Serious contributors to the political blogosphere genuinely feel they have a legitimate contribution to make to political discourse in this country, and occasionally they get the feeling that their offerings are making a difference, are changing thinking among the conventional commentators. A combination of accurate factual evidence, thoughtful analysis relatively free of bias, logical reasoning, and carefully considered conclusions characterize much of what is posted on serious sites. But it is what is posted by some blog-sites that detracts from sensible discourse, and devalues not just these sites, but the blogosphere in general. The MSM is ever ready to discount the ‘amateur’ blog-sites which they seem to find competitive to their outlets and blog-sites. Those of us, who conduct such sites, are seen as uninformed irritants who distort the high level discourse they believe they provide. [more]
This piece points to the corrosive effect on logical discussion of hatred or loathing, or just plain political point-scoring. I am eternally grateful for the quality of the posts on The Political Sword, and the conspicuous lack of unthinking vitriol.
But there are some sites that attract vitriol almost universally; Piers Akerman’s is one. To give just one example, on September 23 Piers Akerman wrote a blog in The Daily Telegraph Blowing the dust of wacky Wong stunts. There were 381 comments. He began "The dust-storm-that-ate-Sydney has nothing on the bulldust storm Kevin Rudd’s Labor Government has generated on climate change." I won't insult your intelligence or test your patience by citing any more (you can read it if you have the stomach), but let's look at just a couple of the comments. The first takes the cake and makes my point. John Jay says this: (this is rather long, so do scroll to the end of the quote if you feel nauseated):
“An excellent article Piers. Rudd is not a normal human being. He puts a lot of energy into making sure he comes across as a fairly normal person. In fact he puts a huge amount of energy into this, 24/7. Image is all. Popularity is all. How he looks in our minds is everything. 'Fair shake of the sauce bottle mate' is Rudd’s calculatedly attempting to break into our hearts. A normal Aussie. One of us. As are so many other things he does. He is not.
"There lives in Rudd a horrifying, very well hidden sickness that dominates his whole personality. Rudd cannot function as a normal person does. This is something Australians just do not know. It is incredibly important that this be known but it is not. Rudd is inwardly a mess. His inner life is very, very different to that of a normal person. He is ruled by power. Not by principle. Not by compassion. Not by conscience. By power. In all situations there is, inside him, a very, very strong pull towards the choice that leads to greater power. His heart is ruled by this. His whole personality is dominated by this. He is in many respects a slave to this.
"He is not capable of seeing this as a person with a normal consciousness could for he does not have a normal consciousness. He cannot see himself. His sickness a long time ago deprived him of self awareness. He has no real insight into himself at all. As far as he is concerned there is nothing wrong with him. He is a man driven to increase his power. He is totally capable of bringing anyone or anything down - including a country - in order to achieve greater power. His sickness has a firm grip on Australia now. The grip akin to that of a large snake that slowly kills its prey through strangulation. Rudd is slowly strangling Australia. Rudd, the man governing us all, is a type of slave who craves for power and more power and more power.
"This is the focus. The guiding principle. Australia is incidental. This is why he lies so easily. If a lie will increase power then it is a good thing. If spending an ocean of borrowed money increases popularity then it is a good thing. Popularity is power. A heart ruled by power is not able to truly care for others. Power chokes love. This is how Kevin Rudd’s heart truly is. This is how Kevin Rudd truly is."
By all accounts John Jay believes Rudd is psychotic. But on reading his tirade it makes you wonder about JJ.
See if you can find any facts. See if any logic oozes from the slime. This reads like unadulterated loathing. How can this contribute to considered discourse? Yet this is obviously a welcome comment on Akerman’s blog
Then CW replied to John Jay “Right on all counts. But he will win the next election because the bulk of the media want him to and will ensure that he does. None of what you have said will ever reach the masses.” So we, the masses, ignorant of Rudd’s psychosis, will vote him in again. How stupid we must be.
This was followed by Jamie replying to John Jay "It is an affront to decency that you find a post like this to be appropriate for this forum Mr. Akerman. Kevin Rudd was elected by the majority of electors in 2007. I assume that the people who voted for him are slightly less than normal as well? It’s also interesting Piers that John Jay didn’t comment about anything contained in your article. It’s funny the things that are allowed to pass through to the keeper when character assassination is clearly first and foremost the pre-requisite in this blog. Hopefully, John Jay can have something apposite to comment about your article." At least Jamie talks some commonsense, but will anyone take heed?
‘proud aussie of queensland’ certainly won’t. He/she replies to John Jay “John Jay, I had a worrying conversation with an ‘ordinary’ Aussie bloke last night, who said ‘Why can’t Australians see what I see in this evil Kevin Rudd?” and so on the comment goes.
There are hundreds more comments; these few are offered in some detail to make the point that there is no value at all in this exchange of views. This is what gives bloggers a bad name. Akerman is clearly happy to post this detritus to fuel his own well-known loathing of Rudd. Facts and logic are irrelevant.
But it’s not just Ackerman and his amateur bloggers who abandon logic. Tony Abbott ran a blog in The Daily Telegraph on 24 September: Kevin, try solving Australia’s problems first. The guts of his argument was that although Kevin Rudd was indeed achieving good things abroad, he “...should do whatever he can to nudge the world in the right direction but there are plenty of problems back home that he could try to fix all by himself.” Even the title is illogical – that Rudd should try to solve Australia’s problems before he addresses overseas ones. This would mean never addressing the latter as the former will always be present. It also ignores the fact that many overseas problems are just as relevant to Australia as are internal problems. Tony seems not to have grasped the nature of world dynamics and global economics. He ignores the fact that Rudd can chew gum as well as walk. And is he claiming that everything has stopped here in Australia while Rudd is overseas? Abbott is a Rhodes Scholar – why does he abandon logic? Is it just to push a political point? It must be.
