win in the blog awards. But that's simply my opinion and other people's opinions clearly differ.
I think it is healthy for people to criticise other blogs. Apart from holding people to account for what they write, it also encourages debate, which is never a bad thing.
Good blogs have lived and died in Ireland for want of a readership. It would be nice to see more blogs reaching a wider readership than the same handful that are repeatedly cited in the lazy mainstream media. (Especially when some of those cited are by people working in the mainstream media.)
The music industry model seems to me a viable one for the Irish blogosphere to emulate. U2 will always pack out Croke Park and sell out in 30 seconds. And that's grand. But there needs to be the equivalent of Whelans or Belfast's Rotterdam, or those regional music pubs where a local band can get a break and an audience.
I'm not sure how that can be achieved, but it does seem to me that Mulley's Post of the Month initiative serves that purpose a whole lot better than his calling people cunts.
But I'm glad the row broke out, and well done to the lassie whose post kicked it all off, even if I wouldn't agree with all she said. Because it had to be said by someone, and now it has been we're all better off for it.
It's unfortunate that the resulting debate more resembled schoolyard cliques handbagging each other than a proper adult discussion, but I'd put that down to the size of the Irish blogosphere and the novelty of the medium.
What's important now is that people take away from this the ability to open up to new blogs regularly, and criticise anything they disagree with, and foment debate as often as possible.
Finally, I'd just like to say that the most depressing thing resulting from this storm in a teacup was the desperate efforts of some people to put the genie back in the bottle. (Sorry for mixing metaphors like cocktail ingredients, but you know what I mean.)
The schoolmarm tones of those who basically said: 'I don't care who started it or who called who what. Just stop crying, kiss and make up and let's all get back to class, okay?'
Sorry, but it's better if we retain the right to disagree and criticise each other. I love nothing more than when someone calls me on one of my rants. It's brilliant, because when they shout back, I'm forced to challenge my own opinions, my own preconceptions, and the result is generally that we all learn a little bit.
Here endeth the sermon.