Having had my tuppence worth as much as anyone, I’m starting to find this libertarians v social democrats blogging “debate”, seen in its latest incarnation here, just a little bit crushingly depressing.
I try not to write about meta-blogging matters, but this is all getting a bit daft, isn’t it? Not a week seems to go by in the Lib Dem blogosphere without someone getting up on their hindlegs and starting a very long sentence beginning with “I BELIEVE…” and ending with “…SO IT MUST BE TRUE. SO THERE.” And I thought I was inflexible and opinionated. You can blame me for all this, actually – I went and wrote a long post a while back on how wonderful it was that our party is informed by two parent ideologies and what a marvellous thing was the dialogue between the two strands. So it is, but there’s such a thing as a surfeit you know, chaps.
My real problem, I suppose, is that this is no longer a dialogue – if it ever was. A dialogue has to be about something – a tax policy, say, or an educational model. To be fair, some discussions still get down to these sorts of brass tacks eventually. But mostly, the libertarians v social democrats blog war is about everything, and therefore nothing. It’s tribal, not conciliatory. Same old emotion-based dog whistle language. Same old implication that “libertarians” or “socialists” as the case may be are “the enemy”. The instant recourse to emotive buzzwords – Thatcherite this and stasi that, market worshipping, nanny state, and a host of other perjorative adjectives damagingly attached to perfectly innocent nouns to suit the purpose of the writer, not to mention the freewheeling redefinition of that dread word “libertarian” – just destroys any intellectual value the exercise might have had.
Few people ever seem to actually learn anything, or advance their thinking. Any point, once successfully made, seems to be forgotten after the thread has ended. It’s true, ladies and gentlemen, we are now officially debating at an intellectual level below that of the common goldfish. In terms of the open-mindedness of its participants, it’s akin to standing in a North London pub and listening to a debate on the relative merits of Spurs and the Arsenal. Basically, we’re all just standing up in turn and telling everybody else which emotive socio-political words we weally, weally wuv, and which ones make us go icky-poo-yuk. Well, someone hand round the Nobel prizes.
I’m sure we used to debate Stuff and Things in the blogosphere. How much real-world good that ever did I’ve no idea, but it at least promoted constructive thinking activity and let people work out their positions in a relatively dogma-free atmosphere. The key question facing the online party today is not which “direction” we should take (whose “we” is this, anyway? Because I am tolerably sure that the leadership is not watching the blogosphere agog in anticipation of acting on our verdict, even supposing we could reach one). It’s whether the online party can remain relevant to a wider audience and avoid disappearing excitably up its own arse. Because frankly, if I’m bored of this, some poor sod of a supporter who just looks in on the offchance that we might be saying something interesting and of relevance to them will never darken our virtual doors again.
It does of course occur to me that I could, in fact, do something to counterbalance the madness by blogging about Stuff and Things myself, as opposed to having spent an hour I’ll never get back composing the above. Damn.