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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Blog Standard

The recent news in the UK has been filled with the planned "smear campaign" from one of The Prime Minister's Men - a plan to use a blog to spread gossip and innuendo to destroy rival politicians in the Tory Party. Eyewear found it odd how alarmed and shocked the media was at this (a little like the Casablanca moment when Louis discovers gambling in his casino). Anyway, for poets it was no news at all - since poetry-related blogs and "listserv" networks and sites have been spreading nasty, often anonymous criticism and worse - sometimes character-assassination - for years.

A good example is this one from Poetry Snark, about me. It's pretty crass and ignorant stuff. And that's the tip of the iceberg (the Titanic sank today, in 1912). Poets sometimes claim they batter each other to hell because "the slice of the pie is so small" but that makes little sense - competition only gets nastier the more there is at stake, not the less (see presidential elections, and life and death struggles between men on polar ice caps with ice picks). No, the truth is likely simpler: human nature has a "dark side" - and not only Nixon, Darth Vader and Gordon Brown partake. Freed from the limits of body, able to fling expression to the four corners of the globe, humans choose to mostly send messages of love, humour, and vicious bile.

For every helpful and supportive message posted at a blog, or one that is clever or informative, one is just as likely to get something that a lunatic might balk at. Each day I have to reject comments that aim to humiliate poets whose work has been posted here - not creative or helpful commentary, but really nasty dumb stuff. Why is this? Well, for once, people don't read blogs like they do books. Each post can be arrived at separately from its whole - its context - and often messages are left simply on that message. The comments therefore do not engage with the overall "message" of the blog - but the post.

That seems to be a textual rule of blogs - the post is the unit of meaning, the text. Blogs, therefore, are not The Text - but rather, the anthology, or library, or bookshelf, holding thousands of separate if related texts. And each and every one of them is open to attack, almost calls out to be smeared. The politicians cannot be blamed for this. The poets were there first, as with so many things.
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