Saturday, 6 November 2010
I have now been blogging regularly at the New Statesman for a couple of months.
(You can see a list of my posts so far here.)
I have missed blogging at Jack of Kent - and I certainly miss many of the usual commenters on posts here that have not yet journeyed over to the New Statesman.
As it appears that my blogging at New Statesman has got off the ground, I would like to share some reflections - especially with those of you who have been kind enough to follow my blogging for some time.
In other words: what am I up to?
One easy answer answer to that is that I am simply getting paid for indulging in a favourite hobby. A properly-researched blogpost can take a substantial amount of time, and so it is nice to be remunerated for that time. Many of those who blog do so as volunteers and, as they face other demands on their finite time, they will tend to blog less often, or even give up. As long as the New Statesman (or anyone else) want me to blog for them for money, I am more likely to be able to carry on producing the sort of blogposts which make blogging a joy rather than a chore.
Another answer is that blogging for the New Statesman allows me to engage constructively with a wider, perhaps more-politicised readership. This means I can write some posts which show the merits of a source-based approach to a story in the public domain. And I can also do other posts where I can learn from the reaction to the teasing out of the practical application of those political concepts which have longed pre-occupied me: namely, what are valid interferences with freedom of expression, what constitutes good policy and law making, and what exactly is an abuse of power.
And my third answer is that it is fun. I have often no idea what I am going to write on next, whether it will go down well or badly, or whether it will go viral or just be ignored. And I confess I find this lack of predictability rather exciting.
But in more concrete terms, what have I been up to?
For long-term followers of this blog, some of the New Statesman posts would not be surprising.
My most popular (in the sense of visits and comments) was my exploration of the curious case of Oliver Drage, who received a custodial sentence as a result of not providing his password (or encryption code) to the police.
A similar post was in respect of the alleged "song lyrics" inserted in the oral witness evidence in the inquest of Mark Saunders. This post allowed me to provide the relevant transcript, which as the commenters began to point out, did not tally with the mainstream media coverage of the same story.
The structure of both those "legal" posts would be familiar to anyone who has read this blog over time; and it is great that the New Statesman provides a platform for me to try and show the merits of such an approach to a wider readership.
I have also sought to adopt this source-based approach to stories which are not especially "legal". My post on Nadine Dorries exposed - with referenced supporting material - how she was caught telling the Parliamentary Commissioner one thing and her constituents another.
And the second of my posts on the aborted strike over the Bonfire Night period by the London firefighters sought to show what the issues were according to material provided to me by both sides.
Then there are the posts where I am seeking to apply my interests in liberalism, abuses of power, free expression, and the nature of good policy and law making, to stories in the news.
When posting these I confess that I am mindful that the posts can well be provocative to some of the Left wing readers of the New Statesman. However, they are posted in good faith and are sincere attempts to think through an issue in principled terms. Notwithstanding my accusers, I am not trolling by blogpost.
Such posts have included exploring the free speech implications of protests against Tony Blair and the Pope. Another such post was the controversial one where I raised the issue of whether a strike by public service workers could be an an abuse of power.
In these posts I am afraid I do rather betray both my Left-Right blindness and my Public-Private blindness.
If the liberal principles of countering abuses of power and resisting curbs on free expression really have any foundational merit, then they have to be of general - if not universal - application.
And if that is correct, then there is no inherent reason why the Right or the Left, or the Public Sector or the Private Sector, would be any more or less prone to abuses of power or other illiberal behaviour.
Illiberal and misconceived uses of power cannot always just be done by the "other side".
(Amusingly, every time I do this sort of post, there will be someone who says: "I was a fan of what you did before, but now...".)
Other posts have dealt with substantive policy areas where I wish to promote certain approaches - for example the de-criminalisation of sex work - here and here - and on voting rights for prisoners.
And finally, I have even stuck in a couple of posts which draw on my "skeptic" background: one following The Amazing Meeting and the other on a bad day for Scientology.
Which of these types of post will become more common over time?
The heavily-researched ones will necessarily be infrequent. And the ones exploring the applications of liberal principles to emerging news stories may become less about asking questions, and more about answering them.
My main hope is that I can consistently post about news stories (or break news stories) in a way which is both source-based and confidently open about the liberal approach which is being adopted: that there will be less of a marked distinction between my "critical" (or "skeptic") blogs and my liberal blogs.
I also hope to post here on Jack of Kent more often as well. This is because - to my genuine surprise - I have been told that some people associate "Jack of Kent" with certain normative and critical values which would be sad to lose.
So hearty thanks to everyone who has read - and commented - on my posts both here and at the New Statesman - and let's see what happens next.
And please do forgive my thinking aloud on this post.
No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.