Since the departure of Andrew, Ian, and now Voices in the Wilderness, my sojourns through the blogosphere have gotten shorter. It’s a truism that 9/10ths of the things you encounter in life is crap, and only 1/10th is exceptional. What is actually true is that 5/10ths of the things on the Internet are crap, 4/10ths are deep labours of love to those who work on the HTML (and more power to them), and 1/10ths connects with me in some way as to make me want to come back. That’s a far less insulting thing to say to those people who pour a lot of time and money into the Internet on things that don’t interest me, but it still represents a poor ratio between signal and noise. Since I’m hard-pressed to find those 1/10th blogs that appeal to me, I may have to go on a quest.
While strolling through POGGE, I was surprised to hear that the Canadian blogosphere was in the middle of a blog war. After holding down a fair chunk of the blogosphere here (fine sites, all of them!), it was a little like somebody had declared a war and nobody had told me. How exactly does that happen?
This particular dust-up centres around posts by right-wing blogger Bill Strong and left-wing critic, the Canadian Cynic. It seems that Bill was caught out making some very inaccurate statements in his criticisms of recent Democratic statements on the war in Iraq and, rather than beat a hasty retreat, he dug himself deeper and deeper. The contretemps was taken up by a number of other websites on the Progressive Bloggers blogroll to which Canadian Cynic belongs, and the Blogging Tories (the blogging association to which Bill Strong belongs), was criticized for staying silent on Bill’s inaccuracies.
Although spending a number of posts taking Bill down, Canadian Cynic downplays the idea that there was some sort of war going on. However, he has a bone to pick with the Blogging Tories:
There is no “blogging war” here. What there is, quite simply, is an outstanding issue that is sitting in the middle of the table that the Blogging Tories seem to want to avoid discussing, and that’s what to do when one of their own is caught fibbing.
There is no impending war; there is no looming smackdown; there is no imminent battle. What there is is a simple unresolved question that deserves an answer: How do the Blogging Tories plan on policing other peoples’ integrity if they’re singularly incapable of looking after their own?
The Blogging Tories are the oldest and most successful partisan blogroll in the Canadian blogosphere. It is directly because of their success, and the emergence of LibLogs and Blogging NDPers that I started up the Blogging Alliance of Non-Partisan Canadians. The Blogging Tories count over 200 blogs in their membership. The benefits of membership include… well, just that you’ll have 199 other sites linking to your own, increasing your traffic and your prominence on various blog search engines that score this kind of thing.
Not bad, especially given that membership is free.
The community aspect is extra, though, and people’s participation in this varies from blog to blog. The Blogging Tories have been matched by a different blogroll, the Progressive Bloggers, and while it is hyperbole to claim that there is a war between the two, enough bloggers have criticized each association on the other association’s behalf that there is an appearance of emnity between the two groups. And one of the criticisms most often levelled against the other side is to denounce other Blogging Tories/Progressive Bloggers when one of their own says something particularly stupid, and none of his or her “colleagues” rushes to correct him.
It’s not that one of their own, Bill Strong, is a proven pathetic liar (see numerous recent posts on this blog) who refuses to ‘fess up when he’s caught red-handed. Rather, it’s the fact that, as far as I can tell, not one member of the Blogging Tories has shown the integrity to call him on it. Apparently, as far as the BTs go, ideology is more important than integrity. And as long as the lot of them sit quietly knowing that Mr. Strong is a liar, none of them has earned the right to get into the dialogue.
The fact that not one of them has had the honesty to admit the obvious tells me and everyone else all we need to know about the integrity on the other side of the aisle. And the continuing silence just pounds that point in more.
The Canadian Cynic’s call has been mirrored by the other side. Blue Blogging Soapbox says that the kettle is also black. Both are just the latest in a long line of posts by each side criticizing the other for not outing its loonies. It was even suggested to me, at one point, that I had some responsibility as the organizer of the Non-Partisan Alliance to watch what some of my members said.
And while it is true that sites have been asked to leave both the Blogging Tories and Progressive Bloggers blogrolls, and while it is true that there is some content that I will not link to (like the time an NPA site disappeared and was replaced by a porn spam blog), I don’t like this guilt by association here. I don’t understand where this responsibility to police everything every member of a particular blogroll has to say comes from. Is Andrew Anderson, the organizer of the Ontario Blogs blogroll responsible for what’s said on other Ontario Blogs websites lest all Ontarians be given a bad name? Of course not. So what makes political blogrolls special?
I’m not saying that when someone says something particularly egregious, they shouldn’t be soundly criticized. You do have to wonder, when certain websites say egregious things, and a sitting MP speaks favourably about said websites, if that MP implicitly agrees with the egregious things that were said. But simply sharing membership with a looney shouldn’t be enough to colour you with his taint. There are loonies everywhere, in every party. I don’t speak for them. Ultimately, they speak for themselves, in their own private space, and it is the responsibility of their readers alone to call them on lies and mistakes, either in the comment sections of these blogs or, if unavailable, on their own blogs.
This controversy has served to illustrate the inflated sense of importance that we’ve given the blogosphere. Oh, it’s a fun place to be, and I’m pleased to be part of a diverse community of Canadian blogs, peeking in on other people’s thought processes and taking up arguments wherever I find the interest, but I don’t understand these expectations other people have about what my blog is and what it should do. Am I part of a people’s journalism revolution that’s going to topple the mainstream media? Am I a lobbyist doing the electronic groundwork for one of the political parties? Am I truly required to take on the beliefs of blogging organizations that I choose to associate with?
And the answer to all of these questions is: of course not, don’t be stupid. Who are you to tell me how I should behave based on the HTML I use? I don’t blog because I believe I can get to the truth of a story better than the mainstream media can. I don’t blog because I’m an operative of a political party. I don’t have an inflated sense of my self importance as other people seem to think I do. And yet I do have an overly-inflated sense of self-importance: I blog because I want to.
There is nothing magical about blogging. Blogging merely describes an accelerated website using a variety of tools to automate updates and archives. My website here is nothing more than an online diary that I’ve left out in public, unlocked. It is a promotional tool, established by me, for me. Those who choose to read it are exercising their own individual interest to peek at me. The common theme about establishing this blog is that it’s about me.
I have been called left wing and right and worse labels, but none of them really apply. I have no expectations to meet, no template to live up to. You can’t peg me as being anything other than me. I am who I am, and my opinions are not to be predetermined solely by people I marginally associate with.
Take me, take me on, or leave me: that’s your only choice.
So, I’m not responsible for something silly somebody who happens to belong to the Non-Partisan Alliance has to say. I should not be expected to police other sites’ every opinion, and I should not be made guilty by association. My thoughts are on record, my own reasoning — flawed though it may be — is on display. Debate me for who I am and what I say, and not for who stands near me.