It’s a blow to the Scottish political blogosphere for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Kezia was a great blogger in her own right. But perhaps more significantly she was one of the few Labour bloggers in a field that is increasingly dominated by nationalists.
For a focus on national politics though (either in the Scotland- or UK-wide sense), Kezia Dugdale was the one everyone would visit for the Labour view. Just as you’d visit Stephen Glenn for the Lib Dem point of view, Scottish Tory Boy for the Conservatives and James at Two Doctors for the Green view, Kezia was the Scottish Labour blogger.
Of course, one of those, Scottish Tory Boy, closed his blog last month — but he returned the following week! Kezia’s exit, though, does feel rather more final.
I have long admired Kezia for her blog. In her interview with Jeff, she makes a point about anonymity in blogging. She seems to believes that bloggers should not be anonymous. I happen to disagree with her on that matter. But there is no doubt that it would have been a safer option for her to adopt a snappy pseudonym and let rip. Instead, she had her name up there in big bold letters and even had a photograph. You’ve got to take your hat off to her for being principled enough to make her identity so clear.
No doubt this affected the tone and content of the blog. The aspect of Kezia Dugdale’s blog that I liked the least was the fact that it toed the Labour Party line rather too much for my liking. I wonder if, as the blogosphere’s best-known Labour face, she felt obliged to stick up for Labour a bit too much. Perhaps with one eye on the future.
At the same time, that all undoubtedly made her a target for cybernats. There is, as Kezia points out, a poisonous streak in certain parts of the blogosphere. As the primary voice for a Labour Party that is currently deeply unpopular, Kezia Dugdale was always going to be at the receiving end of some pretty robust, negative stuff. Just another reason why I was amazed at how she continued blogging regardless.
I think Kezia is wrong, though, when she says this about blogging:
…it’s a very seedy environment – the vast majority of bloggers operate anonymously. And with anonymity, accountability completely evaporates…
Blogging is no longer, in my view, a proper vehicle for debate. It’s been saturated by partisan venom and that can be quite debilitating.
I’ll write a post and then 95% of the comments that follow will be negative. That doesn’t mean I’m wrong every single time…
She is not totally wrong. But in my view, the problem is not with blogging per se. It is with comments. As I have argued here, people who run their own blogs tend to be articulate, reasoned people. The reason for that, as Will Patterson points out, is:
Sub-standard blogs, full of rubbish that’s plucked out of thin air, just won’t get read. Or they’ll get read a couple of times then people will move on. So weaker blogs get isolated, while stronger blogs gain a following. That way, every blogger is accountable to their readers.
In the comments, though, it is a different matter. Some people post in the comments simply because that way they are guaranteed an audience. Rather than make the effort to set up your own place — which people might not visit — to express your views, why not go some place else where you will definitely be heard? Of course, not all commenters are like this. But it is a sad fact of comments, that some people hang out there simply because they’re not good enough to sustain a blog of their own.
Luckily, this blog doesn’t have a big problem with comments. Of course, like all of us, I have received terrible, offensive comments that I simply couldn’t publish. But it’s not a regular problem that I have to deal with day-in, day-out as some bloggers no doubt have to. But it is a problem that the blogosphere as a whole has. It isn’t enjoyable to surf around Scottish websites and be confronted time and time again with swivel-eyed cybernattery.
I don’t like to blame this completely on anonymity. As I hinted at above, I think that there are perfectly valid reasons to wish to remain anonymous — or pseudonymous anyway. I certainly don’t think it’s feasible to expect all bloggers to go around using their real names all the time. But the comments issue is for another time (though I’ve already written about it here).
Whatever, I am quite sad that Kezia Dugdale has hung up her keyboard. A lot of bloggers need to take a break every so often, and a lot of the time bloggers on hiatus come back after a while. Blogging is slightly addictive. Once you’ve got used to using your little platform, it is difficult to stop using it forever. So hopefully Kezia will return to the blogosphere one day.
In the meantime, there is a huge void in the Scottish blogosphere. Who is going to stick up for Labour now?