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A little local difficulty

4:20 pm - December 22nd 2008

by DonaldS    

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While doing some reading around with my travel journalism hat on last week, I allowed myself a muted chuckle at respected travel-tech blogger Alex Bainbridge asking:

[I]f we know that when we post something we risk causing brand damage, should we self censor and only post positive things?

It’s the kind of question they might chew over while they’re brandstorming for Derek Draper’s new BlogDominanceUnit. Of course, Alex “fully rejects” posting only good news. But party flacks aside, it’s also the kind of question no political blogger would even bother asking, isn’t it? Perhaps not.

Via Jay Rosen’s mighty twitter stream, I come across this fraternal spat.

Act 1. In which Center for American Progress (CAP) paid blogger Matthew Yglesias posts (ahem) forthright opinion on fellow “progressives”, Third Way.
Act 2. In which acting CAP CEO pulls rank pops up on Yglesias’ blog to disown said opinion, and generally toss out a bit of flaky PR.
Act 3. In which 477 comments appear along the lines of… well, I’m too polite to give you the unedited flavour of what most of them say. It’s one mighty social media cockup, without an easy face-saving solution, to say the least. Go read (and chuckle) for yourselves.

Maybe this is a little peek into the battle for the future of the netroots? Kinda looks like hierarchy came out of this one with egg all over his face. Stilll, what’s the odds that the whole Obamaland love-in goes all New Labour by the time I’ve worked out what to do with my old T-shirt?

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About the author
Donald is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is a travel journalist, editor, author and copywriter. In the wake of the 2005 General Election, he co-founded and edited The Sharpener for a couple of years. He writes the occasional book or newspaper article for money, as well as sharing his thoughts here for free. Also at: hackneye
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Humour ,Media ,United States

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Reader comments

should we self censor and only post positive things?

This is partly why i am not a member of any political party; if I was I would probably feel the urge to self-censor from time to time.

2. Alisdair Cameron

@ Cabalamat, I agree, but think that ‘s more indicative of the intolerance of the major parties to anyone ever saying anything off-message/out-of-line/remotely-bloody-interesting than any particular inhibitions from within oneself.
Only posting positive things gives off a deterring air of unreality, (y’know, the old tractor production is up again or the private sector brought world peace and ended poverty guff,which only the brainwashed, the brain-dead or the latter-day brains trusts of certain think tanks promulgate these days) More grit, more honesty, more openness ultimately = more empathy, engagement and support from readers and onlookers.

Well, I tend to self-censor a lot more in regard to what I post about this site than I do in regard to the Lib Dems – I have found nothing but encouragement in my party for unorthodox views.

I suspect that the other big two aren’t quite as tolerant, but then they don’t have the line about non enslavement by conformity in their constitutions…

I have found nothing but encouragement in my party for unorthodox views.

Jennie, that might apply until a certain level… but after a while I can guarantee you that even the LDs would seek to censor people within the party who have views the hierarchy they don’t like. Whether you agree with her or not, the Jenny Tonge affair is a prime example

That fraternal spot is kinda crazy… and I think CAP were overly sensitive to respond like that.. but I can totally see that happening in other circumstances.

Yeah, Sunny, I remember that, and remember thinking it was a bit OTT.

Meh, at the end of the day people either accept you or they don’t, and I don’t think there’s any point in trying to second guess it. But I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not for the party – a big part of my political philosophy is that there’s far too much of that going on. I’m going to practise what I preach.

Sunny—she was removed from her front bench post. That’s it. She was still eleveted to the Lords by CK afterwards, and is still a prominent party member. I actually agreed with what she was trying to say—but frontbench speakers for a mainstream party should know a lot better than to say it in the way she did: “I might just consider becoming one myself.”

There’s a difference, a significant one, between being a member of the party, and being an elected representative within the Shadow Cabinet having taken an oath of collective responsibility. When a member of the front bench team speaks on an issue, they speak on behalf of the whole team. When I speak on an issue, I do so as myself, unless I specifically state I speak on behalf of. Frontbenchers have to assert they’re speaking personally, the roles reverse.

I did think CK overreacted, but I also think the way she said what she said was an error of judgement that put a shadow over her previous promotion 🙁

It’s one of those things that makes me glad I’m not a party leader.

I’m fairly critical of the party at times, internally and externally. At times. I’ve also defended Gordon Brown and ranted in various places about how stupid Osborne’s “fix the roof” quote is and how useless the Labour comms team is for not having batted that facile remark away easily.

I’ve always preferred engaging constructively. Hell, I’ve even been nice about Blears. Twice. I’m counting, as it shouldn’t be possible.

“I have found nothing but encouragement in my party for unorthodox views.”

With all due respect that is because your party has not looked like winning a general election for the best part of a hundred years.

The reason Yglesias moved from being a blogger at The Atlantic to CAP was because he wants to be involved in policy-making rather than simply critiquing from afar as a journalist. That’s perfectly admirable, but the closer he moves to the realm of politics, the more he’s going to find his ability to speak out on any issue he likes restricted.

