On Linking To Your Enemies

In my morning trawl through the Internet, I noticed two examples of a practice that has become mainstream: denying the object of your opprobrium a link.

First, the fascinating Brian Kellet writes this, in a fisk of a Liz Jones column about the NHS says:

I’m not going to link to the original story because I don’t want to send visitors to the rag that is the Daily Mail.

Then, in a battle of the pseudonyms, highly respected legal blogger Jack of Kent decides that he is going to have an argument with Gudio Fawkes, but without actually namechecking Guido or linking to the ridiculous Death Pentalty campaign he just launched. I’m particularly disappointed in Jack of K, as he writes, in his very next post, that one should “use links and sources wherever possible.”

Linking out, regardless of whether you agree with the person you”re linking to, should be the standard for blogging, just as it is for academia. It is the link to sources which gives the work credibility. In contrast, anonymous gossip disguised as lobby reporting is one of the reasons why there is so little trust in journalists at the moment (a topic discussed at the recent POLIS journalism conference, where I asked a panel of spin doctors and hacks whether the press should abolish anonymous sources)… and the fact that a tabloid does not have to cite its sources is one of the reasons why #Hackgate could happen.

Moreover, we know that our online bubbles are not as diverse as we like to think. Safe silos like Facebook actually filter content to prioritise those people that you already agree with, and our failure to link out just strengthens the confirmation bias. I disagree with Paul Staine’s worldview and his approach to blogging, but I do actually want to know what he is saying about the death penalty, the better to campaign against him.

So, just as we’ve stopped using the Blame The Daily Mail cliche as a substitute for actual political analysis, can we have a moratorium on the whole “I’m not linking to those people” schtick, please? I know we can Google pretty much anything we want to these days, but not everything appears on page one of the results. Worse, a failure to link looks a bit sly and scheming. Let’s leave the obfuscation and misdirection to those outlets with lower standards: The Newspapers.

7 thoughts on “On Linking To Your Enemies

  1. I didn’t realise that I had been mentioned in this post – for some reason Robert chose not to alert me to this post.

    But I see I am criticised, and criticised unfairly. So here goes.

    “Then, in a battle of the pseudonyms, highly respected legal blogger Jack of Kent decides that he is going to have an argument with Gudio Fawkes, but without actually namechecking Guido or linking to the ridiculous Death Pentalty campaign he just launched.”

    Yes, that was quite deliberate, but not for the reason you guess at.

    I simply wanted my post to be a stand-alone statement against capital punishment, for use in future debates as well as in the current one. In fact, I had not read Guido’s post; I just knew generally that he had launched some campaign. Accordingly, I was not even arguing against him – I had no idea what his arguments were. A

    ll I wanted to do was refer to the context of my post generally, and then make a general argument against capital punishment, rather than it being seen as a direct reply to anyone.

    Had I linked to anyone it would have been misleading, as I was not “replying” to anyone in particular.

    “I’m particularly disappointed in Jack of K, as he writes, in his very next post, that one should “use links and sources wherever possible.””

    I am particularly disappointed that you have jumped, clearly without really thinking this through, to an adverse view, and then not even troubled to alert me to the criticism.

    But there you are. your mistake, not mine.

    1. Thanks for the comment, J of K, which does explain the apparent contradiction.

      On the point about not letting you know, I did cite what I thought was your twitter username in my first tweet about the blogpost. Apologies if you were kept in the dark, it was certainly the opposite of what was intended.

  2. Robert – I think you are unduly pessimistic about the range of information people get to see. It’s certainly been a fear people have raised for a long time that filtering, selection and other processes will result in people only seeing more and more of what they already agree with, but in fact research often shows the opposite – e.g. see the research I blogged about at http://www.markpack.org.uk/20624/how-twitter-makes-news-consumption-more-diverse/.

  3. Sorry Robert, but my Twitter name is @davidallengreen, as you well know.

    I still do not understand why I am criticised for not linking to a post I had not even read, or why you failed to ask why there was no link before you posted incorrect and unfair criticsm on two websites (this and Lib Con).

    1. Hold on – it is my understanding that Jack of Kent blogs at http://www.jackofkent.com and tweets at @jackofkent, while David Allen Green blogs at the New Statesman and tweets at @DavidAllenGreen! So although I knew they are the same person, I thought the appropriate thing was to alert the former web personality, not the latter. I thought I was respecting the pseudonymity.

      As Matt says, incoming links are usually a big red flag to the fact that one has been cited elsewhere. It never occurred to me that there would be any meaningful delay between my “criticism” (friendly, wry, and mild, I thought), and you knowing about it. Indeed, that is another reason for bloggers to link out – it should alert the person being criticised to that critique, and that person can then respond.

      And as for not asking you in advance what your reasoning was – yep, I’m guilty of that. You were given no advance warning! But my view is that posting a blog is, by virtue of the comments functionality, an implicit question in itself, a request for verification or falsification. When I was typing the post, it also never occurred to me that you would not response with an explanation! I hope that explains my thinking.

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