I’ve been to some great sessions at the Melbourne Writers Festival, most recently meeting and listening to Andrew Davies who’s written of the lot of the great BBC adaptations of classics like Pride and Prejudice, not to mention Bridget Jones’ Diary.
My first session last night was about blogging, under the title “Who are the Gatekeepers” with Margaret Simons and Antony Loewenstein, both of whom, unlike me, had an actual book to talk about. I read both The Content Makers (made even more relevant by the Fairfax job cuts and strike happening as the Festival got under way) and the Blogging Revolution and both are well worth it.
The topic led me to think about the gatekeeping function of the mass media (this is cultstud jargon for deciding what’s important and who’s authoritative). My assessment, based on recent experience was fairly negative. I see three ways in which the old media gatekeepers have failed, and in which bloggers have been effective critics.
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Until now, the blogospheric fuss over former TNR diarist Scott Beauchamp has been notable only for the amount of attention paid to disputing utterly trivial anecdotes. But the Beauchamp saga has suddenly and surprisingly collided with the reality of war in Iraq, as Moon of Alabama explains.
I’ve only been to a couple of events at the Melbourne Writers Festival so far, but already this statement from Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty has been worth the trip for me. Responding to a rant against Darwinism as religious orthodoxy, coming not from a creationist but from a neo-Lamarckian viewpoint, Doherty said:
Science is revolutionary, which is why George W. Bush and John Howard hate it so much
I’ll be talking about blogging and gatekeepers at the BMW Edge, Federation Square this evening at 5:30 and on Parched, the Politics of Water tomorrow (nearly sold out, so hurry if you’re interested). More details here.
fn1. I had to go to a climate change symposium in Canberra en route which made for a hectic trip, but also allows meant I could do the Canberra gig while minimising extra CO2 emissions.
Things have gone better than expected (certainly better than I expected) in Iraq over the past year. On the other hand, things are going very badly in Afghanistan. For those, like me, who have supported the war in Afghanistan and opposed the war in Iraq, this raises some points to consider.
Most obviously, war is inherently unpredictable and dangerous, and there is no necessary correlation between the justness of a cause and its military success. That means, among other things, that launching a war (or revolution) on the basis of a cause that seems justified to those starting it, but which has little or no hope of success (indeed without strong grounds for expecting a good outcome after the inevitable loss of life on all sides is taken into account), is not glorious but criminally reckless.
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I haven’t really overcome my backlog, but I am going to appear at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Friday and Saturday this week, talking about blogging and water, so it seemed like a good idea to run a blog post about water.
My piece in the Fin a couple of weeks ago appeared simultaneously with the news that the government would accelerate its buyback of water, definitely a step in the right direction. It’s become fashionable to suggest that the government is all review and no action, but compared to the decade of paralysis we saw from the last lot, culminating in the farcical National Water Plan, the pace of change is amazing.
Still, the situation bequeathed by Howard (and, it must be said, Turnbull) is truly dire
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I’m taking a break for a while, in an attempt to catch up on various real-life backlogs. I may post a bit at Crooked Timber. While I’m away, check out the many excellent blogs in the blogroll.
The short, but miserable, war in South Ossetia seems to be over for the moment at least. Some not very original observations over the fold
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