The Obscurer

Category: Blogs

This Really Ragged Notion

The Euston Manifesto has caused a bit of a stir amongst bloggers; Tim Worstall is offended by it, Chris Dillow is in two minds over it, and Phil Edwards takes it to task (and uses the same source as myself for his post title).

I would spend some time discussing it myself if I saw it as anything other than a well meaning vanity project, if I thought it likely that it would resonate beyond the people who already agree with its aims, or that the world would change one iota because of the publication of this statement of principles.

But I won’t, because I don’t, because it’s not going to, because it won’t.

The Hollow Men

In between criticising the mainstream media, many bloggers admit that given the chance they would like to be columnists on a broadsheet newspaper (that is, if the term hasn’t yet lost its meaning in this age of “compacts” and “berliners”). Some, however, seem to be setting their sights a little lower while the rest of us are looking at the stars.

A case in point being the recent actions of Guido Fawkes and Recess Monkey. Last week they apparently published a podcast of their dried voices discussing political gossip. When Mark Oaten subsequently resigned from the Lib Dem’s leadership race, and then from the party’s front bench due to tabloid allegations, Guido for one gleefully claimed the credit announcing that “Its the pod what did it”; although surely that should read “it’s the ‘cast what did it”? Either way, although I have been aware of Guido’s blog for a while I’ve never really read it, and now I know why. Some bloggers want to be a Monbiot or a Krugman, other clearly fancy themselves as a 3am girl. Well each to their own.

Guido’s argument is that his blog is a tabloid affair, the stuff of gossip and rumour mongering; and if that was all then I could happily just ignore him and I wouldn’t be writing this post. What I find difficult to ignore is how someone can so proudly claim responsibility (erroneously I suspect) for the week’s events. It is one thing to revel in tittle-tattle, quite another to cheerfully gloat about your own part in potentially destroying another man’s career and family life. Whatever gives you a rosy glow, I guess.

Oaten is of course largely the author of his own destruction, and it is wrong to lose sight of that. If you have such a skeleton in your closet, and yet still run for the leadership of your party knowing what you know about the press in this country, then you have got to expect a bit of trouble; it is certainly a high-risk strategy. The primary reason I have not made myself rich and famous is because the last thing I want to come back and haunt me is the fact that I spent much of the ‘eighties poking badgers with spoons; I won’t be running for high office.

But who is really the more unpleasant character here; Oaten or Guido? For example, take two people, one who says in private that “I think that Quinn is a twat”, and another who comes up to me and says, “X says he thinks you’re a twat”. I may not personally like the first person but he is perfectly entitled to his opinion, while the second is a sneak who should be shunned by all. If my analogy reminds you of the school playground, then that is little wonder.

In his comments on Chicken Yoghurt, Guido explains his raison d’etre thusly

To follow the money, hypocrisy and dishonesty of those who want to be our masters in an amusing accessable populist tabloid fashion. The whole lobby keeping secrets thing undermines democracy. A pox a the lot of them

So he is doing this for us, and in defence of democracy, is he? Well I’m all for holding politicians to account, I have a pretty low opinion of them myself, but I’d rather criticise them for their policies and public pronouncements than for what they do in their private lives, which has fuck all to do with their competence as elected representatives.

Guido is entitled to say what he likes, but I can’t see the point in having a pop at politicians for being sleazy when all you are doing is engaging in sleazy mudslinging yourself. I don’t understand the idea of setting yourself up as some sort of anti-establishment rebel attacking “our masters” if you are then going to defend your blog on the grounds that it is “popular”, with a “six-figure readerships per month”, and to dismiss “most of the criticism” you receive because it only comes “from bloggers with 7 readers”*. What’s that about “the slave begins by demanding justice…”?

The final word though must go to Guido, from the comments on his own blog. He advises those who don’t like his style to “Fuck off and read the Indy”. Now that sounds like an excellent idea. With luck our paths won’t cross again.

*Guido can’t be referring to me here, as I still aspire to getting seven readers; although I love each and every one of you.

This whole sordid business could put me off blogging, but that would be quite wrong, for while Guido is raising his glass to celebrate his own part in wrecking a family, Occupied Country, in two posts, opens his heart over the recent trials involving himself and his parents. It is moving and humbling to read Steve’s posts; it shows just how blogging can be a sharing and (hopefully) cathartic exercise, and reminds you of how there are much more important things to be concerned about. Best wishes, Steve, to you and your family.

I Didn't Lose Myself In The Crowd

By now you either already know, or aren’t interested, that John Band’s blog Shot By Both Sides in no more. I don’t know the full details, but apparently someone took exception to something he had written and chose to respond through blackmail and threats, including contacting John’s employers. John B felt he had no option other than to pull the plug.

I was never a regular reader of SBBS; it was one of those annoyingly prolific blogs with posts coming out faster than I could read them. He was a bit hit and miss, a bit near the knuckle and provocative at times (obviously too provocative in the opinion of one particularly twattish individual) and I can’t say I agreed with everything he wrote; but when he was good he was brilliant.

One post I remember reading a few months back concerned his views on pseudonyms for bloggers; unless you were employed by the government he couldn’t understand why people didn’t write under their real names. I suspect he is reviewing his opinion on this matter, and may well reappear soon with a different blog under a different name, perhaps with a different Magazine song as its title. I hope so, and wish him luck.

