I was reading Ranty earlier. He was writing about the struggle with the righteous we’re engaged upon:
And I agree. I think we’re winning too. Or rather, I think that we’re beginning to win.
Ranty goes on to tell people who’ve run out of words to take a break from their keyboards, and come back refreshed another time, because they’re needed, both bloggers and commenters.
It set me thinking about the internet and message boards and blogs. I’ve been on it for 10 years and more now, fighting one battle or other. Five or six years ago it was the Iraq war and the missing WMDs that I was fully engaged with, mostly on the Guardian’s message boards. It was hand-to-hand combat every day. In the beginning the other side had the upper hand, but gradually our side prevailed. It was sheer weight of numbers. The other side began to thin out. Long before it became common knowledge in the MSM that there were no WMDs in Iraq, we knew. We who were watching and reading on the internet message boards and comment threads.
One thing I learned from that experience is that the internet leads the MSM. It all happens on the internet first. The news breaks on the internet first. The opinion forms on the internet first. The MSM follow later, often unwillingly. The MSM is a trailing indicator. It’s what people used to know, and used to think. The internet is far more important than the MSM.
The righteous dominate the MSM. ASH is always getting press releases out. They’re very good at working the MSM to get their story out. But ASH aren’t winning on the internet. They’re not winning on the blogosphere.
The blogosphere is personal. And it’s authentic. When you read somebody’s blog, you’re reading someone’s personal opinion. And they’re giving it to you straight. You might completely disagree with them, but you at least know that’s what they think.
By contrast, the MSM is almost entirely impersonal. Articles on it could’ve been written by anyone. They could have been written by several people. They’re not personal, and they’re not authentic. And, probably because we’re people, we like to hear people express their authentic opinions. It’s why everybody reads the comments under any MSM article. The article may be a fraudulent confection, but the comments will be what people actually think.
And the righteous don’t do personal and authentic. They do press releases. They do news management. They do peer-reviewed papers. And because of that they have no real presence on the blogosphere. Amanda Sandford doesn’t blog. Deborah Arnott doesn’t blog. None of them blog, as far as I can see.
And that’s why they’re losing. They are still thinking in MSM press release terms. All their guns are pointing that way. Meanwhile they’re losing the war that really matters, in the jungles of the internet. The war for hearts and minds.
Because there’s another thing I’ve noticed, and that is that whenever you read something somewhere, doesn’t matter where, a little bit of it rubs off on you. I noticed this a lot when I arrived at the UK blogosphere after years on US leftwing blogs. I was uncomfortable with the frequent rightwing opinions I encountered. Now, a few years on, I don’t notice them. Why? Because I’ve gradually adopted quite a few of the same views. And also quite a few of those views have perhaps been slightly adjusted to be rather less uncomfortable. The blogosphere is a process of negotiation. It’s not people shouting at each other. It’s people talking to each other. And when that happens everybody’s opinion shifts a bit.
For example I was fairly pro-EU about 5 years ago. Family of Nations and all that. I still wish it was like that. But the EU is an authoritarian superstate, and that’s not what I wanted. Yet if my opinion has shifted, it’s almost entirely because of little things I’ve read in blogs over the past few years. The EU is losing the war too here on the blogosphere. It has no presence. When was the last time you checked Herman van Rumpoy’s Belgique blog? Or José Manuel Barroso’s Brussels Roundup? Me neither. They have zero presence. And so they’ve lost.
Yet an old politician like Norman Tebbit can do it. He’s writes his own blog. And he responds to his comments. I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, but he’s writing personally and truthfully, and that’s admirable. Arnott and Barroso and all the rest could do the same if they wanted. But they don’t want to. And they don’t want to because they’re essentially MSM manipulators.
They may now dominate the MSM, just like Saddam’s ready-in-45-minutes WMDs once dominated the MSM in 2003. But the ground is beginning to go from under their feet, as opinions form and become refined on all the blogs and chatrooms and message boards of the internet.
If they were winning, I’d get far more antismoking commenters on my blog than I have been getting. And I hardly get any. I kinda know why. They’re outnumbered. If someone was to post up some message saying how great it was that they no longer had to take a shower after a night out, they’d get flattened. Not by me, but by my commenters. So they don’t bother. Because nobody likes getting flattened. It’s happened to me enough times, so I should know.
We’re in a rather strange situation right now. The righteous antismokers of Tobacco Control have totally won the war on the MSM. But they’ve totally lost it on the internet. We haven’t won the war yet, but we have gained the initiative. And in a few years time you’ll start seeing things you read about smoking and tobacco on the internet being reproduced on the MSM. I’ll be interested to see how all the Arnotts respond when asked about the Nazi origins of antismoking research. And all the money that Sir Richard Doll got from Monsanto and other polluters.
One thing the MSM does have is an ability to get to a lot of people very quickly. Things propagate slowly on the internet, from person to person. It takes months rather than minutes. But it gets there in the end.
Back to Ranty:
I think that Ranty understates. It’s not just that people suffer fatigue. It’s that sometimes people get killed. Maybe tomorrow some antismoker will post a comment on my blog which will just go through my head like a bullet, and I’ll never write another word about smoking or smoking bans again. You never know which day it’s going to be until you step up onto the parapet one morning and read the latest comments.
It happens in wars. It happens all the time. When you’re killed in a blog war, you don’t get a funeral with shots fired over your grave. You just hope that they’ll find you one day, years later, buried in the cybermud, and that they’ll call you the Unknown Soldier. Or maybe the Unknown Blogger.