The Impact of Blogs

There has been a spate of articles in recent months about the impact of blogging. I wrote a short article for October’s Writing Magazine, tackling the subject from the point of view of the aspiring writer. It was fun to try and condense all I have learnt into just a thousand words. I guess seasoned bloggers will find very little here that they don’t already know, but I hope it provided some thinking points for those who have yet to venture online.
Call it blogging or ‘citizen journalism,’ online self-publishing is becoming an unavoidable part of human discourse. High-profile bloggers are invited to comment on radio programmes, while broadsheet newspapers run a daily round-up of the ‘blogosphere’. Top American blogs (such as Instapundit and Boing-Boing) receive thousands of hits every day. Every political campaign has an associated blog, and MPs are using the medium to re-engage with their constituents. In March, the Guardian inaugurated, a ‘super-blog’ with contributions from the paper’s regular columnists.
Clearly, blogs are something that writers must engage with. The Internet is changing the nature of writing – especially journalistic writing. Aspiring and established journalists should seek to understand the implications of this 21st Century medium… even if they have no intention of writing anything online themselves.
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War and Peace at T'Sharpener

Its been a little while since I engaged with the Iraq War debate. A short piece from me at The Sharpener resurrects the perennial argument of whether it was right to invade when we did:

As people come out with expressions of regret that they supported the war, they rarely do so with reference to those who do not regret protesting against it. I wonder if there are any hawks out there who now think that some of the protesters had a point? Reading people’s analyses of their own decisions on the matter, it is as if there was no opposition to the war but a bunch of shrill communists who took a stroll through Hyde Park.

The LIP Magazine Round-up

The latest issue of our magazine, The LIP, was published in August.
From the editorial:

The LIP bucks the trend of expecting young contributors to offer their work for free in order to get a ‘foot in the door’. At the LIP, we hold the door open…

I admit I’m not sure just how old Young Master Worstall actually is… but the theme of the issue was ‘Media’, and who better to discuss the blog-hype than the editor of 2005: Blogged?
Other hightlights include interviews with Times War correspondent Anthony LLoyd; columnist Giles Coren (“I won’t write anything for less than a thousand quid”); maverick publisher Pete Ayrton; Al Jazeera’s Head of International and Media relations, Satnam Matharu; and a fascinating insight into the BNP mentality, courtesy of a chat with their press officer, Dr Phil Edwards (not the same as the homononynous author of Actually Existing). You can read the full articles by buying a copy online. We would appreciate your support and feedback.
Although only excerpts are available for the latest issue, we have full archive of the previous six issues online. Throughout, we have asked what it means to live in a smaller, more globalised world, and what (if anything) multiculturalism actually means. For the Dalai Lama, it is as much a project of stressing similarities between peoples, as it is about celebrating diversity. Ziauddin Sardar takes a more militant approach, and sees multiculturalism as a force to “transform and subvert the power of western civilisation.” For Roger Scruton the concept is “a toxic product of postmodernism that dissolves the ties that bind society together”. Nigerian novelist Helen Oyeyemi, thinks multiculturalism is “a big old fallacy.” While Paul Boateng MP agrees that it is “a word that people interpret to suit their own ideological purpose,” he nevertheless still values “the reality of a multi-racial society – vibrant and exciting, [and] enriched by cultural diversity.”
So far, author Hanif Kureishi’s definition of multiculturalism is my favourite. He says “multiculturalism is the idea that one might be changed by other ideas”. It is a movement based on the dialogic exchange of ideas, even traditions, based on “the idea that purity is incestuous”.

Has Democracy Failed?

First published in The LIP magazine, February 2003

Democracy should be the champion of diversity. The word conjures in our minds the image of a Greek city state, where each citizen has his own, considered and educated opinion. They talk, they listen, and then they vote. A decision prevails, and we progress.
However, some things have happened to our world over the past thousand years. First, the democratic system has been clogged by the powerful and the ignorant, who are often the same people. The economic system, however amoral, has allowed some people to buy louder opinions. Second, we have created an education system that manages to yield citizens who have no discernable opinions of their own, nor the tools of imagination, inquiry and logic that will allow them to form some.
Now, then, the ‘tyranny of the majority’ has become manifest. Instead of a constant stream of dialogue between people and between groups, we have a partially-elective oligarchy that itself exists only to influence the opinion of a single mind. If that mind is already made up, all dialogue is pointless.
Other opinions are voiced, but even if they are heard the very nature of the system ensures they cannot be heeded. Democracy has switched sides, and instead of being the shield of diversity, it has become the tool of homogenisation. We have a rubbish excuse for democracy, and it is not something to be valued, or fought for.
The politics surrounding the war in Iraq, and the protests against it, illustrate these points—if we have to resort to massive direct action, why have democracy? Our opinions count for nothing, because those who didn’t have an opinion at election time are happy to let the oligarchy think for them now.
What has been forgotten at every level of the debate is that democracy should be more than just voting for a president. ‘Democracy’ in Zimbabwe means just that, and it has created grotesque results. In Iraq we send our brothers and sisters to kill and to die in their thousands, in the name of that same confused ideal. We do not know what we are fighting for, and so our humanity is eroded in the deserts of Arabia.
What is to be done, then? Democracy should be reclaimed. Once again, it should be about engaging in rational, critical and political discourse at every level, not just in Westminster and Washington. Debate should not be run by the national media but by every group of people in the country. The group of souls who label themselves students are not doing this, despite being seeped in the diverse and many subjects they study. This is shameful. Only when democracy has be reclaimed, and real plurality of thought is really considered, can true diversity flourish.
We cannot ask for a simple paradigm shift. Such a change in the way we conduct our lives, our interactions, will take generations. But the seeds must be planted now, for our grandchildren will reap what we sow. This is our project, and with this modest offering it begins.