Diplomadic Immunity

I don’t know if anyone bothers to look at my short list of Links (and I hope it will stay short; I don’t intend having one of those seemingly endless Blogrolls that list about 200 sites. I don’t see the point). Anyway, there have been a few changes to it recently, namely

  • It’s goodbye to Walking Like Giant Cranes. Jarod has called it a day, which is a great shame. Where else would you read about the etymology of the word “Quavers” (Peruvian for Cheese-flavoured, apparently), or the famous riots during the 80’s caused by the introduction of Ham flavour Quavers. He will be missed.
  • It’s hello to Boomablog. This is part politeness; for reasons best know to the author of Boomablog, The Obscurer is listed as one of only three sites on his Blogroll. I don’t know what I have done to deserve such an honour, but I am appropriately flattered. It is not just politeness, however; Boomablog is an amusing and well-written site that I will visit regularly; otherwise I would not place it in my list of links.
  • Also, a warm welcome to Our Word Is Our Weapon. The blog’s author, Jim, was very kind to me in his comments on my Tsunami post, so I would like to return the favour. His blog makes for fine and informative reading; and even if his level of statistical analysis is way in advance of my abilities in that area, I will try my best to keep up.

Jim’s world view seems quite similar to my own, which of course helps, but I will endeavour to keep an open mind when I read his blog, and not take what he says at face value just because I may agree with him; otherwise I may as well not read anything by anyone else, and just tell myself that I am right on every subject. For this reason, I will continue to read The Filter^, in particular for Anthony’s posts written from a libertarian perspective. I often don’t agree fully with what he has to say, but they are always interesting, positive and thought provoking posts, free from the negative sniping and point scoring that often passes for comment in other blogs.

When I first started writing this blog, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I hadn’t so much as read another blog, and it was just by investigating the “Blog This” button on my Google toolbar that I stumbled upon the Blogger website and decided to have a go. I didn’t know what was expected of the blogger, so I just decided to just get off my chest some things that I wanted airing, to publish them on the web, and allow my opinions to be opened up to ridicule (actually that’s not quite true; I never expected anyone to read my blog at all. I certainly didn’t think people would find their way here by trying to find methods for defrosting their cars via Google, just because I’d written this post. I can only apologise for wasting so many peoples’ time). I was surprised to discover just how many other blogs there were out there, and also that some people clearly seemed to have far too much time on their hands. I realised that I could probably just about muster one or two posts a week, but some people seemed to average around six a day, which I still find mind-boggling. But the most surprising thing I found when first taking a trip into the blogosphere (and shoot me if I ever use that term again; or if I ever use “hat tip” at all) was how many bloggers feel that blogging is an alternative to the mainstream media, rather than just being a place where people can speak their mind; that it is somehow more truthful and accurate than the rest of the media, that it is better at reporting how things are. On the Iraq War, for example, what united many bloggers, both anti-war and pro-war, was that they believed the media was biased against their viewpoint; but both sides couldn’t be right.

In recent days, this belief in the superiority of the blog has been seen most sharply in the glowing praise The Diplomad has been receiving. Particularly on the subject of the UN and its response (or lack of response) to the Tsunami, all it seems to take is for The Diplomad to report something and it flies around the blogo… I mean it flies around the blogging fraternity and is reported as incontrovertible fact; a welcome voice battling through the lies and omissions of the media. And not just in the blogging world; even the dreaded mainstream media itself has got in on the act. Christopher Booker in the Telegraph writes that the main story of the week is the “startling contrast between the impotence of the international organisations, the UN and the EU, and the remarkable efficiency of the US and Australian military on the ground” when dealing with the Tsunami relief effort. In covering this story he says, “the BBC’s performance has become a national scandal”, that its coverage is biased because they think everything is “a case of ‘UN and EU good, US and military bad'”. Instead he thinks we should be listening to the “wonderfully outspoken Diplomad run undercover by members of the US State Department”.

Well, if you haven’t already, read a bit of The Diplomad and see what you think. It may indeed be the unvarnished truth. It may be a complete pack of lies. Either way, it is clearly a heavily subjective account by someone who seems to be a hugely disaffected malcontent. Nothing wrong with that, he/she is entitled to his/her opinion, but it is just that; the writers’ opinion. For Christopher Booker, or anyone else, to reject the BBC’s coverage in favour of the Diplomad’s is to reject the coverage of a broadcaster with a remit for impartiality (even if you feel they have not fulfilled this particularly well) in favour of the opinions of someone who makes no such claim. You may as well praise the wonderfully outspoken statements of a bloke you sat next to on the bus. Personally, I need a little more to go on before I treat the word of an anonymous source as fact.

But people will do just that, because to reverse what Booker thinks of the BBC (and presumably what he thinks of most of the rest of the media), some people are of the opinion that the UN/EU are all bad and the US/military all good. If the mainstream media do not reflect this view, they surmise that the media must be wrong, and a blog that tells a different story must be right. There is much about mainstream journalism that is ripe for criticism, but rather than replace it I would like to think that blogs can supplement and complement the rest of the media, that they can widen the debate, and overall I think that they can; but if they are just going to be read by people who trawl the internet looking for something which mirrors their own prejudices, then I may have to think again.