When I started The Obscurer I hadn’t read another blog, and so I just thought it was natural to write under an assumed name. No, in case you havn’t guessed I’m not called Quinn; who refers to themselves by their surname for God’s sake? It isn’t even my surname; I picked it as it is the name of both the central, enigmatic character in one of my favourite novels (Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy) and of a former City hero (Niall). Since then I have toyed with writing under my own name, but decided against it. Other than the slight egotism of seeing my name in “print” across the internet I can’t see any advantages. There are, however, some definite disadvantages; for example, I haven’t yet, but I may want to write something scathing and critical about my employers whilst simultaneously keeping my job. A pseudonym is great for that, allowing more room for manoeuvre when it comes to such self censorship.

John B will still be writing over at The Sharpener, apparently; and I will keep my eyes peeled to see if he does start up a new blog; The Pseudo-nym Magazine, perhaps?

A House Is Not A Motel

Regular readers (not that there seem to be many left now I have returned from holiday) will notice a redesign of this site. Basically I got a bit fed up with visiting other blogs and finding they looked identical to mine, using the standard “scribe” template from Blogger. I was happy with the way my blog looked, but I decided as my comments and observations on life are uninspired, unoriginal and far from unique, the least I can do is have a website that looks different from lots of others out there.

Not that the new look is exactly a state of the art or cutting edge design, pretty much a straight lift of the look you find on many of the TypePad blogs; but I do like the neat uncluttered way those blogs look, and so I hope I have done a half decent copy. Anyway, if you’d told me when I started this blog last year that I would be able to do any sort of HTML redesign at all I would have laughed. But not to your face; I am not that rude.

While I am doing some “blog housekeeping” I will just mention the addition of The Sharpener to my list of links; not that this group blog needs further publicity as it seems to be doing just fine by itself. However, I do think it is worth noting that The Sharpener is a great blog, with some excellent writing from some fine bloggers, and along with Tim Worstall’s BritBlog Roundup every Sunday is a fantastic time saving device for someone like myself whose “blogging time” (largely of my own volition) is somewhat limited. The quality of the posts so far has been very high, and has introduced me to a couple of nice blogs at Third Avenue and Actually Existing. If you haven’t already, give it a go.

Blogs And The Blogger

Just as novelists have a nasty habit of writing novels about novels and novelists, so bloggers have a tendency to write blogs about blogging and bloggers. And I don’t mean people mention another blog as a starting point to go on to discuss another subject; I mean the subject is blogging itself. This is not meant as a criticism, just an observation. I’ve done the same myself; in fact I’m doing it right now.

Blogging about blogs has gone into overdrive the past week or so; everywhere you go you can read discussions about Iain Duncan Smith’s article in the Guardian concerning blogging as a political tool, about the Backing Blair campaign by bloggers to affect the result at the forthcoming general election, about the new list of Top 10 British Blogs. Everyone seems to be talking about blogs.

Through all the articles written this week concerning blogging, I think the best was by NoseMonkey at Europhobia; he pretty much hits several nails right on the head in this post. I particularly empathise with him when I read that he thinks, “around 80% (of bloggers) seem to be either single-issue obsessives, vindictive arseholes or nowhere near as educated or clever as they think they are. The remaining 20% is made up of people – like me – who really just want to be columnists on a national newspaper. Why the hell do our opinions matter?”. He believes that relatively few bloggers are like him and just want to “think about the issues a bit and work out where I stand”.

But a particular mention must go to Tim Worstall, and his idea of publishing a weekly roundup of the best posts across a range of blogs. The idea is that everyone nominates one post each week, either from their own or someone else’s blog; you email the details to Tim, and those that he considers to be the best will be listed on his blog each Sunday. This really is a cracking idea, and could act as a great introduction for people new to blogs, and to showcase blogs different from those you would normally read. The first roundup was posted last week, and was terrific. There were some blogs I especially enjoyed reading (Nick Barlow, Liberal England) and I will visit again; others blogs (no names, no pack drill) I won’t; but that is as it should be. Tim’s intention is to select differing, contrary and wide-ranging viewpoints, which is admirable (That said, I won’t be nominating a post entitled “Why all Libertarians are wankers”; but then again I wouldn’t write one).

I will probably pop in a few suggestions and submissions of my own, from other blogs, and from The Obscurer when I think I have written something half decent; but more than being a just a way to publicise my own writing, and the writings of others I admire, I like the the way the weekly roundup could act as an invaluable summary of the best writing from British bloggers.

As I have said before, I feel weak and ill when I see how regularly some bloggers post; every day, or even several times a day. I really don’t know how they find the time; I will never be so prolific (perhaps I just don’t get bothered by so many things, or I don’t have as much to say). But at the same time that I find it difficult to spare the time to write, I find it difficult to spare the time to read half the stuff out there, particularly by the more prodigious writers.

When I first started reading blogs I could lose hours flitting from one to another, following a thread from blog to blog; but since my son has started referring to the dog as “daddy” I have realised I am unable to spend as much time sat at the PC. There are more important things to do, which I enjoy doing; such as talking to my wife, that sort of thing.

So a concise list of highlights each week is a great idea. I hope Tim’s roundup takes off, and given the mild egotism inherent in most bloggers souls I guess submissions aren’t going to be a problem; the biggest threat will be if Tim is swamped with suggestions and is unable to wade through them all. But for the time being the BritBlog Roundup is with us, and I am looking forward to the second instalment.