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April 09, 2007

Ollie Kamm On Political Blogging

No, sorry, I don't buy this argument at all. Here it is again at the blog with no comments section.

Such is the ideological chaos of modern Conservatism. Osborne invoked the notion of the wisdom of crowds: knowledge emerges in a collaborative process rather than being dictated by experts. But political bloggers are not the required type of crowd. They are, by definition, a self-selecting group of the politically motivated who have time on their hands.

If we're going to bring Surowiecki into this, Galton's Ox and all that, then we need to remember something about the argument. Yes, self-selecting groups are are not as good as having everyone's opinion. But there are levels of self-selection: it's rather like the argument over free markets. That no truly and absolutely free market exists does not mean that arguing for freer rather than more restricted markets has no value.

So if political blogs are too restricted a group (encompassing, as they do, everyone from Lenin's Tomb to well, places like this for example) are they a more or less restricted  group than those at Westminster and those overwhelmingly Oxbridge upper middle class types who are the editorial staff of the nation's newspapers, TV and radio stations?

Less restricted, obviously, and thus in this argument, therefore better.

I also find it a rather remarkable argument from one whose rise to the punditoracy was in fact driven by his own political blogging. Smacks of pulling up the ladder rather.

Blogs are providers not of news but of comment. This would be a good thing if blogs extended the range of available opinion in the public sphere. But they do not; paradoxically, they narrow it. This happens because blogs typically do not add to the available stock of commentary: they are purely parasitic on the stories and opinions that traditional media provide.

I would take issue with that as well. Oliver might want to talk to one of those who commissions him, Daniel Finkelstein. The press furore over the Abolition of Parliament Bill was triggered by this short blog post. It's a two way process, not a one way one.

April 9, 2007 in Weblogs | Permalink


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There are a wide variety of blogs, but the most dominant meme is not intellectual rigour, but narcissistic exhibitionism.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule - but not as many as you think.

Tim adds: Sure. But then remember the basic rule of the universe. 99% of everything is shite.

Posted by: John A | Apr 9, 2007 12:52:41 PM

I've had a go at this as well.


Posted by: Reactionary Snob | Apr 9, 2007 1:36:29 PM

"71 million blogs...some of them have to be good" (Matt). Kamm picked a bad example to tar us all with the same brush!

Posted by: jailhouselawyer | Apr 9, 2007 4:39:42 PM

Martin Bell's nephew speaks.

And once again talks what 99% of the universe is made of.

Posted by: Martin | Apr 9, 2007 6:39:19 PM

A convicted axe-wielding granny-murderer is worried that a bad example could tar all bloggers the same brush?

Posted by: Guido Fawkes | Apr 9, 2007 7:30:22 PM

This is truly one of Kamm's worst articles ever. Is he trying to be contrarian just for the sake of it? I also posted on this article here (as for some reason he wont allow comments).

Posted by: pommygranate | Apr 10, 2007 8:16:28 AM

Careful Guido, or you'll be needing that libel lawyer again. For your defence on this occasion. Still, why let the facts get in the way, you funky libertarian, you. We all saw the other night what a tight grasp you have of them.

Posted by: Justin | Apr 10, 2007 8:37:14 AM

Just passing. I'm running this this evening so currently researching.

Posted by: jameshigham | Apr 10, 2007 3:45:59 PM

This article is a typically Kamm-fisted attempt to be controversial. "Oooh, admire my modesty everyone. I'm a blogger yet I don't think much of the medium."

The Philosopher-King of the Times goes on to say:

"If, say, Polly Toynbee or Nick Cohen did not exist, a significant part of the blogosphere (a grimly pretentious neologism) would have no purpose and nothing to react to."

Incredible. Does he really believe we would all be staring at walls were it not for the pronouncements of the official liberal elite?

Anyway. it's unfair of Kamm to blame the blogosphere for his disastrous political choices. If he really wants to improve the quality of political debate then he should put his money where his big mouth is and open up his blog to comments.

Then we could really challenge his "expertise".

Posted by: Sinisa | Apr 10, 2007 4:14:16 PM