All of which proves why Yglesias’ fans were right in wishing he’d stayed at The Atlantic. Thank God Ezra Klein hasn’t sold out yet.

When a member of the front bench team speaks on an issue, they speak on behalf of the whole team. When I speak on an issue, I do so as myself, unless I specifically state I speak on behalf of. Frontbenchers have to assert they’re speaking personally, the roles reverse.

Sure, but this is what I mean when Jennie says the Libdems welcome unorthodox views – to a certain extent they will! They are a whole bunch of nutcases that occupy the lower rungs of the Labour party too… but they’ll never get anywhere near the top… see?

Sometimes other people write an article here and I get pilloried for it, saying that I’m running something against my own views (the spat over David Davies being a good example)… so my point is people will sometimes pretend that LC has one voice in the same way they’ll pretend the LDs or Labour have one voice on every issue.

The same goes on this issue – CAP wanted to clarify that Matt Yglesias didn’t represent the org’s view… and they got slated for it. Problematic.

Thank you for calling me a nutcase 😉

> CAP were overly sensitive to respond like that

I’d say it’s even worse than that. It’s incompetence on a grand scale, too. As Julian Sanchez wrote:

So congratulations, Third Way, a whole lot of people who’d never heard of you now know exactly one thing about you: You’re thin-skinned whiners. And a word of advice for Ms. Palmieri: If you’re going to be a “senior vice president of communications” for an institution that communicates through blogs, you may want to take a couple days off to figure out how these wacky “blog” things work.

Given the publicity clout, and the (at least) symbolic power, of the netroots, the whole charade is scarcely believable. But a little bit funny, too, obviously.

Sally, that would be difficult, it didn’t exist before 1988. At that point, the newly formed party took control of a large number of councils up and down the country, and has provided Cabinet ministers to the Scottish govt. Liberals don’t believe in first past the post winner-takes-all politics, it’s supposed to be about debate and consensus, with coalitions built.

I’d give you some links to back that up, but you never bother following them nor reading what people actually write, so it’s not worth it.

Sunny, I think you’re missing the point that she did get to the top, and remains there. The Lib Dems have many unorthodox views within the Shadow Cabinet. The doctrine of collective responsibility means that they discuss differences within the Cabinet, and agree on a consensus view to put forward. For specific relevance, look at what David Laws wrote in the Orange Book about the NHS, that was very unorthodox and is nowhere near party policy.

Seriously. You’re wrong. So very very wrong. Arrange an interview with any of the Cabinet (talk to Richard/Millenium if you like), and ask them. Robust debate on unorthodox views is pretty much a requirement.

Donald, thank you for bringing this to my attention. It’s amusing.

you should post more here. So should I, for that matter.

MatGB “ that would be difficult, it didn’t exist before 1988.”

Oh don’t be so pedantic. You know full well that the Lib Dems did not just invent themselves out of thin air in 1988. They are the merging of the old Liberals and SDP. You never heard of the Lib/SDP Alliance ?

My point remains though, whatever you want to call them. No third party has won or has looked like winning a general election in the best part of 100 years. When that day arrives ,then we will see if they are so liberal with various points of view.

Actually, we don’t have to wait that long. As Polly Toynbee points out in her latest column, Clegg announced that he was an atheist but there was such an outcry that he immediately backtracked and then claimed he was an agnostic. “when Nick Clegg confessed his non-belief, he had to recant and re-define himself as an “agnostic”.

Talk about backing down for political expediency.

Wait, you’re taking Polly Toynbee’s word on anything? Clegg’s “clarification” was worded to be very very similar to Dawkins wording, and Dawkins is also a very firm agnostic.

The majority of Lib Dems may have merged with the SDP, they did so to create a wholly new party. There still exists a separate Liberal Party, and indeed a separate SDP (who have, I think, 4 councillors in total).

If your point was about third parties, you could have made it about third parties. It is a fair one, under FPTP, it is unlikely that a third party could win. It is more than possible that they could supplant an existing 2nd party, it happened in Canada and some recent polls have predicted it happening here (to Labour).

But I guarantee this—any Govt formed with my party might not be as liberal as I’d want it to be, I am after all fairly extreme in my liberalism. But it’ll definitely be more liberal than any other Govt we’ve had in the last 80 years, and I include Blair’s 1997-2001 Govt in that assessment as well.

Rule of thumb. Polly Toynbee and ‘factchecking’ are rarely to be found together. She’s been known to completely contradict herself in the same article. How the Scott Trust can justify paying her her inflated salary, or even keeping her illiberalism on the books, is completely beyond me.

Actually MatGB, and in the spirit of Christmas, I am not that hostile to the Lib Dems, and I have a certain liking for them. But they do get away with a lot that 1 of the 2 main parties would not be allowed to do. If Brown or Cameron had a drink problem it would not be kept secret for a minute.

On the one hand you loose out from media coverage because you are the third party, but that does give you the benefit of not being so scrutinised.

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