Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What are you scared of?

So, quite possibly, another one bites the dust.

For those of you who don't already know, London based sex blogger Girl With A One-Track Mind was outed this weekend. Her true identity has now been publicized in a national Sunday newspaper and her life laid bare. She had jealously guarded her identity using the pseudonym Abby Lee to protect her family, work and lovers. Her book adapted from her blog, had just gone on sale. Yet a newspaper, the same newspaper which had carried the serialisation of her novel no less, callously disregarded this in search of yet another sensationalist story. Before her publication the media had shown no interest in her, so why now? Is it just because she'd become successful?

This begins to raise some interesting questions about the media and it's relationship to blogging.

Why do they care about a blogger come good? Is it that sex sells or can they not bear the fact that a blogger might actually be making some money out of their pursuit? Initially my answer would have been sex, but given a) that this 'expose' was published in a broadsheet and not a tabloid and b) the onslaught of media backlash against the recent blogging insurgency I would now suggest that the latter is equally as viable.

Over the last few months it has become clear that the press in particular is becoming threatened by bloggers and is reacting the only way it can, by lashing out.

Recently I have read articles by Charlie Brooker of the Guardian, Mary Dejevsky, Janet Street Porter and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown of the Independent all demonising the humble blogger.

Mr Brooker says,

"...the fustier elements of the "blogosphere", just waste the world's time banging on and on about how important the "blogosphere" is and how it spells the end of every old notion ever, when the truth is that, as with absolutely every form of media ever, 99% of the "blogosphere" is rubbish created by idiots."

Not too bad, but still decidedly hostile towards the bloggerly lot, however things really began to get interesting with Ms Dejevsky's horrifically researched opinion piece on the subject:

"It is not just in the political sector, as you call it, that fewer women blog. Except in areas such as childcare and gynaecology, it is across the board that women bloggers are few and far between."

She goes on to say that blogging is a passing fad that is attractive to men because of its 'gadgetry and self-aggrandisement' and that women are too busy cooking dinner and looking after their children to blog.

Then it gets worse.

Janet Street Porter sums up her views on blogging in her frankly obnoxious column by saying:

"The web is fast becoming clogged with blogs; the verbal diarrhea of the under-educated and banal."


"Blogs are for anoraks who couldn't get published any other way."

How charming.

And finally...

"And please don't tell me this is democratising communication. Mass blogging may indeed be giving access to Everyman, but is he always worth listening to?"

Of course he is, but then again if Ms Alibhai-Brown really does see the blogosphere as "a glut of pathetic drivel and idiocy" it is doubtful that she will ever spend enough time reading it to find out for herself.

Why are they scared of us, we teeny weeny little bloggers? We aren't scary. We aren't trying to change the world as Charlie Brooker surmises, we don't think that blogging will change anything, it is purely an enjoyable pastime for the majority of us.

Yet these professional writers seem to be taking every opportunity to besmirch the blogging phenomenon, in as self-righteous, ill-informed and overly abusive way as possible.

Are they really quaking in their boots that we humble bloggers might take their jobs? Or are they simply afraid of a little competition?

We aren't all Guido Fawkes and Girl With A One Track Minds. For the most part we are just people interested in talking about our day to day lives, our likes and dislikes with no agendas or book deals. Yes, some of us may harbour desires to be writers and to self publish online is a wonderful way of honing our skills and generating feedback. Yet these journalists seem scared by the thought that there are internet literate people out there who are happy to put intelligent, well-researched articles in the public domain for free.

I am also more than a little bemused by the assertion that to blog one must be a geek or an anorak with no discernible life beyond a computer screen. Where do they think people get ideas to blog about? In many ways blogging is a far more real portrayal of life than any soap opera or reality show. It provides a powerful, intimate connection with another person's thoughts and feelings. For something so reliant on technology, it is at its heart a very human experience. This is something that has been grasped by the creators of the play Girl Blog From Iraq which is running at the Edinburgh Festival. Inspired by the blog of an Iraqi woman. Sweetly the play's ending changes as the blog receives new posts.

According to the Guardian last week, one in every nine people in the UK is now a blogger. The media are going to have to wake up to this fact very soon.

Blogging is no longer a 'fad' after all it has been prevalent online for 10 years now. In the week that the Internet turns 15 they need to realise that blogs are here to stay whether they like it or not.

And finally, to allay Mr Brooker's fears, we bloggers don't mean to change the world. I very much doubt we could, but if we do, who cares? So long as it's for the better.

Girl With A One Track Mind, I hope you will blog again.


patroclus said...

