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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Like the first crocus of Spring

At a Samizdata social gathering a few months back, one of the attendees (I think it was Patrick Crozier) posed the question of how much influence the blogosphere was having on the ‘real’ world.

The answer I gave at the time was plain and direct: none. A rather negative prognosis for sure but sincere and truthful as far as I was concerned.

However, my candour was not well-received. My dear chum Brian Micklethwait, in particular, took issue with me claiming that the blogosphere could well have be having an impact in ways that were not yet manifest. I countered this with the contention that in the absence of evidence of influence, one must assume that there is no influence at all.

Anyway, if memory serves, the rest of the bickering trailed off into a lake of libation and no firm conclusions were ever reached (are they ever?).

Since then, I have been forced to qualify my above-stated position because, in common with most other bloglodytes, I am all too familiar with the ‘Rathergate’ scandal over in the USA; a incident of such profile that it has made it impossible to deny that blogging is now having some degree of impact on the wider American polity.

But, as far as the UK is concerned, I have maintained my stance. Sadly and frustratingly, neither the blogosphere nor anything else seems to have been able to lay a glove on the great, heaving, suffocating beast of the hegemonic British intellectual climate.

That was my view. Until today. I required some proof to the contrary and now there is infallible proof:

Online journals and camera phones are a “paedophiles’ dream” which have increased the risk to children, the Scottish Parliament has been warned….

Rachel O’Connell said adults could use weblogs to learn about children….

She said: “This is just a paedophile’s dream because you have children uploading pictures, giving out details of their everyday life because it’s an online journal.”

I refuse to even attempt a rebuttal of this ludicrous and obviously desperate smear, preferring instead to let it stand naked in all its ignominy. Besides, it will not be the last. Blogging has clearly begun to make an impression on the minds of the political classes and they fear it.

The blogosphere has now landed in Britain.

26 comments to Like the first crocus of Spring

  • Verity

    Wouldn’t you just love to smack Rachel O’Connell’s face smartly, two or three times? Or more if you felt like it? Or the French police used to find a punch to kidneys quite effective, before sensitivity training took over. I’ve never had any sensitivity training and could be co-opted, if required.

  • Thanks for the name check but in all honesty I can’t remember ever having said it. Maybe I was drunk – I say all sorts of things when I’m drunk.

    For what it’s worth, I think it’s just a critical mass thing. The US is a bigger country and a richer country so it has more bloggers. Plus it has Instapundit. Plus a lot of US issues are, in fact, global issues.

    Crawling out into the light from my Transport Blog cave I was amazed to see how vibrant the UK blogging scene was. It’s a lot bigger and better than it was two years ago. Tim Worstall, Laban Tall, Norm Geras, EU Referendum.

    It’s only a matter of time.

  • zmollusc

    Erm… surely everything affects everything else, as epitomised by the famous hurricane in one part of the world causing a butterfly to flap its wings in another part of the world?
    And has the blogshere (populated by Blogons?) simply moved us from a dispersed minority of people grumbling to ourselves and whoever wanders briefly within earshot (“Hello, I’ve come to read the gas meter”, “What a coincidence, I was just thinking about finite fossil reserves, did you know the bloody government…”) to a dispersed minority of people grumbling to each other in a way that can be easily monitored.
    Meanwhile the rest of the electorate blunders around drunkenly watching australian soaps and eating GM modified salt while downloading ringtones at £97 each.

  • Jeremy Nimmo

    Next up- ‘social gatherings’ a pedophiles dream!

    Really though, what the hell are these people thinking? If pedophiles get out after their 10-year sentences for ‘meeting children for sex’ (evidentely the age of consent laws have vanished overnight in Scotland), then the only change will be 10 more years of technology helping them. I know a girl who’s been abused by one of the scumbags. The only way to get rid of them for good is to kill the bastards.

    Seems like the Good Ole Beeb is trying to paint RSS feeders as pedophile supertools. Guess I better uninstall Firefox, I don’t want the police finding the RSS FEEDER PROGRAM. Or they’ll COME TO TAKE ME AWAY!

  • Euan Gray

    A less hysterical analysis suggests that perhaps the unending campaign of “the internet is full of kiddie porn, we need to regulate it” has failed as people realise it isn’t quite like that. Just like the previous “porn causes rape” rubbish that seems to have died a death a long time ago.

