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October 11, 2005

UK and US Blogging.

Martin Stabe, back in February, really did have the right idea about the difference between US and UK blogging. (Note, he’s told me he doesn’t stand by all of his analysis now but that’s fine, when the facts change etc.) The basic idea, that in the US there is more of a monolithic establishment against which bloggers rage, while over here the press is entirely happy to eviscerate one of their own in the pursuit of a good story the truth, is well shown by Aaro’s column today.

Bloggers add a lot to the media scene here but as Martin points out, it’s something different. When the main columnist for The Times says this of his fellows in the mediaocracy:

My suspicion is that Kampfner didn’t call the BBC because if, God forbid, Thompson had convinced him that there had been no demand for the execution of Humphrys, then there would have been no front-page story, no splash, and all Kampfner would have been left with was a series of grumbles about BBC timidity.

What is extraordinary about this, however, is the response of much of the media world. Rod Liddle, in The Sunday Times, wrote: “I suspect that Grade did quite fancy sacking Humphrys, much as John Kampfner . . . had alleged in his magazine.”

“Much as”? Grade either phoned people up demanding the sacking or he didn’t, never mind “much as”. Steve Hewlett, in the Guardian media pages: “On the face of it the BBC’s statement appears credible.”
But. “But underneath all this, and here Kampfner is on to something, the BBC hasn’t got over Hutton.”

Kim Fletcher, also in The Guardian: “I do not think we will get to the bottom of it, but the story reflects a belief among many BBC staff that the corporation is over-anxious to avoid controversy. Since the Hutton inquiry, some BBC executives have found the whole business of news stories embarrassing.”
It is, in essence, the Gilligan defence again. Never mind the facts, the story fits the preconceptions, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not. The meta-narrative is still of a

Government/Establishment that bullies dissenters, manhandles Jewish refugees, and terrorises the BBC into subservience. In this situation almost everything can be read as fitting the same template. The BBC reviews coverage of the Middle East? It’s been bullied by the Israeli Government, says Kampfner. Grade believes some BBC coverage is too pro-EU? Then it is cosying up to some part of the Establishment as yet unspecified and undiscovered.

No denials are permitted, because they ruin the lines of the piece and the readers wouldn’t be able to cope with that. One BBC figure who had spoken to Kampfner told me that he’d attempted to disabuse the Statesman Editor of his idée fixe. “I told him he’d come up with the wrong thesis,” this anonymous source told me. You won’t find this contra-indication anywhere in the article.

Well, with this sort of critisism coming from within the temple what need then for the mob of howling bloggers to keep them on the straight and narrow?

This is an extreme interpretation, of course, and meant only as an example. The US media and UK are different, most especially in the diversity of viewpoints put forward (and the willingness to critique other parts of it that this engenders) so we would expect that that adjunct to it, us bloggers, will also be different.

Then again, we also have Scott and Dilpazier Aslam to show us the other side of the same contention, that we’re not quite as different as all that.

Update. Re who wrote that piece attacking Scott, according to one who should know "you could perm any one from twenty dittoheads".

Further update, John Tierney’s NYT piece touches on the same idea, that of a monolithic culture within the US media.

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In February, I scribbed something about how political blogging cant be understood outside the context of the particular political and media culture in which it operates. The post was supposed to show why the experience of the high-profile, anti-... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 11, 2005 9:15:22 PM

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