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The Difference

Thou hast committed fornication — but that was in another country: and besides, the wench is dead.

- Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta.

Guess what? This isn’t a post about the adventures of Ashley, Cheryl or Tiger. I recall my solemn pledge. Nope, this is about blogging and the media and a theory I have so, dear reader, grab your duralumin titfer and read on!

Marlowe might have written those words many moons ago but they contain an essential truth that still applies. It is the essential truth that people can behave badly whilst away from home and feel they can get away with it. Why do you think stag and hen nights are carried out out of town? Hell’s teeth when I flew into Prague last year the Airbus was packed to the rafters with Mancs who were already pissed. My wife and I wanted to tour that fine city’s cultural and historic monuments, they just wanted to get lashed, engage in a drunken and probably flopulent attempt at sexual intercourse with a Bulgarian prozzie and, more to the point, do it where they weren’t going to bump into their mother or boss.

All of the above pastimes can easily be catered for in Manchester. Indeed you can even do all of that in Stockport according to what I’ve heard. So why go to a great big city where nobody knows your name? Answered my own question. It’s anonymity that is sought.

And that is why the blogosphere matters. It matters because it isn’t anonymous. We at Cats have our regulars. Even the big boys like Harry and Samizdata have their regulars and it’s a bit like your local boozer. You don’t dare get pissed as a fart and attempt to shag the landlord’s daughter over the pool table. Well, not more than once anyway. Now this is because blogs are relatively low circulation. They are like your local pub. If I were to venture into my local boozer tonight I’d see the usual suspects holding-up the bar. When I fired-up the computer this morning I saw the usual suspects commenting. This does not apply to the online incarnations of the MSM. I have read comments on articles in the “quality press” which are as wildly pignorantly offensive and ill-conceived as a bunch of Brit lads engaged in formation pissing onto a war memorial in some foreign land. And BTW this is universal. The Germans in Germany are polite, ordered and very dull. Send them to Spain or Greece and they are (the young ones at least) fucking appalling. It was the student drinking songs ’till dawn that got me in Greece. A Japanese flatmate of mine in London was the most polite guy you’d ever meet. Two weeks of London turned him into an absolute beer monster who was well prepared to dump his bird back in Tokyo for, and I quote, “a big-breasted English blonde”. The “big-breasted” was conveyed through the medium of mime whilst he was Stella-ed (with Drambuie chasers) beyond human comprehension. He ended-up in the bath having let go at both ends that night.

My point is this disgraceful behaviour away from home occurs for exactly the same reason the major organs of the press get disgraceful comments on their web-sites and bloggers don’t tend to. It is quite simply because the commentators can get away with stuff due to the perceived anonymity. And that is why, when the MSM slag-off the blogosphere, in terms of individual blog’s small readerships as irrelevant they miss the point. The reason the blogosphere matters is that we are like the saloon bar of the Dog and Duck. I got into this game via reading Samizdata. I read it for quite some time before I dared even comment. And that’s because I didn’t want to make a tit of myself in a place where I’d be remembered. I could on the otherhand go to The Times website and say something that would make Alf Garnett cringe and feeling nothing about it. It would truly be fornication in another country with a wench who, alas, is now dead. So… We matter because we’re small but you might be thinking because we’re small we don’t make a difference? Wrong – because there are millions of us. Because anyone can do this for very little money and doesn’t the veritable Jurassic Park of the MSM hate that?

For example. Let’s assume I got under the skin of a BBC or Times or Guardian staffer who dismissed CCinZ as some cockamamie “blog” (and they’d probs use the scare quotes) read by next to no one. That misses the point entirely. Our small size and agility is our strength and we are legion. We are the army of ants chewing the fat of the dying hippo that is the MSM. Our power is due to our small size which promotes genuine debate and the fact that there are hordes of us. It is no coincidence that blogs are the fortress of libertarians. Small but many suits us for that is what we are.

