Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Curious Absence of Christine Herbert Online

When I was at school, my history teacher impressed upon me the danger of making over-generalisations. I was reminded of that when I read Christine Herbert's piece in the Jersey Evening Post, which managed to place all bloggers on Jersey politics on the same footing, i.e., mischievous troublemakers and bullies who are not accountable or responsible.
When I write various pieces, such as the piece I wrote on "Name and Shame", I take great care to research the issue thoroughly before putting pen to paper, and where possible, to provide details of all the sources I quote, so that it can be checked if I am taking them out of context. They might not be up to complete academic standards, because I don't have the time to fully annotate these, but it does take time to look up, research and read on these subjects, and what ends up on the blog is what I would certainly regard as a responsible paper. I don't just use Google or Wikipedia, I source peer reviewed academic journals and books as well.

In fact, some of my postings critique the Jersey Evening Post's sensationalist handling of statistics, where either they fail to give sufficient caveats (e.g. about average wage being used instead of the median) or pick the statistic likely to cause the most alarm (burglary up by a massive percentage - which is really because the figures are so small). It is what I regard as a failure of their presentation to be sufficiently thorough that prompts the articles.
I also write the satirical News from Nowhere, which is mischievous, but no more so than Helier Clement, when he pokes fun at some politicians. It is full of stock politician jokes - lawyers are more concerned with golf than law, and the odd swipe at local politicians, but as a "send up" in the style of "Yes Minister", with the occasional burst of "Spitting Image". Political satire has a long history, and I show no favouritism in my writing - all the politicians can appear equally silly, as in fact, some people think they do! All the characters are caricatures anyway, and are amalgams of real people and fictions, so that the education minister always appears to be uneducated, whether Peter Piaget or Hedley Weed, just as in "Yes Minister".  No one had ever accused me of this being "bullying", and it is very mild compared to UK satire. I keep well clear of issues that I regard as sensitive like child protection, and have very clear ethical principles on what I can and cannot satirise.
While I certainly don't imagine a vast establishment and media conspiracy (unlike some!), I nevertheless find it curious - hence the Sherlock Holmes punning title - that neither the article by Christine Herbert, nor the letter pointing out it's weaknesses - has appeared in the online edition of the JEP, where bloggers can read it. That is rather odd, especially as articles by Christine have appeared both before and after that article, and all the other letters from that letters page appeared online.

I can't locate the paper copy of the original article, but I think Dave Rotherham's letter deserves a wider showing.
Not all bloggers are bullies
From David Rotherham.

I WAS astonished at Christine Herbert's assertion that 'blogs in general are often little more than a licence to victimise and bully' (JEP, 5 December).

Although I can think of one particular one that is notorious for doing that, blogs in general are nothing of the sort. Apart from that one, which I am coming to take with ever larger pinches of salt, the ones I read are mainly the same kind of stuff that newspapers such as your own publish, from columnists like her and correspondents like me. While there may not be any quality control on the publishing side, nobody ever has to make a second visit to a bad blog. On the other hand, the unread author of the bad blog can be happy that he has had his chance to be read, and not been silenced by 'them'.  

Forum sites; much more open and less personal than blogs, do attract `trolls' with bad intentions, and the trolls often get a hefty dose of bullying in turn when the other users lose patience with them. That, however, is a somewhat different matter, even if there was a link between the downfall of a particularly unpopular Jersey troll and That Blog.

In conclusion, I find the general condemnation of blogs both unfair and inaccurate.

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