In thinking about the likely role of bloggers in the forthcoming election, I thought I’d start by looking at the listing of Oz political bloggers put up by Ken Parish, which is about the most comprehensive there is. What’s immediately apparent is the almost complete absence of any serious contribution from supporters of the Liberals.
Ken divides his ‘right-of-centre’ bloggers into two groups, “moderate” and “right-wing death beasts”. The distinction isn’t so much in terms of views on policy issues, but in terms of style and focus. The RWDBs adopt a consciously over-the-top style, in imitation of overseas models like Mark Steyn, and seem more attached to George Bush and the US Republican Party than to Howard and the Liberals. Even with an Australian election campaign under way, many of them are still more concerned with the US than with Australian issues. More importantly, they focus remorselessly on trivial political talking points (did Kerry really deserve his Purple Heart, making fun of Latham’s health problems ) than on anything likely to concern the Australian electorate.
Turning to Ken’s “moderate right” category, he has only ten names, and most of these are either inactive or misclassified. In looking at his list, and others, the only serious bloggers I could think of on the political right were c8to , Andrew Norton of Catallaxy and John Humphreys, all of whom are more libertarian than Liberal.
It wasn’t always so. When I started this blog in 2002, about half of the bloggers I linked to regularly were members of the moderate right, including David Morgan, Gareth Parker, Scott Wickstein and Jason Soon. Even Tim Blair wasn’t as stereotypically an RWDB as he is now. But Morgan and Parker have given up blogging, Wickstein now sticks almost exclusively to football and Soon has moved to the political centre. Meanwhile, RWDB sites have proliferated, as is indicated by Ken’s blogroll. There seems to something in the medium that’s not conducive to the politics of the centre-right.
This is quite different from the mainstream media. Of course, radio is full of shock jocks and print has its McGuinnesses and Akermans, but there are also lots of serious supporters of the Liberals and the political right more broadly, including Alan Wood, Christopher Pearson, Gerard Henderson and Miranda Devine, to name only a few.
Overall, to the extent that the blogosphere has any impact, this situation has to be bad for the Liberals. I can’t imagine that many undecided voters are going to be swayed by the offerings of the RWDB brigade, except in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, with the blog audience growing rapidly, the left of Ozplogistan may have an influence, if mainly an indirect one.
Now, I’m sure that commenters can point to some serious contributors overlooked, or misclassified, in Ken’s listing. I’ll concede in advance that some members of the RWDB group are less cartoonish than others. I haven’t waded through all the sites in the list. In addition, it’s true that some leftwing blogs adopt a mirror image of the RWDB style. Still, I can’t see the blogosphere doing much to advance the Liberal cause.
fn1. This isn’t a term of abuse from Ken, but an ironic self-description used by the RWDBs themselves.
fn2. I should also mention Bargarz, listed by Ken as a moderate, but who hasn’t posted on Australian politics for some time. Bernard Slattery teeters on the edge. He was part of the moderate right when I started out, but it is now classed by Ken with the RWDB group.