My wife buys Private Eye. It has a regular feature, “Message boards” which is a parody of MSM web comment threads written by the likes of Broken_Britain and Justice4Maddie. It is so well done that me and the missus discussed whether it was an invention of the Eye or actually lifted from the likes of the Daily Mail website. We all know of Godwin’s Law. Well, I have a new version. Any online discussion of an even vaguely religious or moral issue in the MSM always descends by comment number 8 into a wholesale slanging-match (creating vastly more heat than light) between people despairing that the decline in religious belief means we’re on a one-way road to eating-your-own-children-barbarism and the other lot misquoting Dawkins and railing against “sky fairies”. It’s pathetic because it isn’t debate and the only reason people post that nonsense is because it’s in The Times so it’s anonymous and nobody is going to call them on it in a meaningful way. Well, ages back (so don’t expect a link) I posted here on a subject vaguely related to abortion and we got into double figures in comments that were actually talking sense, not shouting spite. I was very proud of that.

Back to the local pub anaolgy. It’s the locals that make CCinZ what it is, not the bar tender or the carpet or the fruit machine. This is something that mega-media just can’t do but you can and you do. Thank you for that.

7 Comments

  1. Roue le Jour says:

    “Any online discussion of an even vaguely religious or moral issue in the MSM always descends by comment number 8 into a wholesale slanging-match…”

    Funnily enough, precisely the same happens in New Scientist whenever they print an article peripherally involved with evolution.

  2. RAB says:

    Drinks all round , and a large one for yourself Cats and PA, Nick.

  3. permanentexpat says:

    The pub is a good analogy but, think on it…although you can (still) drink there, your freedom to smoke has been taken away from you and, mayhap, your drinks will be plastered…no pun intended…with labels like ‘if you can’t swim you are in danger of drowning’…I sincerely believe that the Internet, and thus blogs, is in enormous danger of pub-like regulation at the hands of faceless bureaucracy…but it remains a good analogy at present.
    I visit CCinZ every day without fail and, though I may not have anything to say, I feel the warmth & entertainment of being in good company.

  4. NickM says:

    Well, thanks folks!

    Yes, permanent. They shall try and shut us up. And they shall manage it with some of us but you can’t behead a hydra. Every time the BBC blames terrorism on “violent extremism” it digs it’s own grave. Every time The Guardian calls hair-shirted Greenism “ethical living” it’s stoking it’s own funeral pyre. Every time The Times refers to iDave as centre-right when he’s really a leftie they push a knife in the toaster.

  5. Stonyground says:

    I am quite a new visitor to Counting Cats and I am pleased to have discovered a new blog that I like. On the subject of anonymity, I hadn’t really thought about the difference between the sizes of each blog’s communities until you pointed it out. Although Stonyground obviously isn’t my real name, I don’t consider that it grants me total anonymity as I see it as being a bit like a brand which has a reputation for a certain level of reasonableness to uphold. Even now I am wondering if I am talking pretentious crap, everyone please feel free to say so if I am.

  6. NickM says:

    Stony,
    Not at all. The thing is even on a relatively big blog like Samizdata I recognize commentators without even reading their by-line – just from their style. This is good. Yes, you are 100% correct it is a brand. I blog as NickM purely because before I got into this caper I commented over at Samizdata as NickM. And that continuity matters because it enables people to get to know you in a way.

    On the other hand when it gets really big it degenerates. A prime blog example is LGF where I’ve seen threads run to 1500 comments. Charles Johnson had to put filters in to stop his “lizards”competing moronically to get in first on a thread with nothing more to say than, “I’m first!”. And a lot of them proceeded further down to comment merely to say they are going to bed.

  7. CountingCats says:

    Stony,

    For regular posters and commenters around the net anonymity is a crock anyway. I used to comment under my real name until I came up with the name Counting Cats in Zanzibar as a blog and bought the domain name. To keep a bit of continuity I kept commenting as Real Name (CountingCats) for a few months, and then switched to just CountingCats. There in no anonymity.

    I make no secret that that I live on the Gold Coast, and have revealed sufficient details that if anyone really wants to work out who I am it shouldn’t be much of a problem. I guess someone like Richard North would have my address in half an hour if he wanted it.

    So why do I use a handle rather than a name? Because I want to, thats why.

    if I am talking pretentious crap, everyone please feel free to say so if I am
    Sure. No problem there.

    P-Expat,
    I sincerely believe that the Internet, and thus blogs, is in enormous danger of pub-like regulation at the hands of faceless bureaucracy

    Don’t forget, this server is outside British and EU jurisdiction. Oz tends to be a bit more sane about these things, so far anyway.

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