Joe Blogs and Joe Public

I used to think that bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, from right across the political spectrum; almost like an (albeit slightly more tech-savvy) microcosm of society as a whole. Obviously there are a lot of poor people who can’t have access to the internet, but in general I thought the above at least had the potential to be true. But a couple of issues have me wondering now.

I vaguely recall this being a talking point in the recent past: Are there any bloggers out there who actually support ID cards? The answer would appear to be no. (I am actually an ID cards agnostic, although that means precisely that: agnostic.)

And the reaction in the blogosphere to the proposed 90 days legislation was overwhelmingly negative. I hear that Harry’s Place hinted at being in favour of it, although I wouldn’t know because I don’t read crazy blogs. Has anybody spotted any bloggers supporting the proposal? Leave a link in the comments if you have, because I find it astonishing that there can be so many bloggers out there who were so heavily against the proposal when opinion polls led us to believe that a majority of the public at large supported 90 days.

This struck me on Wednesday. Obviously I had heard about the opinion polls and all the rest of it. That a majority of the population supports banging people up for 90 days for no good reason is not much of a surprise given that a majority also support the death penalty and whatever else. But I had spent the whole day blogging about it and reading blogs, and it felt like the world and its dog was fully against 90 days.

Obviously bloggers have a very wide range of opinions. But thinking about it (if you excuse me for using crap right / left terminology) most of the right-wing blogs come in the shape of libertarianism who are (usually) as angry when civil liberties are eroded as they are when taxes are increased. Those to the left of Labour are against it because for all their faults they at least tend to defend civil liberties to the hilt. Hell, even most Labour bloggers found this one difficult to bear, choosing either to sheepishly admit that their party was wrong on this one, or just stay quiet about it. Meanwhile, the liberals are… liberal.

Then I went off the computer. And I switched on the radio. The difference between the public mood on the radio and television and the public mood on the blogosphere is striking. It appears as though Joe Public is very different to Joe Blogs.

Me personally, I’d lock ’em up and throw away the key.

That’s an actual quote that a caller made on BBC Radio Five Live on Wednesday evening. When I woke up in the morning David Davies and David Cameron were on receiving calls and texts along the lines of, “I’ve voted Conservative all my life, but never again; not after what happened yesterday.” Sometimes there was the same kind of language that has been used by The Sun this week — traitors, betrayal, all of that. All-in-all I think I only heard about two texts speaking out against 90 days on the radio.

Back on the blogs, everybody’s kicking the shit out of The Sun!

So what explains this? Is it that most bloggers are middle-class metropolitan types who “don’t live in the real world™”? I doubt it, because this is actually one issue where you can’t throw this easy accusation around: metropolitan types are actually far more likely to be affected by a terrorist attack than, say, a remote Northern fishing village is.

Or could it be that bloggers are actually better-informed about the issue? That would be a pretty pious stance to take.

Am I just reading the wrong blogs? What is it that makes Joe Blogs so different to Joe Public?


  1. Office intends to a) determine who counts as a friend-of-terrorists, b) ensure their countries of origin do not torture them on deportation from the UK, c) rein in the police from unjust/unwarranted/misjudged detentions. Elsewhere, doctorvee asks how bloggers across the political spectrum could have such a different reaction to the terror bill from the real public .

  2. to things like ID cards and 90-day detention without charge. Not so the British public as a whole, which is much more sympathetic to the more populist and authoritarian view of the Sun and New Labour. Or so Martin Stabe contends in commenting on Doctor Vee’s observation that British bloggers of all political persuasions possess something of a marked libertarian streak in the face of government policy on ID cards and detaining suspected terrorists for 90 days without charge; one which puts the

  3. Well, one possibility is that Joe Public are represented by the media and, by extension, don’t need to voice their opinion in blogland. Joe Blogs, on the other hand, aren’t represented by the mainstream press and thus feel the need to express their opinion on the web.

    Of course some may see this as supporting the theory of blogging as journalism, but I don’t believe that the reasoning behind blogging can be reduced to that simple a premise. And that’s been discussed ad nauseum online.

    Hope you’ve battened down the hatches this evening – it’s blowing a gale over this side!

