Friday, June 16, 2006

Were you there too?

The Sex Pistols in 1976: Everyone saw them except me.

My generation - like yours - is full of fibbers. People who claim that they saw the Sex Pistols in 1976. People who claimed to have gone to a Wigan Casino All-Nighter. People who claim to have been there on the night of the 27th September 1978. The night that everything changed forever.

I was too young for The Pistols or Wigan. But I swear I was at Anfield when it really mattered.

In years to come, a lot more than 2062 people will claim that they signed the Euston Manifesto in its first 66 days. Yet many of those same people are still a bit mystified by this project at the moment. Over pints, I've had it put to me that it is one long tilt at straw men. That it is an exercise in reification.

I've listened to the argument that, while there is nothing in the text to actually disagree with, that it represents a strategic error by leftists because it gives comfort to neo-cons. Or that it somehow disrupts some surefire unwritten strategy the left has been intuitively persuing for decades.

Well, there's a explanation that covers all of this. It is that the Euston Manifesto came from the blogosphere. The blogosphere is an analytical place. It has conventions that reject the use of weasel words in favour of a neutral point of view. Where these demands are not met (and few blogs do meet them, in fairness - we're pretty bad at forgoing rhetoric), we have fisking.

But, for all of the noise, the blogosphere does demand that arguments are spelled out in rich hypertext - and that they must stand on their own merit. A simple appeal to a herd-instinct will no longer do. You now longer have to keep quiet about your doubts in case they make you look stupid. It turns out that there were lots of people who had the same views all along.

If the Euston Manifesto is a betrayal, it has only betrayed the unchallenged orthodoxies of the hippy left.

And those straw men that slip under most people's radars are also hugely in evidence in the blogosphere. We know they are around. They lack the perspective needed to understand that liberal democracy is not simply a variation of totalitarianism and tyranny.

Those journalists who have spent their lives peddaling psuedo-liberalism without being challenged have stopped getting away with it. And it is the blogosphere that has blown the whistle on them.

The blogosphere has also challenged the petrification that has overtaken many left-liberal strategies. It is impatient with the way public life is conducted, and it's full of people who agree with every word in John Lloyd's book - even though most of them never actually read it.

I'd suggest that the Euston Manifesto is a fundamental challenge to the way that public life is conducted. It is a symptom of the blogosphere - and a very benign one at that.

Go on. Sign it.


Delescluze said...

Not until you spell 'peddle' correctly. I may be a 57 year old ex-hippy an soixante-huitard but at least I was taught to spell.

Ivan said...

Actually, I belong to that select group who didn't see the Pistols. OK, I wanted to. I was fifteen and a punk. But I just didn't have the cash or the nouse or the freedom to hare off across the country as they melted down on the final tour. So I remain in that elite club. Oh, and I didn't sign the Euston Manifesto either - bunch of hippies, keep them away from me.

Colonel Robert Neville said...

Dear Paulie; excellent and completely correct. All the best from