You'd half expect us all to heave to and fly the skull and crossbones on our masthead looking at some of the comments from the MSM since the weekend about us bloggers. Will, Yousuf, Jeff, Malc and Alex Massie have already pointed out some misguided and sloppy generalisations in Iain McWhirter's piece in yesterday's Herald. The fact that I feel the need to add my voice should be one way of showing just how wrong he is when he says, "New frontier of the blog hijacked for ugly politics". Simply looking at the diverstiy of the opinion raised against his turn of phrase makes that self evident.
That diversity across Scottish blogosphere of those who have taken up keyboard in agreement against McWhirter will show him one thing. One bad apple, no matter how large, does not ruin the orchard. Like Will I've been around this blogging lark for many years, but Yousuf, Jeff, Malc et al have also caught one fundamental of the medium that Derek Draper and LabourList have failed to recognise, the blogopshere is a community. As Will put it " I can squabble with Caron on matters of policy one minute, then compare notes with her about Strictly Come Dancing the next?". Just like me and Jeff, or whoever, can dispute policy from different view points or from the same depending just what is the subject of the day and now he's on Twitter we may well settle down to an evening exchanging views on the sport or TV just like me and Malc.
A wee while ago I was having a very public spat with Iain Dale online about his use of language in a particular situation. While at the same time behind the scenes when we both realised enough was enough a friendly agreement was being hatched, to try and tune down the voice of others that was overtaking the dispute. The political blogopshere does indeed tend to have it's own sort of Privy Council terms at times.
Scottish Roundup is a prime example of this. There is a site where the various political hues in Scotland work together to round up the best of the political blogs on a weekly basis. The usual suspects aren't always being nominated by the usual suspects either. I have often nominated the counterpoint to the Lib Dem story of the week, sometimes breaking a new blog in the process, because it is about balance. I had to write up the week that Nicol Stephen resigned as leader, (bad) luck of the draw, I didn't shirk from including pieces that criticised him from elsewhere.
It's not all ugly in the world of political blogs and as the others have also pointed out it isn't all poorly written or badly analysed. It is only when someone refuses to engage with the rest of the blogosphere, wants to set up almost overnight a beacon and try and control its use that things can become ugly. This is what the McBride/Draper scenario attempted to achieve by foul and ugly means.
As for ugliness on the Internet perhaps Mr McWhirter is loathe to venture further away than the comments pages on the online editions of the MSM. Admittedly this is an ugly place where vitriol, sheer volume and anonymity can shield commenters from direct challenge. Debate is spurious at times and acid tongued often, it regularly roams far and wide from the subject matter at hand and often leads to insult trading from across the political divide. While this can occur in the Blogosphere is somehow seems to be better managed as the writer of the piece takes a direct concern in the comments posted, will answer back, and if needs must challenge an individual who is lowering the tone or taking things too far.
The blogopshere is far more hands on and the writer can decide just how nasty or clean they want to make and keep it. Once a bloggers baby is released to the Interweb is is more cared for by its parent than most pieces written by journalists in the MSM. Largely they tend to keep track on what is being said, both on their own blogs and on comments they post elsewhere. If anything the interconnectiveness and interaction on the blogopshere is more direct, more personal and more well Web 2.0 really than the 'dead wood press'.
Of course there are exceptions to that generalisation about the MSM journalists, just as the blogs McWhirter picks up are the exception rather than the rule, but Mr McWhirter would appear to not be one of them, yet.