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Saturday, November 17, 2007 

Neil Clark and blogging narcissism.

There are plenty of unpleasant creatures within the "blogosphere", most thankfully on the far-right in America, but Neil Clark is doing his level best to try to emulate their success in being both self-promoting while also having a disgustingly high opinion of themselves. Having won one of the numerous "best blog" awards there are, he calls on CiF for a blogging revolution, claiming that his views are the most in line with those of the general public.

Unity provides an excellent fisk, so I'll only go through some of his weaker arguments:

British political bloggers are overwhelmingly middle class and male, London-based and university educated. An extraordinary percentage of them seem to work, or have worked, in financial services. Genuinely working class voices do exist (see the blogs of The Exile, Martin Meenagh, Charlie Marks and Mick Hall) but there are all too few of them and as a consequence the issues which most concern ordinary working people - rising utilility and food bills, poor public transport, pitiful state pensions, worsening employment conditions and escalating street crime - are largely ignored.

I can't do much, like Unity, about being male, but I'm not middle class, not in or from London, and haven't been to university. Was going to, but didn't due to various reasons. I'd suggest the reason why most of the issues that Clark suggests are largely ignored are because they make, rightly or wrongly, for sterile political debate. Everyone's against rising bills, for better public transport and pensions, and concerned about street crime - and they're all concerns that bloggers themselves can't individually do much about. That's why blogs tend to focus more on the issues where there is great controversy and debate - immigration, foreign policy, law and order, civil liberties, etc. I'd also suggest that the reason why those issues are the ones that most occupy bloggers are because they're ones which large sections of the media also ignore, or have an almost uniform opinion on. The fact the bloggers obviously tend to be political anoraks or party wonks also adds into why those issues get much more discussion than the bread and butter issues tend to.

Also, I'm sure I'm not the only one who despairs when the likes of Hazel Blears come out with bullshit like all those on doors only talk about schools, the NHS and crime; as if those are the only things that politicians can do anything about, should be interested in, or as if that means most voters are completely inward-looking. While cynicism about politics might be at a new high, debate on the larger issues themselves has never been so vibrant.

A classic example of this in occurred in the summer, when a group of allegedly "anti-war" bloggers decided that the most urgent priority of the day was not campaigning for an immediate withdrawal of British troops from Iraq - or trying to prevent potentially catastrophic US/UK strikes on Iran, but linking up with notorious pro-war hawks to try to gain asylum for Iraqi interpreters who had worked for the illegal occupying forces.

However anti-war or opposed to the Iraq disaster you are, it's simply wrong to say that the occupying forces are there illegally. They're both mandated by UN resolutions and the Iraqi government, although perhaps not the Iraqi people, still support their presence. Clark also relies on a false dichotomy; that somehow you can't want the troops out of Iraq immediately or oppose war with Iran whilst also calling for the Iraqi interpreters to be given refuge. Notoriously, Clark described those who risked their lives then because of their hope that regardless of how the war came about, it meant the removal of a vicious dictator and the chance of building a new Iraq quislings, and others who support his stance have also called them scabs, as if they were somehow breaking a strike against working with the occupiers. Perhaps Clark ought to read today's dispatch in the Guardian from Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
in Basra. If he has any humanity, it might just prick his rhetorical bubble:

The assassins chat, eat kebabs and stroll around in small groups, discussing their sinister trade. They buy and sell names of collaborators, Iraqis who worked for the British, as well as journalists and uncooperative police officers, businessmen and the footsoldiers of other militias.

Depending on the nature of their perceived crime, the price on a collaborator's head can vary from couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand. The most valuable lives these days in Basra are those of the interpreters and contractors who were employed by the British before they withdrew from the city.

Clark would leave the "quislings" to their fate. Somehow I don't think that view would win him much support with either the working class he claims to have solidarity with or "the majority of ordinary people."

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As one of those who Neil Clark mentioned on his CiF piece, I thought I would reply to a couple of the points you raise, you claim Mr Clark is self promoting yet how else are we to get people to read our blogs. I have never heard any one condemn rightists like Ian Dale, Guido Fawks or Mick Fealty as self promoting, yet they do far more of what you term 'self promoting' than Mr Clark.

In any case Im all for self promoting, for we all write a blog because we are arrogant enough to believe we have something worth hearing. As you know there are millions of blogs out there, so it is down to the writer to get their blog known, no one will do it for us. But when people bother to promote their blog, it also gives us the opportunity to look at it and decide whether we return or not.

I have to say I'm will Neil on the quislings thing, although I also believe the British government has a duty of care to these interpreters, the reason they are hesitant to honor it, is because they fear that all those who ever took the British shilling in Iraq will once the US leaves, be demanding the right to enter the UK. How popular do you feel the interpreters will be then with those ordinary people who you claim now supports them.

I agree the report in the Guardian was fearful, but what does it say about a British government who invaded Iraq along side the USA, made one hell of a mess of it and are withdrawing leaving southern Iraq to the mercy of such murdering thugs. This is shameful by most peoples standards. We are behaving just as the Russians did when they left Afghanistan and it was all so predictable. After all if I a working man sitting in my home on the Thames rim new this would happen, there is absolutely no excuse for our governments mistake.

All they had to do was pick up the phone and talk to Gorbachev a man they were always lionizing.

Anyway good luck with the blog, now I have come across it I have bookmarked it and will return, so you can thank Neil Clark for finding you a new reader ;).

I think you'll find there has been plenty of condemnation of Iain Dale, Guido etc for their shameless self-promotion, their use of stat porn and everything else, on Bloggerheads especially and on numerous other places.

The government has already cast the net on the interpreters far too cautiously, leaving out those that have worked for less than 12 months for the forces and those who worked prior to 2005. As you say, we have a duty of care to those people, yet we're still potentially abandoning them to the murderous militias. I can't say I agree on when the US leaves point; we've hardly let in any Iraqi asylum seekers since the beginning of the war, and who honestly knows when the US is going to fully pull out?

Clark does have something of a point on how the "blogosphere", especially in the UK is dominated by the Conservatives/libertarians, but he does himself no favours by condemning those like Sunny Hundal who are trying to alter that.

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