Yesterday, a columnist named Stephen Glover published a commentary in 'The Daily Mail' which, though heavily qualified, if read in a certain light could be considered defamatory of all bloggers. Mr. Glover wrote,
"Such is the power of the internet that people of little consequence can write whatever they choose and gain a spurious credibility far beyond what they deserve. How can it be in the interests of democracy for spiteful and often ill-informed little men, hunched over their computers in a mood of hate and vengeance, to vilify enemies with anonymous smears that may never be forgotten? "
It is ironic that this comment should have appeared nearly 20 years to the day after the Hillsborough disaster. Part of that tragedy's bitter aftermath was 'The Sun' newspaper's smearing of dead men as thieves; an ill-informed act of spite committed by the littlest of little big men, and a smear which on some parts of Merseyside will most certainly never be forgotten.
I am quite sure that I would be capable of falling within whatever definition of 'people of little consequence' that Mr. Glover might care to offer; to which one can only reply, good - that's the way I like it. With my 70 hits a day, I enjoy far greater editorial control over my output than Mr. Glover may ever have done. I do not depend upon my ability to produce words for my daily bread and so, and of course within whatever constraints the laws of the land might impose, am free to write what I like about whatever topic I like. I don't carry ads, and I don't hold fundraising drives. Having spent his career leashed to the whims of proprietors and editors, this is the type of creative freedom of which Mr. Glover might have only been able to dream; and of course and as ever, the merit of whatever is produced is entirely up to the reader to decide.
The ultimate owner/controller/guiding and animating spirit of the dead-Scouser-libelling 'The Sin' is one Keith Rupert Murdoch AC, KCSG. Mr. Murdoch is now an elderly man. The state of his soul is his business - if there are matters which weigh upon his conscience, it is to be hoped that he repents of them before the end. It will then be seen whether his successors have the capacity to keep the show on the road, if they're as good was the old man was; historically, the odds against dynasties surviving are not good.
For it was no more in the interests of democracy for Tony Blair to court Rupert Murdoch than for 'spiteful and ill-informed little men' to do whatever it is that spiteful and ill-informed little men actually do. At all times in his career, he has presumably never been registered to vote here, nor held British citizenship. Why his publications' good offices should be sought by those who wish to lead us is thus a mystery. However spiteful and ill-informed its users might be, the advent of accessible digital media has given them the opportunity to express opinions and influence events. Freedom of the press means the freedom of the press to compete - in his book 'My Trade', Andrew Marr records how this has extended to removing the speakers from public telephones, vandalism in so many words, in order to frustrate the opposition. Mr. Marr is candid enough to admit that he has suppressed a story concerning a friend; a classic example of what Chesterton described as 'freedom of censorship by the press'.
For too long, the press has treated the news as their property; blogging has perhaps taken it back a little. If commentators like Mr. Glover don't like it, that's unfortunate; but it might also perhaps be progress.