In the Sydney Morning Herald entertainment blog, Edmund Tadros made this rather extraordinary claim on Wednesday:
Australian blogs will never be as hard-hitting as their overseas counterparts because of our restrictive laws.
Now, I wonder, why would anyone think that? How do you define ‘hard-hitting’, anyway?
Is a hard-hitting blog one that causes events, especially public events?
Is a hard-hitting blog one that changes public opinions, or stimulates thought?
In the United States, political groups have used the internet to telling effect, and blogs have also exerted a powerful if difficult to define effect on public debate. The rise of Howard Dean, the Trent Lott affair, Rathergate and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were all things that could have happened in the context of the Australian legal environment.
Australia also had an election in 2004, but there was only one major effort to use the Internet to influence the Australian public, that being the ‘Webdiary‘ of Margo Kingston, (which was then hosted by the Sydney Morning Herald). The reasons why ‘Webdiary’ was so ineffective in the public debate were numerous, but the principle reason must surely be the total intellectual incoherence of the site and the vulnerabilitiy of the main contributors to the most paranoid interpretation of public events. The most famous example of this was probably the famous ‘anti-gravity’ article in 2003, but it was never easy to take seriously a campaign lead by a senior journalist who could not spell. Margo’s spelling errors and flights of fancy deprived her campaign of credibility and provided a rich lode of material for the likes of Tim Blair and “Professor Bunyip” to mock and ridicule her.
The more prosaic truth is that many Australian blogs are not very good, and those that are good tend to either be more interested in talking about policy of interest to a small few, or are devoted to dissecting and satirising Australian culture. The plain fact is that ‘the great Australian political blog’ is yet to be born. There’s plenty of room for an Australian blog with journalistic skills and political savvy to wake up the slumber in Australian politics, and it has nothing to do with the Australian legal climate.
But it certainly will not be a blog that chewed through $44,000 in its first 10 months as an independent entity.