No child of John Waters will ever marry a… blogger

So there I was, in that horrid hypnogogic state between wakefulness and dreams, when I heard John Waters’ voice booming in my ears like the baritone chimes of God himself (or maybe that was Charlton Heston).

“Ahh”, thought I hypnogogically, “this will be one of those pontifical nightmares I get after too much cheese and it will be gone in a moment.”

Then, to my horror, I realised that I was wide awake and the Voice of Waters was coming from my alarm clock radio. He was on Newstalk and he was bitching about bloggers again. So I snapped awake and listened a bit.

The gist of his argument basically boils down to “All bloggers are [insert prejudice here]”. He proudly informed the nation that he doesn’t engage with blogs or read them but he is adamant that they are full of nonsense. Effectively his argument is that “All Bloggers are [insert prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one”.

And the Internet is full of porn. Let’s not forget that. (but so is the top shelf in my newsagents, let’s not forget that either).

Lovely. Those are firm arguments that one can engage with on so many levels. Oh, hang on, they aren’t.

Let’s play the ‘parse the argument game’ where we take the structure of an argument and swap the context around a bit to see if the underlying premise is either

a) a seriously thought through and evidenced argument based on sound reasoning or,
b) a tenuously cobbled together series of “neo-luddite” prejudices and half-arguments motivated by fear, mistrust, ignorance or the desire to join Kevin Myers in the Independent.

So here we go…

  1. “All unmarried mothers are [insert negative comment/prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one”
  2. “All immigrants are [insert negative comment/prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one”
  3. “All [insert ethnic group of choice] are [insert negative comment/prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one”
  4. “Women priests are [insert negative comment/prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one
  5. “People who write songs for Eurovision are [insert negative comment/prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one”

Hmm…, I’m not 100% sure but I don’t think that the logic John Waters is applying to his position is keeping particularly good company. I could go on with further examples, but that would be labouring the point.

Yes, there are some appallingly poor bloggers out there. There are people who think that their opinion is worth listening to, no matter how bizarre, poorly founded or just plain crazy. But then there are people like that in the Op-Ed and letters pages of national papers every day. Yes there are bloggers who can’t write legible, comprehensible or intelligible English and whose posts I wouldn’t print out to hang on a nail in the outside loo in case the toilet paper runs out. But then there are a good number of journalists that I have the same opinion about.

But just like there are good journalists whose writing and research is good, there are good bloggers who through passion, special expertise or insight, or just plain hard work produce interesting and thought provoking pieces, or give us things that make us laugh and lighten our days a bit. I don’t shout out that all journalists are idiots just because there are journalists who I can’t stand to read.

However, all bloggers look alike to John Waters (who doesn’t read blogs apparently).

Waters challenged the Newstalk Breakfast show to find him “a blogger who can string three sentences together”. This abruptly, superficially and prejudicially dismisses some excellent people who blog intelligently about subjects that they are passionate about or have a particular specialist expertise in. Some of these people (dare I say it) are also print journalists.

Immediately I think of Edward McGarr in McGarr Solicitors, Simon and the punters over on Tuppenceworth, the unstoppable Damien Mulley, Steve Tuck’s Data Quality blog, the Freaknomics blog on the Wall Street Journal, or some of Mr Water’s colleagues in the Irish Times, the investigative insights of Maman Poulet (why can’t mainstream press get scoops like this?). And let’s not forget the irrepressible Twenty Major.

Using the same prejudiced thinking (in a different context) Waters might equally have challenged Newstalk to find him a black man or a woman who would have the ability to be credible candidates for the Presidency of the US. Oh… what’s that Internet?

I do hope that Newstalk consider rising to John Waters’ challenge. Get Mulley, either (or both) of the McGarrs, and a few of the Irish Times bloggers into a room.

Of course it is fundamentally unfair for those of us who blog to take task with the arguments put forward by John Waters. As he claims not to read blogs or to engage with blogs he has opted out of his right to reply in this medium. So I’d ask anyone commenting to:

  1. Refrain from playing the man… play the ball. Address the logic, comment on the fear or philosophy that might be motivating it, but do not play the man. I’ll red card anyone who plays the man and they’ll be put in the sin bin (ie I’ll won’t approve your comment and the world will never see your wit and erudition.)
  2. Each commenter should say one nice thing about John Waters in their comments. The nice thing should be really nice, not sarcastic. I’ll suggest a template for the nice thing… “John Waters is [insert nice thing about John Waters here], but I’ve never met him“. If you have met him, please share the most pleasant thing you can recall about the experience (did he tell a funny joke, pull a funny face, rescue a small child from a burning building, that kind of thing.)

    [Update: As some people seem to find this challenging, I’ll extend it to allow for surreal or illogical compliments to JW. However they should still be nice things and not outrageously sarcastic. Think Satire not Sarcasm.]

  3. If you want, please include in your comment a link to a particularly well written, informative and reliable blog (ie one that is not prone to publishing lies and that quickly corrects errors in their posts – that kind of thing).

