Monday, November 20, 2006

Taylor - not that little

A cyberpunk yesterday. All of us 'net-heads' look like this y'know.

Apologies in advance for the following screed. There are a lot of internal links to previous posts. It's just that a senior public figure has decided to touch on a subject that I've wanted to see aired for a while.

Chris is wrong. Matthew Taylor is not an arrogant little twerp. He's actually quite tall.

And Iain Dale says, in response to Taylor, that he is shrill and proud of it. This is because he is as wrong as Taylor is about how the internet is impacting upon politics.

Dale and Taylor are both hostages to the farcical perspective that the mainstream media take on public life. Dale is simply engaged in a race to the bottom with the the Westminster lobby, promoting the blogosphere as some kind of online version of US Talk Radio. And I don't believe that Taylor's view is based upon any immersion in the blogosphere either. I suspect that the nearest he gets is the odious 'Comment is Free' project.

My experience of the blogosphere is one of finding perspectives that are entirely unrepresented in the MSM - and ones that Taylor would be very glad to see discussed in the irrelevant newspapers that he reads.

Perspectives such as that found in the Euston Manifesto - surely* the first effective political movement to grow out of the blogosphere (apart from those that have an obvious tech perspective such as the anti-RIP bill / ID cards lobby).

If Taylor wanted to look at the place in the UK where politics can quite literally be a matter of life and death, he could look at the way that Slugger O'Toole has created a space that none of the newspapers would be capable of occupying.

Or on a mass-organisation front, he could look at the pro-immigration marches in the US earlier this year.

And if he wants an example of shrill public discourse, he can look at Talk Radio, the BBC Question Time, lots of Newsnight's 'specials' or any of the idiotic phone-ins on daytime radio. When he complains about 'incommensurate' demands from an infantilised public, he can reflect on who is doing the infantilising here. It isn't the blogosphere - it's the unholy pact between centralising politicians and the demagogic simplification of the national press. It is what passes for satire these days. All of these are well-established forces.

It seems that he doesn't realise that his time at No.10 may have been wasted. He could have been arguing for the destruction of this pact. Again, there is a programme that could be followed which I should be too modest to link to. Anyway, I've said this plenty of times before.

But one interesting feature of Taylor's perspective is his caricature of libertarianism. It seems to be one that is more based in fiction than in any real observation. He conflates the term with a Stirnerite version of 'individualism' and then draws upon stereotypes that appear to owe more to cyberpunk novels than any real observation.

Individualism and libertarianism are not the same thing. The internet is not necessarily a cause of increased individualism either. When I get a moment, I'll try to compose a post about individualism in dystopian literature. It can encompass cyberpunk and the work of James Ellroy - both of them feature stock characters that are brutal, physically robust, amoral and very clever indeed.

Ellroy's lot are situated in the 1950s and 1960s. The small amount of Cyberpunk that I've read tends towards a period about 50 years hence. And it's all bollocks. At least Ellroy writes compelling bollocks. But this vision of the future is one that is no more realistic than the novels themselves.

*Pootergeek said this first, though not online I think?

Update: One other thing: George Osborne MP has the text of a speech up on this subject. It's the standard fare for a political speech - fairly directionless and idealistic. But it's got some very useful data in it if you're ever looking for some shorthand ways of explaining this subject.

1 comment:

Tim Almond said...

I think that quite a lot of people don't yet understand internet video and blogging.

I know it seems slightly unrelated, but Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire is compelling viewing.

It says everything about the contempt that a lot of people feel for the drivel we are fed as political discourse. We've got these bloody ringmasters trying to define what the parameters are.

And that's what some people are trying to do. Take the online video or blogging, and become the new ringmasters, the new centre. Establish the same old cosy ties.

Well, good luck, because it's not going to work. Government's going to have a much tougher time working out what bases they have to cover to various journalists agendas.