Comment is cheap

Spoke to my ma this evening about Yvonne Roberts’ (pah!) “throw a pebble at Goliath” pro Israel boycott blog post on Comment is Free (which I don’t want to oxygenate with a link). Mum was fussing but when I eventually read it, it I found it so useless that I couldn’t believe it had 240-odd responses.  Matt said that Comment isn’t free – it’s just cheap.

I was struck how, on Comment Is Free particularly, blogging has made it acceptable to confidently grandstand your argument without taking the trouble to reassure or warn your readership that your sources are broad and reliable, or narrow and partisan. So when she tells us that (my emphasis):

“The Israeli treatment of Palestinians shows a total disregard for human rights. Apartheid doesn’t seem to me to be too strong a word – and its consequence, as many have pointed out, is a recruitment drive for Islamic fundamentalists.”

I’m obliged, award winning journalist or not, to take it with a fistful of salt. I like blogging – in fact, blogging is marvellous, and democratising, and heralds the return of the public intellectual, and encourages us all to be better writers and thinkers, and provokes and stimulates, and so much more. But really, does everything have to be an opinion piece? Can’t authors at least dignify their readers by revealing their sources for evaluation? And if their sources are just their own bias and prejudice, do they really want to go ahead and parade them so authoritatively? Yvonne Roberts cites only once – a single article from the distinctively unrigorous New Internationalist. 

Some would argue that’s how the blogosphere works – throw your stuff at the wall and see what sticks. But really… surely we’d get further quicker if fewer of us had to go fact checking. But because Yvonne Roberts really doesn’t seem like a very reliable person in this regard, we do have to go fact checking. She uses emotive rhetorical language such as “brutal” and “savagery”. And she fails to develop the disreputable shabby old arguments which have been so throroughly taken apart (Normblog, Nick Cohen, Engage, Harry’s Place) that reading them here reminds me of Commercial Road on Sundays, where you have to sidestep defeated-looking street vendors who crouch on the pavement amongst the most undesirable wares – odd shoes, single door handles, balding bone-backed hairbrushes, plastic dolls’ heads, lockless keys, chipped and teastained teapots – arrayed on old curtains spread over the filth.  That derelict.

John Sedgemore on comment being cheap, and on the “scan and react” phenomenon. He doesn’t reference either.


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