I'm back. I had a great holiday. England is cold and dank and slate-grey and full of grumpy people. I knew I was home when I saw a miserable-looking old lady in a cyan coat at a bus stop with a tartan shopping trolley. And then I read about Andrew Marr saying that bloggers are 'inadequate, pimpled and single' while I was away.
It's tempting, isn't it, to start off by saying "Ooh Andrew Marr, who the hell is that fuck-ugly Michael Gove doppelganger to judge others by their physical appearance, the weedy little runt; is he just getting back at others for the repeat bullyings he inevitably endured at school?" - but that would be the lazy blogging of crude stereotype; that would play into his hands and go some way towards proving his point. One could even bring up that thing about Andrew Marr; but again, that would be wrong too (so don't do it in the comments, please); that would be exactly the kind of nasty blogging that he's obviously read, and didn't like, so why go and confirm his prejudices by playing up to them?
No. And besides, Andrew Marr does have a point. A lot of bloggers are inadequate fools, let's not deny that. I'm paraphrasing here, but someone (I think it was Suzanne Moore) said they'd been to a blogging event and it hadn't dispelled the notion of bloggers as sad men masturbating in the spare bedroom. Well, that's kind of what a lot of us are: tragic loners tapping away at a keyboard; losers who blame their own failures and misery on the shortcomings of others, and transform that supposedly righteous anger into swearing and abuse; anonymous cowards who wouldn't squeak at anyone 'in real life' but who develop an online persona that's crusading, powerful and mighty, all the things they in reality lack.
It's a fair cop. And Marr was only having a dig to raise a chortle at some literary event; you can see why someone might be a bit sneery about the online world as opposed to the printed one at such a thing, and maybe he was just playing to the gallery. I don't think he's sly enough, either, to have made the comments hoping for a wave of disapproval that would have made his point more elegantly than he could ever have done. No, he just said what he said, and that's fair enough. I don't mind at all.
The only thing I would say is that there isn't a taxonomy of bloggers, just as there isn't an easy way to spot a journalist, for example - though you can always have a bash at the latter. (Do they wear corduroy? Do they smell of booze at 8am as if they might have slept in a skip? Do they look a bit shy, and are overcompensating by shouting on the telephone? If they weren't in a newsroom, would they look out of place shuffling around a library all day in soiled, crumpled clothing? Are they driving a really rubbish car? Do they look like they got dressed in the dark, and yet somehow seem proud of the fact? And so on...) But just as not all journos are like that, not all bloggers are scratchy, marginal characters, 40-year-old virgins or pissant keyboard warriors; some of us actually have lives, and are reasonably ordinary, even pleasant, in real life. No, really.
And Marr is wrong, mind you, to bring up the hoary old 'blogging will never replace journalism' silliness. At the risk of setting up a strawman, since (as someone pointed out to me a while ago) accusing someone of setting up a strawman is becoming something of, er, a strawman, it's a bit of a strawman. I've probably mentioned before I'm doing this thing on Friday, where me and other sad pimpled inadequates will be discussing blogging and journalism and that; can I say now and give fair warning that anyone who says 'blogging will never replace journalism' will get a slap round the face with a dirty, oily old salmon from me? Because that's not the point and it's never the point. No-one wants blogging to replace journalism or supersede it; no-one seriously thinks it will, completely, either. Good blogging can and will complement good journalism, while bad blogging, like bad journalism, drags everyone down. And it's healthy to have some of the old guard challenged by new writers - they'll either up their game or get washed away with the tide. Competition is good for all of us, rubbish amateurs like me and established silky craftsmen like Marr.
So while it's tempting to stick two fingers up to someone like Marr, he's a mainly harmless cove really. He's got a bit of a point, as well. Though it's not true of all of us. I think. Hope. Something.
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