Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Alibhai Brown - missing the point and conflating the issues?

Swamped, again, so a little behind. Yesterday at lunch I read my Independent as usual. In it, a rather, well, mis-informed and ill conceived rant by a certain Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I'm never quite sure where to place her as a commentator; sometimes I find myself agreeing, other times she simply wants to make me scream in frustration. Yesterday was such a day.

I thought at the time that by the time I got home it would have been given more than a few fiskings, but I was only able to start looking for them tonight. The best? This shouldn't surprise anyone; Dave at the Ministry.
first we really ought to see what Yasmin’s whining about…

… which, sorry, doesn’t really amount to much.
His analysis is spot on, go read. I'm not sure I buy into Tim's opinion that it's a conspiracy, I suspect it's more a case that, as Deek Deekster observes, the proverbial chattering classes have noticed that the internet is allowing us poor normal citizens to share our opinions with each other, debate, deconstruct and critique opinion columns, etc.

Are we simply "wasting our time"?

I think not (obviously). We may not get the biggest readerships compared to columnists, but what is Yasmin's opinion peace from yesterday? The cause of a bit of discussion, and now, mostly, the proverbial chip wrapping. I can read, get to know, debate and discuss ideas with people across the country, most of whom I've never met. We can come to a consensus, agree to differ, work together on issues of common import and, at times, continually, vehemently, disagree.

It's a bit like the days of the pamphleteers of yore, but I can do it all from the, ahem, comfort of my pokey little flat. I can even share my opinions on Ms Brown's column draped in a towel and dripping wet from the shower.

Isn't free debate and democracy wonderful?

I think so, anyway. As does Deekster, a blog new to me:
In the past these true journal-ists would have been writing in isolation, but we contemporary writers are blessed with the modern miracle of interactivity - and frankly this is something that scares the Gucci pants off most hacks, whose idea of interactivity is submitting to an axe-wielding editor.
The beauty of "blogging"? (and what is a blog if not simply a style of managing a website, a different type of publishing tool?) Interactivity, commenting, discourse, analysis.

I can read an article elsewhere, challenge the views put forward, add cogent facts to the debate, link in extra points, question the author on points. And others can do the same here. By being questioned, we analyse. That analysis both improves our ideas and our ability to explain them. I've certainly learnt a lot in the 10 months we've been running this place.

"Waste of time"? Perhaps. But then, some people waste their time watching Eastenders, reading the DaVinci code or even, *shudder*, writing opinion columns on national newspapers. In 3 months time, my opinion on Yasmin's article will be there, on this site, cached in Google, found in search engines. Her article on blogging? Locked behind a subscription firewall on a piss-poor website and, being recycled.

Bloggers may have little legs Yasmin, but we have a much longer tail. Besides which, a number of your colleagues on the paper are also bloggers. Some of them are quite good. Maybe, y'know, you could find out more about what it's really about from them?


Justin on the same subject, rather good in an overall blogging analysis kind of way.

I promise to try and write a substantive article soon. Maybe Thursday. Not sure which Thursday. In the meantime, linkage good, right?


Anonymous said...

Case in point: I could not read the fragant Ms A-B's article as it was behind a subscription wall, so pieced the gist together from the critiques you linked to. The blogging/regular journalism crossover will generate friction for some time to come, as columnists will be forced to see - shock, horror! - the little people they write for offer their opinions in real time. Out of the Comment is Free articles dealing with the "adjustment process", Tim Garton Ash's piece  is the best, as it actually focuses on what can be done to improve the tone of debate. 

Posted by moorethanthis

Anonymous said...

I'd missed that; Garton-Ash is at least willing to engage with his readers and gets the point.

I dislike CiF for much the same reasons he critiques it; signal/noise is far too low.

Justin's repost of his Friday Thing piece  today is also good.

Thx for the link to Tim though. 

Posted by MatGB