Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Joining the conspiracy

I went to the really excellent Liberal Conspiracy caucus tonight on the liberal left and blogging. Two very interesting sessions and a great turnout - including from the Greens who formed a hard core block at the front, because we're swots. This wont be an extensive report as I've been stuck on a damn train for God knows how long and want to go to bed - but a few thoughts before I turn in.

There was a deal of discussion about what kind of contribution the liberal left can make to political life in this country. One organiser of Labour Home (Mark?) described it as a kind of virtual town hall, filling in part of the gap left by the absence of actual town hall meetings. It was also clear this was a useful mechanism for allowing the Labour grassroots to have their say in a more direct way, and to that end they've deliberately tried to avoid editorialising.

One no2id activist described their online work as "driving a network of grassroots action" and he, along with others, saw blogging and online campaigns as very much something that assists real world campaigning rather than simply being a thing in and for itself.

There was also some discussion of the *fact* that Labour's going to lose the next general election - would this lead to a flowering of the left blogosphere and the complete disorientation of the right? Blogging to some extent thrives on dissent so leading right wing bloggers may have to make decisions come the election of the new Tory government in 2010 about how supportive, and therefore dull and pointless, they wish to be.

It's a curious point - but to be honest I think what happens to the blogosphere in these circumstances may well be the least of our worries - I digress. It was clear that blogging, when connected to real life campaigning well, could be a new tool for attracting new activists and developing an online community around the issues.

One speaker made the point that on a demo it's perfectly possible for people who hate each other to come together for a common purpose in a united fashion, but with blogging this seems to happen far less. The left blogosphere for instance is made up of largely hostile blogs who have no history of any online cooperation on the issues. I shouldn't exaggerate this point, of course, but its something that's worth grappling with I think - how do "rival" blogs work together over issues that they agree on.

There were lots of f-worders there tonight, which is among my favourite blogs, as well as another personal favourite from the cruella blog. The second session was specifically on feminism in the blogosphere. The panel was generally good, although there was one woman there who seemed to want to make personal attacks on people rather than make substantive points - but in some ways she demonstrated in person what a lot of the blogosphere can be like - personally vile - and she was a good reminder of how sensible everyone else was being.

The discussion was interesting on this and there were a number of concrete suggestions on how to bolster feminist bloggers. As you probably know I'm a great fan of a lot of the feminist blog-o-sphere, but there was a time when I didn't think it even existed. It was only via Natalie Bennett and the Carnival of Feminists that I discovered that not only was there a huge range of feminist bloggers, there were incredibly diverse, talented and interesting too.

I suspect the reason I did not come across them earlier was because there seems to be a lack of interaction between the spheres, as it were. One woman suggested that this might be because the rest of the left essentially ignores gender issues, so why would she read them? I thought that was an interesting comment and difficult to deny - but I did wonder whether this meant she only read posts that were specifically "about gender" which seems a very narrow reading habit if so, and certainly would not reflect the postings of most feminist bloggers let alone those outside of that circle.

For me I suspect it reflects a wider problem in the blogosphere which because it's so big people tend to cling to their favourites, their comfort zone, and rarely venture abroad - unless they are serial trolls. I'd like to see that trend among left leaning bloggers broken down somewhat and this mini-conference was a great start to doing just that - getting lefties recognising each other and willing to unite on the issues of note.

Well done Sunny for organising it!

Other reactions from; Tory Troll, Sunny (with pics), Charlie Beckett, Griffindor, Jim Killock, Darrell, Dave Cole 1, Dave Cole 2, the aforementioned Cruella, Ali Gledhill, Sunny again - this time on CiF, Stuart Jeffrey, Penny Red, Feminist Philosophers, Leon, Robert Sharp, Random Variable (let me know if I've missed your report off and I'll add it)


Anonymous said...

I couldn't make the meeting yesterday but am interested if there are anymore of these discussions.

I think, on the issue of feminist and leftie blogs, there is a separateness about them and a kind of never the twain shall meet. And there are many reasons for this. I woulda been interested re the discussion about women/feminist blogging.

Jim Jepps said...

hm - it was very good and I think actually meeting up in "meatspace" is invaluable to take things up a notch sometimes.

The feminist blogging section was very interesting - although I think there seemed to be a slight blurring between women blogging and feminist blogging (not because there can be male feminists, which is what someone said and I'm uncomfortable with) but because some women either blog about other things (like PR or technology thinking of two blogs on my rss feed that spring to mind) or they simply are not feminists (there are lots of tory women bloggers for instance) and it might have been worth teasing those apart.

But, alas, we only had three hours!

Anonymous said...

Do you know if there will be any further meetings/debates and so on?

Jim Jepps said...

I think so - although I don't know if anything's planned right this second... I'll definately advertise it if so because it was well worth going to

Mike Shaughnessy said...

I enojoyed this event, although I seldom call myself 'liberal'. It was good to meet the different on line current makers amongst the left. Nice drop of wine, too.

Green Socialism on Red Pepper.,22.0.html

Jim Jepps said...

Hi Mike, it was good to see you.

I never describe myself as a liberal - but I know what Sunny means by it so I'm happy with the company. It's interesting to be in a room with left leaning libdems though - be interesting to see if that's a relationship worth developing.

Mike Shaughnessy said...

Yes, I think I mentioned to your Lib Dem friend, I am interested in cooperating with them on PR voting, but it seem to excite him much!

Dave Cole said...

JJ - great write-up and thanks for the links to the various other bloggers who were there!

There's a reaction from me over at


JM said...

I was (one of?) the people who raised the issue of lack of feminist posting on general lefty blogs - of course I don't only read feminist blogs!

But I do have to keep on top of quite a significant volume of feminist blogs for The F-Word, which means that I'm probably going to look at LOLCATZ before going out of my way to read UK political blogs that don't seem to have any gender analysis at all (or, rather, an annoying lack thereof)!

Jim Jepps said...

Thanks for this Jess. I do agree that most non-feminist blogs do not talk about gender much - and whilst you look at lolcatz I'll be browsing reddit so I think it's useful to remember that just because someone writes at a political blog that's the only thing they use the net for or the only thing they think about.

The point I was trying to raise (I hope gently) was just that there is a gender aspect to almost every question and that this can be brought up, so just as green bloggers should read more widely than just green blogs other bloggers should not just stick to their own "gang", I think cross fertilisation is a powerful thing - however I don't think anyone should feel obliged to go around hobbyhorsing - I know I don't!

Aaron said...

Well I was a very left-wing Lib Dem member but just couldn't stomach Nick Clegg. A lot of Lib Dems believe in a fairer society, and even on the membership card it says that 'people should never be enslaved by poverty or ignorance' but how we get there is a completely issue. For example the party is committed to globalisation and capitalist economics, so I couldn't continue my support. But on issues such as civil liberties/foreign policy they're often pretty good in my opinion.

Jim Jepps said...

Thanks Aaron. Actually I never think about the libdems as a left option - but I've had two Lib Dem MPs David Howarth and Bob Russell and both of them are very good - not saying I agree with everything obviously. And also a number of libdem supporters or councillors I've met have had clear left of centre positions.

One thing I find interesting is that although many libdems come from the left you'll very rarely see them involved in campaigning work outside of the council sphere. So on the war for instance lots are opposed to the occupation but you'd be hard pressed to find libdems in the stop the war coalition or local groups. Same goes for defending council housing.

I wonder why that is... electoralism?

Cruella said...

My reaction:

Naadir Jeewa said...

Me too