  4. Oh yeah, good point about the idea that blogging draws in people who aren’t represented by the mainstream media. Doh, how could I forget that one! Mind you, I’ve never really fully bought it. And I don’t agree that blogging is the new journalism or whatever either because I think they go hand-in-hand. I mean, what else would bloggers have to talk about if newspapers didn’t publish their articles online!

    Yup, it’s certainly rowdy weather tonight! I heard they were thinking about closing the Forth bridges… I was worried in case I wouldn’t be able to get back home!

  5. The unrepresentative blogosphere

    Duncan Stephen makes a very important point: Joe Blogs and Joe Public are very different. The range of political opinion emerging Brtish blogosphere subculture is emphatically not representative of public opinion in this country: bloggers from left to …

  6. There is a solitary blog which supports the Government’s controversial ID Card scheme (not the same thing as supporting the vague concept of some sort of ID card, or of the need for proper identification):

    Neil Harding’s

    Almost all of the comments on his ID card blog postings disagree with him, at length, but he blithely ignores the reasoned arguments just like any NuLabour political commissar.

    Are you sure that even “Joe Blog” is interested in debating the Terrorism Bill 2005 ?

    How many of the other controversial issues in the Bill, apart from the 90 day detention without charge have you seen discussed or analysed ?

    There are more blogs discussing the new Australian Anti-terrorism laws than the UK ones.

    Obviously Spy Blog has discussed this UK legislation at some length, but very few others, even in the so called UK political blogosphere have done so.

    I am puzzled why there are not more University students , especially those taking courses in politics, or those belonging to student political societies, who are active in the UK political blogosphere. There should be hundreds of them – where are they hiding ?

  7. Britblog Roundup # 39

    Something of a bumper crop for this week’s Britblog Roundup! As ever you can make your nominations for next week’s by emailing the URL to britblog AT gmail DOT com. Best posts from British and Irish blogs please, those things

  8. What I post about

    Reading the comment from Justin below, which asks:
    So you didn’t fancy posting on Tony’s attempt to introduce periods of internment that would have appealed to Henrik Verwoerd?
    I began to think about which thoughts do and which don’t get …

  9. Since I started blogging, I have had to do all kinds of research every time I express an opinion, simply in order to be able to justify it. As a result, I have become much better informed about issues – partly through this research, and partly through reading other people’s blogs. I doubt I’m unique. I suspect most bloggers are supremely well informed about the issues they blog about and, as a result, tend to come to reasoned, balanced, intelligent decisions. The Great British Public, having neither the time nor the interest to do this kind of research, lunge for the more emotional, gut reaction. Bless ’em.

  10. “Well, one possibility is that Joe Public are represented by the media and, by extension, don’t need to voice their opinion in blogland. Joe Blogs, on the other hand, aren’t represented by the mainstream press and thus feel the need to express their opinion on the web.”

    A slightly more hardcore perspective would be to say that Joe Public is happy to have their opinion be determined by the mainstream media …

    (And since I’m onto my third comment in a row, great site by the way.)

  11. Speaking for myself, I pretty much should be better informed than most, I studied for a degree in politics as a mature student, then ended up in a job that has nothing to do with my specialism, so I chose to write about it; I corralled Paul into helping for the same reason, he got better marks than me all over the place, but is working as a techie.

    I think though that it’s a mixture of wanting to put a point of view across that isn’t represented well in mainstream media, and actually studying the details a bit more. Plus there’s also the bandwagon phenomena. An issue comes up I have no opinion of, I hear Blair, he’s in favour, I read a well written blog piece that’s against. Hmm, which do I trust, the unknown blogger or Blair? That may explain a bit of it, we are an incestuous bunch.

    A lot of the time though, if you can take the time to explain reasons to Joe Public, then they can change their minds; in my case, I’m not opposed to the idea of the existence of ID cards, I’m opposed to compulsory biometric ID cards, and more specifically the NID. Ah well.

  12. […] If this is the case, are bloggers beginning to get out of touch with the rest of the country, as suggested recently by DoctorVee? If us bloggers start seeing ourselves as having things in common, or as being distinct from – say – the regular press, regular political activists and the like, does this not mean we are also going to end up isolating ourselves from the regular British public? […]