Calling time on the WhyNoBlogathon

8:57 am - April 23rd 2009

by Sunder Katwala    

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Just over three hours after Alastair Darling sat down after delivering his budget, Iain Dale’s Daily Dozen round-up noted the lack of a budget reaction post by Tom Harris, something Dale also twittered about. (Harris’ budget reaction post appeared about ten minutes after that).

Just before midnight one evening – about four hours after The Guardian had published the video of the police assault on Ian Tomlinson – the liberal blogger James Graham had scanned the right-wing libertarian blogs and found them “notably silent” on the issue. (He wrote that he himself has seen the video 20 minutes before writing).

These may be slightly extreme cases.

But I would like to make a broader, equal opportunity and cross-partisan point.

Could we please call off the WhyNoBlogathons?

Firstly, I think there is a danger of reading too much into a silence.

And certainly leaping to do so too much quickly. Let’s at least have a 24 hour moratorium before anybody can declare what they can hear in what has not been said. (I would much prefer 3 working days, and send your complaints about non-blogging by second class post please).

Secondly, this pressure for conformity suggests we should all imagine we are all mini-media empires. It is a recipe for more blogging echoing the agenda of the 24/7 news channel agenda, and more blogging about what the other blogs are blogging about blogging. I see little value in aiming for comprehensiveness or making sure we have ‘covered’ the theme of the day. The antics of Draper and McBride. Tick. Cheering on our side in the budget. Tick. Making clear we regard the lunatic ravings of the Iranian President as lunatic ravings. Tick. (Oops. Haven’t done that one: he’s a dangerous lunatic. Might be something to do with his re-election strategy. Can we find out how Iranian democrats think we could help them without falling into his trap?).

Just occasionally, one wants to find out a bit more before making one’s mind up. And so much insta-reaction in the British political blogosphere is 0% surprising. I think I recall Iain Dale noting that none of the main Labour blogs had written up a Gordon Brown interview on Andrew Marr one Sunday morning. But what does such coverage really add to the sum of human knowledge? Dale is scathing about Brown and impressed by Cameron. Charlie Whelan reckons Cameron is useless. I wonder what they will think next time?

I would like to read more blogs that tell me something I don’t know – what’s really going on under the surface in the Indian elections; crunchy analysis and ideas on the economy; new feminist thinking; or interesting debates coming out of academia which deserve a wider audience – rather than a couple of dozen more opinions commenting on what the commentariat have written about in the morning paper.

Thirdly, this can be one route into what Sunny Hundal and others call the ‘condemnathon’, a closely related phenomenon to ‘whataboutery’ on contested issues.

Oh, I see you have blogged about X but you chose not to blog about Y.

Ah-ha! Now we see your hidden agenda.

If I want to challenge Nick Cohen attacking me, have I also done enough to defend Hazel Blears, asked Martin Bright. (I had blogged about that the previous evening. But what if I hadn’t? Would that prove Cohen right after all! Perhaps occasionally a point can be made about selectivity. James Graham noted that many blogs had very recently written about the police challenging the director of the Adam Smith Institute and filling in pointless forms. But not as quickly as he did, and several blogs did write about Tomlinson: several intelligently, some absurdly.

The British political blogosphere is still quite small and mostly amateur affair. Many of us have real jobs too. Even those of us with the advantage of being insomniac workaholics with young children who get us up at the crack of dawn can hardly hope to match the energy and output of Sunny Hundal.

Enough, I say, Enough.

If you think it matters, write aboutit.

But please take your WhyNoBlogathons away.

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About the author
Sunder Katwala is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is the director of British Future, a think-tank addressing identity and integration, migration and opportunity. He was formerly secretary-general of the Fabian Society.
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Reader comments

It’s a fair point, although I’m getting a little fed up with all these new rules.

“If you think it matters, write aboutit.”

Sometimes someone’s silence on a subject does matter. It’s not always a cheap shot to point it out.

As a reader of blogs I can only agree. Could we also have a little less self righteousness and pomposity please.

