I’ve promised in the tagline a ‘pretentious political wankling’ by a ‘poncey, privileged, pseudo-intellectual polemicist’. Catchy alliteration aside, it’s only just now, starting my first post, that I’ve realised I’ve drastically over-sold myself. Pretentious? Certainly (if answering your own questions isn’t pretentious, I don’t know what is). Political? Vaguely. Wankling [n. portmanteau of wank and rambling] surely isn’t setting a particularly high-standard. Poncey and privileged I can do in my sleep. Pseudo-intellectual’s stretching the abilities, but the incisiveness and acerbity implied in the title ‘polemicist’? I don’t know what I was thinking! More like the cliched, pedantic screechings of a demented 80 year-old man (I’m only 20, but 80 at heart and in computer literacy) yelling about NCEA, randomly arranged with all the grace, clarity, and subtlety of variously; a letter to the editor of the Dom-Post from
a middle-aged Don Brash-voting redneck John Ansell, a YouTube comment on a Richard Dawkins video, or, God-Forbid, Stuff Nation. Or in other words, about par for the course in New Zealand political blogging. But at least I use the Oxford comma.
Now’s the part where I backpedal and say of course there are many good blogs worth the time you would’ve otherwise spent stealing Game Of Thrones, getting drunk and arguing about moral truth, or daydreaming about the revolution or that $25 million that bastard who bought my Lotto ticket a couple of weeks ago stole from me. These blogs are in no particular order; the American ‘Alternet‘, ‘The Dim-Post‘, the sadly departed ‘The New Masses‘ (last post in 2011, but still worth a read), and at the risk of looking like a sycophant, ‘Liberation‘, which I hasten to add I have been reading for some time. Hell, I’ll even pop along to ‘The Daily Blog‘ if I feel like switching off and lazily indulging my left-wing urges, although Bradbury’s Cun*liffe (lazy, I know) fanboyism certainly gets tiresome. I’ll also sheepishly admit that I found David Farrar’s number-crunching on ‘Kiwiblog‘ during last year’s Labour leadership election invaluable to what was at the time my main method of whiling away the days; indulging and justifying fantasies of a Shane Jones victory.
But for every sharp, revealing and incisive piece of political analysis there is a Whale Oil Beef Hooked dredging the dark, sludgy recesses of human muck. And what is to be expected when an amazing tool such as the internet is bestowed upon humanity? Something with the potential to democratise knowledge, to bring connection and understanding to the far-flung, fractured, shards of individuals on an increasingly globalised, but concomitantly atomised planet. Something that could bring sharing and enlightenment to the human community. Instead we get spam, porn, and blogs.
Collectively we bear responsibility for turning the greatest tool man has ever produced, into a medium for narcissism, self-indulgence, and objectification. The endless inanities and nothingness of Twits, the simultaneous voyeurism and self-objectification of Facebook, animal videos, and the never-ceasing exploitation and desensitisation of 24 hour, freely available prostitution that has the added benefit of allowing greater depersonalisation than the real thing by reducing the irreducibly complex human subject to a mere image.
But at the heart of this ‘Me Culture’ is the blog. The provision of a pedestal to the products of post-modernist nihilism, dressed up as fluffy, liberal, enlightened relativism, that teaches that everyone has something to say, that all opinions are equally valid (or invalid), no matter how trivial, absurd, or half-assed their malformed musings (I’m not excusing myself from this category), or, God-forbid, my least favourite word, opinions are. There’s no better way of turning the properly outwardly-oriented human person into a dark, twisted, self-obsessed caricature than giving him a platform, and encouraging him to ‘share’. How American. Because sharing to the narcissistic psyche isn’t sharing at all. It’s a self-indulgence that can only lead to an increasingly inwardly focused Me-ism. And if you doubt the triviality and vacuousness of the ‘capital I’ blog culture, you only need to examine some of today’s posts from New Zealand’s top blogs and the inanities that pass for political discourse in our country now: Rehashing of a man’s infidelities on Whale Oil (Newsflash! A man is unfaithful to wife!), a propaganda piece about Cunliffe on The Standard, responding to and feeding the vicious cycle of personality politics, and that six lines in suggests that the Labour leader has the same IQ as the man who first chalked the theory of relativity, David Farrar posting about a post that posts about how MPs should and shouldn’t post when they post (and I thought I was being meta), and a personality attack on the Prime Minister over on The Daily Blog, that instead of analysing the seriously worrying effects of the influence that the rich and corporates have on the political process, indulges in personal, petty sniping instead.
No wonder we get odious husks of human beings like Whale Oil having such an outsized influence on the political process in this country. 909,538 page views last month. We’re his enablers. Keep paying attention to him and he’ll keep saying the things like this, which Jonathan Milne highlights in his piece ‘In Bed With The Bloggers‘:
“Slater has been guilty of the most inhumane attacks. After King’s College 16-year-old James Webster drank himself to death outside a party, Slater called him “a toffee-nosed school boy, a dead thief and a liar who couldn’t handle his piss”. Just for good measure, he added: “I always said King’s boys were poofs.””
He also touches on the aforementioned narcissism and Me-ism that blogging encourages when he says:
“The leading bloggers trade on one core asset: the power of personality. They are loud, they are brash and they are, ahem, manufactured.”
In becoming the worst they can be, these bloggers encourage the worst in us, and through their influence muddy, and in some sort of genius Machiavellian way, completely invert the purpose of political analysis which should be to shed light on the failings of our social and economic systems. The 24 hour news-cycle, which in New Zealand is carried out on blogs and social media, whether they be left-wing or right-wing, inevitably descends to superficial personality politics which always serves the interests of the elite by clouding class divides and the stark failures of our social system. This feeds back into our already biased and right-wing corporate ‘mainstream media’ by creating the news that they report on, lowering all analysis to the level of the superficial blog. One only need look at the mainstream success of a beat-up artist like Patrick Gower for proof.
So I’ve joined the ‘blogsters’. Here’s hoping I don’t get sucked in.