My starter – John Waters looks like he takes good care of his hair, but I’ve never met him.

Of course the blogging community could just decide to ignore the issue all together.

But I have a dream. I dream that one day the children of bloggers and ‘traditional media’ journalists will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that the children of bloggers will not be judged by the medium they choose write in but by the quality of their content. I have a dream that one day, John Waters might actually go on-line and read some good blogs (he could start with some of the Irish times ones, particularly Shane Hegarty’s) and realise that sweeping arguments built on sand have been overturned many times in the past.

[Update: The podcast of this morning’s John Waters’ bit on Newstalk this morning is up on the Newstalk site, a little over 8 minutes 50 seconds in.. My views here are based on his comments this AM and on his previous comments, which I’d like to link to but the link to the podcast seems broken.]

[Update – I’ve decided to close comments on this as I’m bored of it now – I can’t quite rouse Damien’s passion about JW. Pings are still allowed however. Thanks to everyone who contributed.]

[Update: Wikipedia have picked up on this whole bruhaha and John Water’s profile includes reference to the ‘Blogging Controversy’. Twenty Major and this site are cited as references.]

Posted in Politics & Culture, Web 2.0 and tagged , .

30 Comments

  1. It seems to me that he feels threatened by bloggers. Probably because they continually pick apart his fallacious and often meaningless arguments.

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  3. Excellent post.

    John Waters seemed reasonably personable when I met him, and I have met him. And he knew I was a blogger. And he did not tell me to leave his presence immediately.

    Therefore John Waters is not very good at practising what he bleats.

    Oh, we have to say something nice. Erm.

    John Waters is not Barry Egan. Yet.

  4. Damien – you forgot to say something nice about John Waters. Even Twenty managed it. Same goes for you AgressiveSecularist. Remember the rules of the game. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Of course ,things can be nice while still being surreal and totally illogical.

    I’ll let you both off with a warning on condition you recomment and say something nice before the end of the week. Something like “John Waters looks like he helps old ladies across the street, but I’ve never actually met him”. Copy that if you can’t come up with something yourself.

    From what my fuzzy headed morning memory can recall, he didn’t actually mention porn this morning, but he did waffle about it before so it needed a mention. A very short mention. It might be worth digging out a podcastThe podcast of this morning’s NewsTalk Breakfast show as soon as it is available to evidence exactly what he said and how he said it (but that may simply provide oxygen to his rants). The link to it is in the body of my post above…

    As for Damien’s view that we should shun the Waters and stop talking about this… I think that a better idea would be to invite him to be the guest MC at the Blog Awards.

    And as for the site taking an age to load, I think I’ve tracked the culprit down to the ThinkFree Viewer plugin I had. As I don’t use it anymore I’ve killed it and things seem slightly better.

  5. Pingback: More on John Waters and blogs » Twenty Major - Still smoking in Dublin bars

  6. John Waters generously spent his personal time writing ‘They Can’t Stop The Spring’ to grab last place in the Eurovision Crap Contest and thus single-handedly saved our great nation the expense and embarrassment of hosting the damn thing again, but I’ve never met him.

    Apart from that nice thing I’ve just said, he’s a cunt, a wanker, a moron and a columnist [scratched out by DoB as the sentiments undermined the satirical lilt of the nice thing that was said – a possible yellow card] – i.e. a ‘blogger’ with fewer readers than even a piss-poor real blogger.

  7. Excellent post…

    I think John Waters needs to understand that blogging is not just for those who wish to share earth shattering opinions or paradigm shifting theories. Not every blogger believes the world must read what they have to write and be bowled over by it. Some people just like to write.. and they have the right to do so.

    I suspect I may fall into the appallingly poor, incomprehensible, not-fit-for-toilet-paper categories of which you speak – but I, like many other less articulate bloggers, never claimed otherwise. I write, not because I have an inflated sense of my own importance or through any great love of writing, rather I write to see what I can accomplish. To see what I can do given some level of commitment.

    I should state by the way that, although having never met John Waters, I quite like his beard. (Honestly)

    (All spelling and punctuation is, at best, an approximation)

  8. “John Waters wrote an entertaining book in ‘Jiving at the Crossroads’* but I’ve never met him“.

    * Alas, the same cannot be said of his new book, Lapsed Agnostic.

  9. John Waters gave me a reason not to appear on the Late Late show and for this I am most grateful.

    Not everyone likes John’s writing, I assume not everyone likes every blog post ever written. I’m going back to dig up runaway solicitors who have a penchant for big cars, hippos and also like the tune of their own voice. More on the latter next week I hope. (Thanks for the plug Darragh btw, in the same way John plugs people he likes…)

    (Takes off ms. nice mask…phew…)

  10. Right, most of you have grasped the rules of this simple game. The goal is to ensure that we don’t follow JW’s lead and let our arguments rise to the level of personal abuse or glaring generalities. Those of you who haven’t have either been warned or have had your commented edited and a yellow card awarded.