Agreed. It is boring for readers to read blogging about blogging. It is unavoidable sometimes but should be kept to a minimum.

Almost every day I get emails demanding I write about the most important issue facing the planet the EUSSR / Bilderbergers / Carbon Dioxide / Dead Demonstrators / Iraq / Sri Lanka. I press delete.

Blogs are not comprehensive newswire services. They reflect the interests and biases of the authors. They often have a very narrow focus, covering few subjects.

That is a feature not a bug.

But half of LC’s articles would have to go if blogging about other bloggers were to be banned!

As an amateur blogger myself I certainly agree that instant reaction is not possible when your juggling a life and a job. I started a blog to provide an outlet to my own opinions, my main points of interest are foreign affairs with a bit of economics on the side. I have had several occasions where readers have contacted me asking why I haven’t covered this story or that issue. Not being aligned to a political party often means that many hot issues in domestic politics don’t actually register too high on my radar and as Sunder correctly points out the reaction of bloggers is usually as predictable as what can be found in the MSM.

As a blogger I follow my own agenda and as a blog reader I look for stories which have failed to make the MSM and the rare occasions when someone has a genuinely new take on an issue. I actually find it refreshing to come across a new blog and cannot find the obligatory hot topic posts.

And wasn’t much of your beef with Nick Cohen about what he didn’t mention on his blog?

I have no opinion on this post.

Absolutely correct.

I often get accused of this. Why nothing about subject X. When subject X is often breaking news that we are only just finding out about.

In particular i see little merit in blogs simply regurgitating stucff from the mainstream media, so when we do cover a story it is necessary to do some digging, get some facts and information of our own.

I am very suspicious of people who have a ready made opinion for everything without actuakly first coinsidering the facts.

Don’t think I agree.

Adam Bienkov is right to point out that sometimes the silence is deliberate and speaks volumes and should be pointed out. And you think a dishonest character like Iain Dale is going to shy away from using this rhetorical trick in the future?

Following on from my previous comment I will not, repeat not, be posting a ‘Happy St Georges Day’ piece complete with a picture of the St George’s cross or some religious iconography of a knight slaying a lizard to show how patriotic I am.

Depends upon the silence. The exams you cited were fine, but in certain instances it’s all too telling. The instance which springs to mind is Richard Seymour’s lengthy article explaining that the collapse of Respect was not based around petty factionalism at all, but instead was a Right-Left split, with the SWP (of course) being the Left.

When the members of the SWP faction defected to New Labour and the Conservative Party a few months later he stayed conspicuously silent about the matter on his blog, despite it effectively having debunked his analysis. Or rather, because it had. An even better example is Daniel Finkelstein’s botched attempt to shame the Liberal Democrats over the Ian Tomlinson affair, completely misreading the situation and claiming that Tomlinson was somehow to blame. Since then he’s been pretty damn quiet on the matter, failing entirely to apologise or admit fault.

Silences like that one matter, and should be pointed out.

(To be fair after some light pestering he responded to me in a comment, but the point stands.)

Could we please call off the WhyNoBlogathons?

Can we cease with the moral arbitrator of the blogosphere stuff, is gotten boring.

13. Sunder Katwala

Adam, Leon – fair enough point.

I don’t mean to be harsh but it really is a distraction, and in my view futile. As someone said recently by your blogging we shall know ye…

Who’s Iain Dale?


I smell an amusing meme in the making..;)

The other side to the expected immediacy of a response is that, for example, any comment made on this subject after 9pm tonight is unlikely to be read. The Blogs work best where ideas are tossed up and debated. If immediacy of comment is all important the quality of debate and comment is reduced.

Still no one read that

Guido and the think tank he’s not writing about.

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    New post: Calling time on the WhyNoBlogathon

  2. Adam Bienkov

    Why do I feel like I’m being told off?

  3. Liberal Conspiracy

    New post: Calling time on the WhyNoBlogathon


    […] Katwala recently wrote about this at Liberal conspiracy. This can be one route into what Sunny Hundal and others call the ‘condemnathon’, a closely […]

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