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…
- “All unmarried mothers are [insert negative comment/prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one”
- “All immigrants are [insert negative comment/prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one”
- “All [insert ethnic group of choice] are [insert negative comment/prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one”
- “Women priests are [insert negative comment/prejudice here], but I’ve never actually met one
- “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:
- 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.)
- 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.]
- 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.]