His blog got 28 comments. ‘proud aussie of queensland’ was there again, first off the mark with “Tony, to many Australians, Kevin Rudd is simply a huge embarrassment to this once proud and highly respected Nation. It is obvious to most of us that Kevin Rudd is NOT highly regarded or listened to whilst parading on the world stag...” He concluded “When will this Rudd nightmare end? I heard Kevin Rudd say that it was time for ‘less talk, more action’ - What a hypocrite, what a charlatan - Kevin Rudd is the king of SPIN and LIES, and the man of ZERO action, a hollow man with nothing of substance to offer anyone.” Abbott’s reply contains no rebuttal of this unsupported rant, just the comment: “Interesting that you think I’ve given the PM too much credit. I must be going soft!” So Abbott too is allowing tirades on his blog without rebuttal.
Andrew Bolt runs a popular site that often attracts intense anti-Government invective, but thankfully he’s gone into hibernation until October.
It’s not just blog-sites that carry invective. Yesterday on ABC’s Insiders Joe Hockey, in trying to make political capital out of the story of Rihanna Til, the widow of the soldier recently killed in Afghanistan being in poor financial circumstances on her pension, and trying simultaneously to accentuate the Government’s ‘reckless spending’, said “...who is more deserving of money from taxpayers, a recently widowed woman bringing up the children of a dead digger, or the non-means tested pink bats program?” Joe, it isn’t either/or. Both can be attended to, as you well know. Logic goes overboard to make an invalid and emotive political point.
On the same program, in responding to comments about Rudd’s success overseas, Tim Blair (sitting in the right seat) said “...here’s a guy that wants to change the weather and fix the global economy but can’t run a grocery website.” What is the logical connection? What is the implication – that Rudd, despite all he’s achieved overseas, is a dud because Grocery Watch was a failure? This is not logical reasoning, it’s just a smart-aleck sideswipe at Rudd, for which Blair has a solid track record.
I could go on for another thousand words using hundreds of similar comments, but I hope these examples illustrate how that in the pursuit of an agenda of loathing and hatred of Rudd and his Government, logic is eroded or lost altogether – loathing kills logic. This is dangerous but is it remediable? If we serious bloggers wish to be taken seriously we need to separate ourselves from the unsubstantiated vitriol poured daily onto blogs that welcome it.
Fortunately there are quality blogs that counterbalance the poisonous ones.
Quickly looking at the MSM websites, the ones that generally draw considered and thoughtful comment are The Australian’s political blogs: George Megalogenis’ Meganomics (to which George often replies); Michael Stutchbury and David Uren’s Current Account blog; and Jack the Insider blog - he is a diligent responder to comments. Janet Albrechtsen’s blog attracts the usual conservative comments when she writes an anti-Government piece, some of which are well reasoned, Christian Kerr’s House Rules blog attracts a mixed bag of responses, but usually reasonable. When Paul Kelly blogs as he did today in Shift to G20 was matter of time most of the comments are well-reasoned.
Glen Milne’s blogs are a curious mixture. Some attract the usual anti-Government, anti-Rudd rants; others bring out a cohort of detractors who tear him down relentlessly. Today’s Liberals can’t lose Dutton is an example of the latter – perhaps because he went so far to as to say “...if the preselectors of McPherson can't see that Dutton is part of any future the party might have, then why should ordinary voters believe in that future either?” As Milne has what Bushfire Bill describes as ‘the reverse-Midas touch’, Dutton may not be impressed by Milne’s advocacy.
The Fairfax media has resurrected The National Times as an online outlet and has introduced a series of blogs, most of which are not yet attracting many comments. However, Econogirl (Jessica Irvine), Blunt Instrument (John Birmingham), and The Religious Write (Barney Zwartz) have attracted a lot of comments, which are mostly rational. Crikey has several excellent blogs: Pollytics, the best psephological site, which attracts informed comments, The Poll Bludger is the most popular chat room that attracts as many as thousands of comments, usually sensible, often humorous, and always good to read to keep up to date with the latest politics. Andrew Bartlett’s blog addresses serious matters, but attracts few comments. Mumble has a revised website but as yet has attracted few comments. The Piping Shrike runs a thoughtful website that attracts sensible comments. One of the most entertaining economics website is that of Peter Martin but it attracts few comments.
A recent addition is News Limited’s new online service The Punch. It carries a variety of items, often political. When it publishes laughable material, such as The G20 leaders walk into a bar. Who smiles the most? the response is predictable. Sample the comments if you wish, but be careful not to overdose on the noxious and the silly.
All of these are listed and updated daily on Blog Watch on The Political Sword.
In summary, there is a stark contrast between the rational, sensible and well-informed comments on the quality blog-sites and the raving, illogical and often incoherent comments that some sites attract. On the latter, the loathing, the hatred that resides in the breast of many respondents evokes illogical statements devoid of facts and reasoning, but heavily laced with venom. Presumably the authors gain satisfaction in venting their spleens, but this has all the hallmarks of pathological behaviour. While this may be irremediable, the crux of the matter is that some sites habitually attract these types of comments and seem to make no attempt to moderate them, or if they do, goodness knows what awful venom is edited out. They are a pox on quality sites. Why do their papers/sponsors allow such unbecoming and poisonous abuse? Is there anything rational bloggers can do about it?
Loathing kills logic.
What do you think?