What a great post, nice one Heather. At times like this I like to air my zombie analogy - the media are scared of blogs because blogs are like a horde of attacking zombies: they look like the media, but they're all disfigured and horrid, and there are millions of them, and you can't kill them, and even if you 'kill' one or two (e.g. by hiring them as columnists), hundreds more rise up in their place.

Brooker and Street-Porter and the others probably feel like a motley band of plucky, intelligent individuals who have been surrounded in a shopping centre (yes, I have only ever seen one zombie film) and are under attack from all sides by hordes of hideous undead that they're at a loss to explain. Their only hope is to escape to an island where there's no internet and they can continue to write self-aggrandising rubbish in proper newspapers in peace.

Jules said...

Here here! What a good post.

baggiebird said...

Nice one H. I agree with you totally. I see blogging as a way of interacting with people you may never have had the opportunity to speak to otherwise and making new friends. I also think it's a good tool to vent the frustrations of your day, or to share a comic moment, or even just to air an idea you have. In my humble opinion blogs are ment to be fun things, a daily enjoyment. Personally I love to read other peoples blogs, it's nice to know there are other people out there having a similar day to you. I've learnt a lot of people who blog. My spelling and gramar has imporoved no end!

I'm new to blogging having only recently taken the plunge. I don't consider myself to be a geek and I certainly don't spend all my time sitting staring at a computer screen (apart from when i'm at work that is) I'd also like to say i'm far from under-educated and banal. Quite frankly i'd rather read blogs than anything Janet Street Porter has to say, at least most bloggers aren't pompus and over opinionated. As for blogging about children and gynocolgy... well I don't have any children and quite frankly what happens in the gynocological area stays between me and my gynocologist! I have far more intersting things to blog about, mainly football but that's far more intersting than my last visit to the doctors.

Billy said...

Nice one Heather.

If I had a newspaper begging for a columnist, I'd offer the job to you.

chatterbox said...

Hear hear Heather

As a broadsheet and a newly converted blog reader, I look at both for the comment and debate about issues of the day, whether they are global or what is happening in other individual lives. I agree that the columnists must feel threatened (I love the zombie analogy Patroclus) but there are poor and badly researched articles in newspapers as well, and quality still shines through, whatever the medium. Slagging off the competition is never a great tactic anyway!

Jools said...

As always people fear what they don't understand, especially if it threatens their livelihood!
Freedom of speech is a wonderful gift and if you don't think something's worth reading then don't! I certainly don't read every article in a paper and don't read papers that don't appeal to me or I feel that the writing is sub standard..personal choice.

Heather said...

Thanks Patroclus, it's just something that has been niggling at me for weeks now. As a blogger who does have ambitions in the media it has surprised me that the press has been so consistantly negative about blogging. Your analogy is brilliant, and very true. Blogging could also be compared to a mythological creature, which I can't remember, the one with many heads - when you cut one off 2 rise up in it's place.

You really should try watching a few more Zombie films, Night Of The Living Dead, the original Zombie flick is utterly superb. Not to mention groundbreaking what with it having a black protagonist. Also it is in black and white and I find watching a film in black and white always makes you feel smarter.

Thank you Jules, wow! - I can't believe your blog was the inspiration for one of those plays. I'm very impressed.

Baggie I agree completely, except about the football of course.

Billy if anyone is begging for a columnist I'd take them up in a flash. Four years of study only to work in a shop. Blegh! This is why blogging is my release.

Chatterbox, you are correct, insulting bloggers and blogging only seems to make it seem more glamorous and subversive than it really is. Won't they ever learn?

Jules, but why don't they understand it? Surely people are only following exactly the same urge that inspired them to be journalists albeit in a smaller way. Freedom of speech is indeed wonderful, however if Ms Alibhai-Brown had her way it is a liberty we would find severly curtailed. I thought the Independent was a liberal paper?!

ill man said...

To be honest Charlie Brooker is a cantankerous old git whose writing I love, so I can forgive his mutterings. Streetsweeper and the other non-entity can fuck off, quite frankly. Who are ya? Who are ya? as they say at the footy.

I smell fear, and going by the dismal toss that passes for writing in a fair few broadsheet columns I'm not surprised.

Fraudulent Little Tart said...

"Their only hope is to escape to an island where there's no internet"

I believe Streetporter did this . . . was she not a 'celebrity' in a certain jungle? Sadly, she came back.

Well said Heather!