    It seems, then, that the lobbyists have stumbled across the blog, realised this is a new target they haven’t aimed at yet, and have let loose accordingly. This can work because quite probably relatively few people know much about blogs. Of course there are highly publicised cases of individuals doing really stupid things with blogs – such as the glamour model air stewardess or the Edinburgh bookseller – and wondering why things go wrong. This can only reinforce any attack. In time, as the blog becomes better known, people will realise it simply doesn’t have the dread power the lobbyists say & this issue will go away, although only to be replaced with another scare.


  • How long before the government bans blogs, do you think?!

  • Nick Rogers,

    I do not think that the government will try to ban blogs outright but I do expect that there will be a serious attempt to regulate/control them (and quite soon, too)

  • Julian Taylor

    Rachel O’Connell, apart from her well-known work with the Irish Garda in combating paedophile online ‘grooming’ of children, has unfortunately, for one of her skillset and experience, become far too much of a political animal to be taken seriously when she starts attacking bloggers and blogging.

    Bear in mind that she also runs SafeBorders, yet another somewhat sinister EU project “working towards a multinational awareness campaign about a safer Internet free from the influence of paedophiles”. The downside is that its mostly funded by Belgium – a government not exactly known for its skills in combatting childabusers, rather the opposite in many cases.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    David, I fear you may be right. Although it has to be said that a lot of my friends in the media are still pretty clueless about blogging and are often quite startled when I point out how big this now is. For example, I told an editor how many hits Glenn Reynolds gets, and the editor was stunned.

  • Harvey

    This is actually fairly true though. Lots of blogs aren’t like this one – the vast majority are ‘online personal diaries’ run by kids 14-18, see livejournal.com for a good rundown.

    They do post pictures of themselves, often ‘slutty’ ones (especially the girls) to get into ‘rating communities’ where they get told how pretty they are and how ugly everyone else is.

    They do say which school they go to, they do say where they live, and they do give out quite a bit of personal information.

    Whether that has increased the risk to children is another matter: perhaps pedophiles may be sated – if they can read a blog, they won’t have to actually go and fiddle with the kids.

    Nonetheless, there are a lot of kids being extraordinary candid on their blogs, and while I don’t think the government should be involved in this, the initial statement is not incorrect: it is a new phenomenon, pedophiles can well use them to learn about _individual_ children and it may well be a ‘pedophile’s dream.’

    I’d like to see a rebuttal of this, please, Mr Carr, because I can’t come up with a convincing one.

  • “They do post pictures of themselves, often ‘slutty’ ones (especially the girls) to get into ‘rating communities’ “

    How long before Samizdata posts a picture of Brain striking a “slutty” pose? Only a matter of time surely.

  • Roy Cameron

    Certainly it is true that any activity, for good or evil, will be intensified in its development by the Internet and its ready access to whatever types of information will serve the activity’s growth.

    I have to disagree with the position that your blog has no affect in the world. That comment about blogs is an indication of an effect.

    This villification, though, of the Internet is really the cry of an unsatisfied “will zur macht” preparing the groundwork for censorship.

    Personally, I feel much less isolated knowing that a Jungian thinker such as I am can count on people who have taken Popper’s notion of what an open society is to heart.

    So I enjoy reading your blog here and can testify that -on the contrary- you have an effect, and I would conjecture (“Conjectures and Refutations”) that we here were building toward a critical mass at some future point in time at which, like “laudable pus”, the conflict with those opposed to freedom for whatever reason will come to a head, be lanced and we will finally move on.

    Roy Cameron

  • How kind of Patrick to note my arrival !
    I think blogs are making an impact, quite a large one. Perhaps not yet on the general public but certainly in some areas. In response to one recent post of mine (on the immigration/asylum and everyone being surprised that it is now an EU competence) I received a sniffy email (which I’ll post over the weekend) from the EU’s DG for Justice Security and Freedom. He didn’t agree with me nor me with him, but the idea that such people are reading and responding to blog posts means that we are having some effect.
    Now, if I can just get more of them to read the one titled “Ceterum censeo Unionem Europaeam esse delendam” maybe their brains will explode.

  • Pete_London

    The EU’s Director General for Justice, Security and Freedom.

    I’m having a good chuckle over that one.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    I was recently in China, and found all the major blog hosts blocked. Unsurprising, I suppose, since everyone knows that China blocks sites that are/could be critical. Blogs are so anarchic that they just shut out entire blog domains.

