Saturday, April 14, 2007


Perhaps there is a better way of expressing a view on the US Presidency. Jeff Jarvis on occasion refers to "anti-Americanism" as if this is something found only outside the United States. At this time it seems that opposition to the Iraq war is more explicit in US media than in the UK. It is possible to criticise the policy of George W. Bush without being anti American, in my opinion. Next week there may be a UK trial under the Official Secrets Act that may be about a conversation between George W. Bush and Tony Blair. It is surprising to me how little this is reported, even by those who take an interest in press freedom around the globe. If there was a similar trial coming up in China, my guess is that something would have already appeared on Buzzmachine.

Attempting Dialogue

The Guardian seems to have stopped mentioning citizen journalists but is having a go at the bloggers, possibly the same people in many cases.

An attempt to encourage civility has resulted in Guardian printed statements suggesting that the comments on blogs are often insulting. Personally my impression is that most online discussion is a lot calmer than it used to be.

What I do notice is an editorial policy from the Guardian and other print-based organisations to rubbish what is already online while moving towards much of the same as fast as possible. Now, was that too sweeping a statement?

Tim Dowling writes

"In the course of that research I branched out, seeking out the online detractors of journalists with higher profiles than myself. This was my introduction to the blogosphere: a seemingly intemperate, foul-mouthed, grotesquely misogynistic community where no one can spell and everyone is blessed with a surfeit of time."

This extract is reasonably representative. Dowling's research method has been to look for references to himself and other print journalists. The qualifier "seemingly" is used, but the words "intemperate, foul-mouthed and misogynistic" are clearly his own. There is also a quote from a random source who happens to have written a book.

"It tends to be self-referential and obscure," says Andrew Keen, whose book The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture is published in June. "And irrelevant. I mean, who cares? It's absurd. It reflects the intellectual bankruptcy of the blogosphere that things have degenerated to this level."

Yeah, right. Self-referential as in searching on your own name and then complaining at length about the mixed results.

Is it possible that any print journalist would find anything on the web from which they would expect to learn something?

As I mentioned on Guardian Talk it seems to me that the words from Tim O'Reilley and Jimmy Wales suggest some positive action from people who run blogs or other web sites. Something to ease discussion. Yet it is rare for there to be any response on Comment is Free to the points made in comments. I am not sure that all the people who write for the Guardian actually like the idea of their words going online. They may not have chosen to leave the safety of print.

So my idea is a new logo. It may get some traffic for this blog. OK so I post so rarely it is not surprising that nobody checks it. Still, my suggestion is that blogs are about attempting dialogue. The abuse happens when this fails. So the remedial task is to support dialogue, not just counter the flack.

The other logos are included. Right click and save as you like I think. There is not yet an ISO standard in civility, as far as I know.

The evidence for a formal Guardian policy on mixing messages is not in the form of a smoking gun but I first got disturbed around the time of Davos this year. In the almost festive context there was much online discussion about online etc. Jeff Jarvis invited questions for example. What about the UK Official Secrets Act Jeff? Is it just there to protect your President? Ok you don't have to get into the mess that is the UK but anyway back on topic more or less the print views from Jackie Ashley seemed out of sync with what had happened online, including posts from the Guardian editor that were more or less a blog.