    I’m sure that there is some lyric in JW’s EuroDirge Song Contest mullarkey about killing hostility with kindness and all that blather. (F*cked if I know for sure, that would require me to have actually listened to it). That’s the angle I’m encouraging here.

    @BadAmbasssador – Writing for pleasure and for the thrill of seeing what you can achieve is probably the best motivation of all. As for your ranking on my scale of ‘save for the privy’ to ‘save for posterity’, I’ve not seen your site yet but promise to take a look at the weekend. Last I checked the outdoor privy was running low on Andrex so I can guarantee you a promotion.

    As for your fixation with JW’s beard… ho hum.

    So people, lets see what else we can say nice about JW.

  11. Suzy,

    You must have the investigative equivalent of a JCB with the stuff you’ve unearthed.

    As for my plugging you in the style-ee of JW, well he is my guardo camino so I must follow his lead 😉

  12. “There are people who think that their opinion is worth listening to, no matter how bizarre, poorly founded or just plain crazy.”

    Eh, that would be John Waters and Sinead O Connor.

    Anyhow, here we go with the challenge: John Waters has a very attractive and highly reflective scalp, though I’ve never met him.

  13. “John Waters looks like he helps old ladies across the street, but I’ve never actually met him”.

    “John Waters helped me across the street, but since I was not thereI’ve never actually met him”. 😉

  14. John Waters is a concerned person, though I’ve never met him.

    Though in this case the logic of his argument would lead to a crusade against pen and paper.

  15. As an aside, I wonder what will be going on here when it evolves from placeholder to proper site.

    Will he be writing opinion pieces other than (or as well as)those he puts in print that will be presented via some form of Content Management System (such as WordPress or Joomla or Drupal)? Will comments be allowed on those pieces?

    So if he is writing things that people may or may not choose to read on the web and allowing comments that may or may not come what would that make him?

    As Douglas Adams put it in “Long Dark Teatime of the Soul”:

    “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.”

    Of course, we can all exercise our right to ignore things published there. The ability to write and publish does not bring with it a right to be read.

    @ Grannymar – wonderful exercise in surrealism – and thanks for getting into the spirit of things. But what is the difference between a duck?
    @ Simon – indeed. I wonder if in the 15th Century there was a beareded monk called John de Vatters who railed against Guttenburg’s printing press while secretly building his own one in the basement of the monastery? “These printers right… they’ve all got a political agenda”.

  16. John Waters has for many years been an apologist for the country and western tendency in Fianna Fail but he seems to have been able to overcome this impediment and have physical relations with a member of the opposite sex.

  17. I’ve never met John Waters either, but I’m sure he has a very nice penis.

    However, I would like to point out to him that every radio station in Ireland is a load of shite too, full of people too eager to inflict their own biased opinions on the world. ‘I think this, I think that..’.

    You’re right of course John. We can’t have the public having a freely accessible public form for their thoughts and opinions now can we?

    Why that would be anarchy.

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  19. @Dan – possible yellow card here. I’m not sure if you’ve injected too much sarcasm into your satire. Associating JW with both Country Music and Fianna Fail veers perilously close to not having said anything nice.

    @ OneForTheRoad – you are of course correct (about the radio, not JW’s willy which I can’t possibly comment on). Ultimately every medium craves content. In the case of print, print, radio and TV that is usually a ‘pull’ process – producers develop a list of reliable experts, crackpots and niche players who can fill 10 minutes of air on that show and call them in as needed or appropriate.

    The Web makes that a ‘push’ process where people can put their thoughts out for themselves in the hope that people stumble across them.

    At least that’s my crackpot theory.

  20. Pingback: Head Rambles » Blog Archive » In defence of John Waters

  21. I don’t see too many comments on Newstalk having him on so often…. I find myself switching back to RTE (OMG!!) because what was a good show (the morning one) has become so empty….Waters and text in your traffic situation….

    I have never met John Waters…. but if I did I would…..

    Barry

  22. Listening back to the comment last night I have to admire his leap of thought.. “I’m sure blogging is behind this”.

    And I’m sure that Willy Wonka has moved out of the chocolate business into the fake tan industry because have you ever heard of an Oopaloompa going on strike? No, because it’s obvious the trouble makers are weeded out early and their dried skins ground up as pigments for tanning products. But I’ve never met Mr Wonka.

  23. The only difference between what John Waters does and what bloggers do is the amount of trees murdered in the process.

    Something nice about John? He’s not related to me.

  24. I wasn’t trying to be too sarky, rather I was simply detailing just some of John Waters’ self admitted crosses and how great it is that he has been able to overcome them. A true triumph of the western will as it where.

  25. Folks, we’re nearing the magical 30 published comments and frankly I think anyone who has anything nice to say has said it.

    (there were many more comments I didn’t publish as they didn’t play by the rules I’d set and some of them were frankly defamatory – tut tut… bad bloggers – go to your room!)

    I will be closing the comments on this post this evening. If any of you wish to pick up the torch on your own blogs feel free. I’m just bored of Waters now.

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