  • I’m a network administrator. I have three children. If and when my children get interested enough to start generating an Internet presence, their blogging will be done from a home server and traffic to their sites will be fully logged and archived as to files requested, IP addresses and datestamps at a minimum. This is 21st century good parenting as much as our parents asked us about who you met, who your friends are, and what you’ve been doing with yourself.

    The death of NAT (coming soon with IPv6) and the spread of fixed IP broadband will allow for discreet parental surveillance that is pretty effective, to the point where anonymous connectivity itself will deserve a closer look and a chat with your little one to have a care.

    The cure for this sort of grooming is parental vigilence at the closest practical point to the child. It always has been so and likely always will remain so.

    Government action may be necessary for government provided electronic meeting places (do they have such things in Scotland?). The free market should take care of the privately provided meeting places. Parents should drive out of business any meeting place that does not provide monitoring sufficient to protect children from predators. They should do this by withholding patronage and aggressively passing the word about the dangers and the availability of safer alternatives.

  • Verity

    David Carr writes: I do not think that the government will try to ban blogs outright but I do expect that there will be a serious attempt to regulate/control them (and quite soon, too)

    I’m not a techie, to say the least, but some incredibly brilliant people have developed the web, and it would take even more incredibly brilliant people to ban any part of it. I dont’ know of any government that has people of that intellectual quality in it. And even if they managed to ban it in some way – like with BBC TV detector vans – oh, how comical! – people would find inventive ways to circumvent it.

    I have a feeling there are plenty of very clever Chinese blogging away, no matter what their government thinks it has managed to do.

  • GCooper

    FAvid CArr writes:

    “I do not think that the government will try to ban blogs outright but I do expect that there will be a serious attempt to regulate/control them (and quite soon, too)”

    Meanwhile, from the BBC yesterday: “The blurring of boundaries between TV and the internet raises questions of regulation, watchdog Ofcom has said.”

    Here’s the link to these dreary, purse-lipped nannies: (Link)

  • GCooper

    Oops! My apologies to David Carr for mangling his name.

    Damned laptop keyboards! Damned clumsy fingers!

  • Sean

    If someone can’t even raise their children to be intellectually aware, skeptical individuals who can act responsibly and take care of themselves, perhaps that person ought to contemplate the possibility that the threat of their children being groomed, seduced, fucked and killed has less to do with the nasty, corrupt, evil outside world than their own lack of parenting skills.

  • Verity

    G Cooper and David Carr, yes, but my point is, could they do it? I don’t believe they could. Freedom running wild will always outrun, and outguess, passengers on the control bandwagon. Especially today.

  • Sean


    Outguess, perhaps.

    Outmaneouvre, sth else, entirely.

  • GCooper

    Verity writes:

    “G Cooper and David Carr, yes, but my point is, could they do it? I don’t believe they could. Freedom running wild will always outrun, and outguess, passengers on the control bandwagon. Especially today.”

    My understanding is that control is, in fact, pretty efficient in China, but that is because their thugocracy is willing to throw enormous resources at making it so, and (of course) is willing to be draconian to a level which (maybe) our kleptocracy isn’t.

    The reason I posted the BBC story was to show that David Carr was quite right in his impression and to further reveal the depths of Blairite control-freakery.

    Even if you’re right and they couldn’t actually do it, the fact that the Guardian-readng scum are even contemplating it should have us out on the streets with pitchforks.

    Sadly, it won’t.

  • Verity

    G Cooper – Yes. And Britain – England – has strangely had its appetite for taking to the streets sucked out of it by the client state. Gordon Brown, who may be even more repulsive than Toxic Tone, has spider-webbed most British into being clients of the state – in other words, clients of each other. If you’ve ever touched a spider web, they’re very sticky.

    I just don’t believe that, after 2,000 years of recorded history and eons of history before that, the English have lost their appetite for a fight.

  • GCooper

    Verity writes:

    “I just don’t believe that, after 2,000 years of recorded history and eons of history before that, the English have lost their appetite for a fight.”

    I know. And it is both shaming and so depressing to witness.

    I keep telling myself that this innate insouciance is what makes us what we are. That we waited until the last possible moment before confronting Hitler. That we are just waiting until Bliar and his Gramscian hordes push us just that bit too far. That the spirit of the London Mob (God bless ’em) is still there and that Tone and Cherie’s heads may yet end-up on pikestaffs.

    But I am not sure that 50 years of indoctrination masquerading as education and the relentless eating away of what we are, disguised as “progress”, may not have done for us.

    The day I decide it has is the day I get out. It seems more likely by the week.

  • Lost our appetite for a fight! Never.