William Heath's blog

J’accuse: the Blogosphere of Hate

Posted on Jan 6th by William in Creative outlets, Faith & practice

We love the blogosphere; it’s full of great ideas, insights and humour. The boring bits are dull, of course. But there’s a distinct part of it that bugs me. I think I call it the “Blogosphere of Hate”.

A site like Guido is full of new gossip and energy. It’s hugely successful. But there’s something tawdry and oppressive about it – worse than the Daily Mail. This crystallised in my mind when I got drawn (via the Spy Blog I think) to someone called “Not a Sheep” who’d written a post about New Labour and immigration. The post turns into a laundry list of people and things that non-sheep hates.

That’s it. That’s what bugs me. I’m not interested in the things people hate, and I dont think we have much to learn from people who are motivated by hate:

  • we won’t learn anything about peace in the middle east from hearing why the Israelis hate the Palestinians
  • or from why the Palestinians hate Jews
  • we learn nothing about social diversity and equality from racists
  • we won’t learn much about government from people who simply hate New Labour

    I’d even say there’s a niggle for me in Tom Watson’s blog which is the parts where he seems a priori to hate Tories. If he hates them already, then we’re not going to learn anything from what he says about what they do, are we?

    I thought our great Western civilisation was supposed to be founded on the insight that you love your enemies and turn the other cheek. There’s still plenty to get passionate about, and lots to resolve. An enlightened blogoshpere could still be a vibrant one.

    It would be depressing, would it not, to look down on the world 2000 years after all that crucifixion and stuff and to spend a few hours reading the Blogosphere of Hate. You really would think “Why did I bother?”

    The Quakers – as ever – have some really concise and pertinent advice about what the priority should be (#28):

    Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.

    That reads to me like high moral authority for taking it easy. I guess we all want, as Spike Lee put it, to “Do the right thing.” This strikes me as a pretty good formula for working out what that is.

    Having thought this through I now think I deplore the “Blogosphere of Hate” as a benighted place of childish ranting. It seems to me to have nothing constructive to offer. One can only hope people will emerge from it. Is that right? And, if so, do we do better to ignore it, or to resist it (I have got drawn into a comment thread with the non-sheep entity).

  • 4 responses

    1. On Jan 7th, Ruth said:

      Hmmm good food for thought.

      At the top (though probably least profound) this makes me think of the distinction Clay Shirky draws between the internet as a major publishing tool, and the internet as a place where you can listen into private conversations. Ranting about hating people feels like the latter, which is less commentable-on, less productive and constructive, and above all, it seems to me massively less likely to lead to creative thinking about problems we all share.

      Will think on… whilst I chop my leeks

    2. On Jan 7th, NotaSheep said:

      You are entitled to your views, just as I am entitled to mine. My blog is not about hate, but that article was about some of the people that I hate. I think to say that you cannot learn from people motivated by hate is rather simplistic, but hey, it’s your blog.

    3. On Jan 9th, Public Strategist said:

      Part of the challenge is that civilised discourse requires sustained hard work. The blogs which support civilised conversation on any significant scale – places such as Making Light or Whatever – do so on the basis of pretty fierce moderation. The style and rules of those two sites are quite different – but they share the absence of any ambiguity about what counts as socially acceptable behaviour. There’s a guide on how to do it here – http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/006036.html – and like any other kind of weeding, the challenge is persistence, rather than any inherent difficulty. It’s the absence of that which makes following the debate on almost any political blog I can think of a fairly repellent experience.

      That doesn’t, of course, help with the problem of when a blog is mean minded to start with. But it does help explain what is going on: in the absence of socially enforced boundaries, there will be a shortfall in socially mediated behaviour.

      All of which makes me think tangentially of this recent post by William Davies – http://potlatch.typepad.com/weblog/2008/12/the-illusory-reality-of-government.html – how many coppers does it take to maintain order in Hackney is not completely unrelated to the question of how many of what it takes to maintain order in this more ethereal world.

    4. On Apr 28th, William Heath’s blog » Blog Archive » More on Paul Staines’ blogosphere of hate said:

      [...] to the “Blogosphere of hate” thought, Paul Staines puts it as plain as day (in the Times, commenting on Gordon [...]

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