I think what truly scares them is that there are intelligent and well educated people out there who have found a place to express their thoughts and opinions and aren't afraid to do it (and to do it for free).
And in Ms Dejevsky's case, she's probably just frightened of our proficient use of the shift key!

Heather said...

Ill Man, I too love Charlie Brooker's writings, which was part of ther reason I was so dissapointed with his views on blogging.

FLT, Janet Street Porter's superiority complex amuses me. She claims to be above us all and then partakes in one of the most senseless reality shows of all time. What a tit.

Also, her article was entitled "Do You Really Care How Much I Weigh Today?" or something of that ilk. Suggesting that such posts by bloggers were banal and irksome. She then went on to round off her own column by talking about her love of porridge. The level of hipocracy displayed there is beyond belief. I don't know about you but I for one do not give a toss about Janet Street-Preacher's choice of breakfast.

ill man said...

Even if 99% of blogland is crap, that still means there are hundreds, maybe thousands of blogs out there written by people who are better writers than Street Portaloo and her vastly over-rated ilk. If the cream of British broadsheet columnists want a benchmark of banality, I suggest they read each others weekly dribblings and see who falls asleep first.

homo escapeons said...

Brilliant post!

I must confess that I have enjoyed the Girl from time to time always wondering if this was all fabricated...but still...gulp!

Your expose on certain elements of the mainstream media and their paranoia about bloggers was great. The Old school communicators should be nervous. This is a much more intimate (albeit highly risque at times) form of gathering and sharing information. That being said, since I began blogging, I have never felt so connected to so many funny, witty, conscious, humans in my entire life. It is amazing how quickly you can bond despite hidden identities and regardless of opposing ideologies. I appreciate the opportunity to just be heard.

I love blogging. How else would I have met you???

This post is exactly what it is all about.

skeadugenga said...

Good article Heather - you should send it to the editorial desk at the Independent.

"if Ms Alibhai-Brown had her way" God forbid! I'm starting to pass over her daily drivellings, I've rarely encountered anyone with so much to be angry about unless its Dominic Lawson. By the time I finish their articles, I'm angry too, but probably not in the way they intended. I have noticed this anti-blogging disposition in the Indie and was horrified to find out that their leader writer is in fact..Mary Dejevsky. Aaargh.

Anyway, its a hydra. And yes, I do think they're running scared, which can only be a good thing, maybe they'll up their standards of journalism a bit (how naive can I be?)

Molly Bloom said...

Heather...first of all...thankyou for your wonderful contributions last night. What larks!

I think that blogging is an interesting form. I started off doing just creative stuff. But then I branched into all sorts of stuff. I like the mixture of high and low. It makes for an interesting dialectic. I wonder if people believe that we have no brains. I like to play with that idea by posting vastly contrasting things side by side. I love the idea of having art next to quizzes for example. That, for me, is what makes it. It is a negotiated space that is not controlled. For me, it is a site of contestation. I want to play with ideas and prejudices surrounding women too. I want to write...but I also want to play. I like the discussions it creates. I like the freedom it has given me. And also, it has helped me through a terrible illness...so thank God for blogging.

Thankyou again for being so wonderfulxx

e4c5 said...

Very thoughtfully put.

First Nations said...

new here from bob swipes place.
wonderful post, wonderfully put. i'm beginning to think there just might be something to this blog fear we've been smelling coming from the direction of the pro's. at first i figured it was manufactured controversy because; come on, blogging? compared to upi or gannet it's passing notes in class.
but suddenly, i feel kinda...threatening. oo.

*waves in timid glee at patroclus*

Leighton Cooke said...

Found you via the Swipe. At the risk of adding to the volume of the nation's verbal diarrhea at such a time of critical lerts I would like to thank you for adding to the critical mass of musings of banal and under-educated anoraks. Good post. Nice to think that on my birthday I have finally become a zombie!

realdoc said...

Fantastic post H. The media are definately running scared. I know when I read news stories about something I know about such as health they are so full of inaccuracy and sensationalism as to be completely ludicrous. Now there is another way to get to the truth and it is not under anyone's control. The social aspect has been completely ignored by the media up to now and that's what draws people in and keeps them hooked. Blog on!!

realdoc said...

I have now started my own. As it's a revolution I thought I'd better be in on it.

Sunny said...

Hi Heather,

Funnily enough I wrote a similar article this week for the Guardian's comment is free:
Why do newspapers hate us bloggers

I didn't hear of the Abby Lee debacle until yesterday, but it's part of the same problem isn't it. I wish there was a way to make the Sunday Times feel sorry for what it did.