I began blogging on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ site in the late summer. I’d had another long stay in hospital, and was feeling depressed about myself and the world. Everything seemed out of joint. The international scene was going from bad to worse. Apart from the impervious few who never glance outside their own cosy bunkers, people everywhere were getting more and more frightened, angry, and despondent. Surely, I thought, on a news discussion site hosted by the Guardian – of which I’ve been a lifelong reader – there will be, if anywhere, constructive individuals, groups, and some new thinking.
What I found was rather different. Yes, there were some highly intelligent posters keen to swap ideas calmly and to debate issues dispassionately. But they were outnumbered by the frightened, angry, and hostile, whose aim in posting seemed to be to beat others up from behind the safety of their computer screens – scarcely a heroic enterprise. There were also the personally abusive, who called some of the bloggers who provided the threads, and the posters who placed comments, nasty and sometimes scurrilous names, even using lavatory language. I hadn’t been prepared for this, especially as the site’s ‘talk policy’ said such personal abuse wouldn’t be allowed. This in turn raised the whole issue of censorship. Were posts removed, and some posters barred, only because of their loutish behaviour, or also because their opinions didn’t suit the site managers or some other posters – who had the right, apparently, to demand the removal of a post they disliked which some of them frequently did.
All this seemed a far cry from the site’s proud banner ‘Comment is Free’. Whether or not ‘Facts are Sacred’ [whatever ‘facts’ are], I felt pretty sure that the great Manchester Guardian editor C.P. Scott, who had coined the phrase, wouldn’t have approved the censorious way his successors were running the site. So after a few vain attempts to get matters improved, I ceased posting there.
By contrast, Zola-Ink-Spots’ igloo-cum-sauna in remotest
At the younger, more earnest, end we find Toby Lewis’s ‘Reason’s Sword’, where Toby applies his thoughtful and studious mind to various topics that interest him. He is a budding philosopher and always worth reading. Chris White’s ‘Blog about Blogging’ is a young journalist’s account if his training and progress, and is fascinatingly alien to journalists of an older generation, like myself, whose only training was that which they picked up on the job.
The other member of the Awkard Squad ring is Angela F, whose blog, ‘Surviving Huntingtons’, is devoted to her personal and family experiences of living with Huntington’s Disease. This sounds as if it might be a gloomy read, but the spirited way in which Angela tackles her life, and then writes articulately and movingly about it, is inspiring and even refreshing.
Each member of the Awkward Squad has their awkwardnesses. I’ll return soon to the ways blogging is evolving, and the purpose and potential of blogrings.