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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 13, 2010 @ 3:05 pm


    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Prominent BBC political journalists Andrew Marr and Nick Robinson have been taking a swipe at the generally-anonymous folk who respond to blogs. There are some sweeping statements from Marr in particular, but it is worth reading what they have to say.

    In order to read a report on Marr’s views, click here, and you can then read Robinson’s take by clicking here. Marr is little OTT but he has a point when he says:  ”Most of the blogging is too angry and too abusive. Terrible things are said online because they are anonymous. People say things online that they wouldn’t dream of saying in person.”

    Robinson likewise has a point when he says that, rather than widening the political debate commenters were “people who have already made their minds up, to abuse me, to abuse each other or abuse a politician”.

    No doubt I shall get some abusive comments in response to this post, but that will only prove my point! I have to say that the majority of respondents make sense and their views are expressed in moderate and measured terms.

    • paul m says:

      i think its just a case of a generation gap. those brought up on blogging know you cant always throw the heckler out of the room, but they can be moderated on most forums or banned.

      Marr and Robinson are too used to real world politics whereby you often have to stand accountable for your words and actions as people can put a face with the quote.

      the internet and blogosphere is an unruly mob, but its a mob that both politicians and poltical commentators need to spread their message, get feedback and also get little anonymous tip offs and ideas from those willing to talk under the cloak of anonymity.

      its a two way street and too late to put manners on the beast. just ignore the heckler in the room.

      so in true mob fashion… shut the f*** up lads, yeah? :)

    • robespierre says:

      Ah the Waldorf and Stadler of the BBC are moaning about the blogosphere. I am sure that Nick would love to be anonymous occasionally so he could let rip. Alastair Campbell was pretty scathing about him in particular and the lengths he would try to go to for an inside angle on the last days of Gordon Brown. He is on record on this. Of course that may have been spin but it is very unlikely in the case of the Zvengali of nouveau labour.

      As to Marr he of course right and he is such a grounded journalist I would almost agree with anything he says before he says it. That said, the strictures that apply to journos are slowly being spread to people hiding behind a nom de plume online.

      There two things that I can’t abide online – not having the guts to put your name to an opinion and people that use pretentious noms de plumes.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:


      I”ll have you know I have had some very good debates here with people who use pretentious noms de plume.

    • Deaglan,

      What blogs other than Irishtimes.com blogs, do you read daily/weekly?

    • … I am asking in an attempt to understand why you say: “he has a point when he says: ”Most of the blogging is too angry and too abusive. Terrible things are said online because they are anonymous. People say things online that they wouldn’t dream of saying in person.”

      Are you including the people who comment here as people who are part of this blogging category? Or is this a few blogs you’d cite as overly aggressive/foolishly written..

    • My appreciation of Mr Marr’s point is based mainly on my own experience of contributing to this blog and the fact that a proportion of the comments – a persistent minority, shall we say – are inherently snide and hostile. I refer particularly to the individual who styles herself Ruby/Sue D O’Nym, among others. I read other blogs only intermittenlty – life’s too short. My anticipation when I started blogging was that a “circle of friends” would develop who would disagree in a robust manner but without any inherently hostile agenda towards me and other contributors. Disappointingly that is not the way it has worked out. The anonymity factor is crucial here. You are never sure where people are coming from. On the other hand, I am a believer in free speech but . . . who are these people?

    • me! says:

      Oh diddums…poor old Deaglan no mates…
      Hope that’s not a ‘golden circle of friends’ or you’ll have ‘doubting Desmond’ on your case…You’re obssessed…is there really nothing more important going on in the world that you could be blogging about…?
      Before anyone rushes to jugment on this perhaps they’d like to read the way you respond to ‘robust non hostlie comments’ from highly articulate posters such as Aidan (sp?) who was clearly more than a match for you…and resulted in your unmitigated animus towards him…
      Even the wunderkind himself accused you of hitting below the belt…
      My complaint has always been about your propensity to play the wo/man..rather than the ball…Sometimes I think you live in some Maeve Binchy novel..welcome to the REAL world…
      SO get over it Deaglan and for God’s sake move on…you’re obssessed… perhaps we need to know what the hidden agenda is here..! Joanna I think robes may have been having a little joke at his own expense…I like that in a man…! Sorry for any typos there’s bound to be a few…!
      Missin’ you already…

    • minXie (nom de guerre) says:

      I think it all balances out generally. Whether a person uses his/her own “real” name (and how does anyone know even that’s not a pseudonym) doesn’t really matter since the character/identity/politics/worldview of the “opinionator” becomes quite clear, especially if the person using a pseudonym or even different pseudonyms does so regularly. Generally, if there is a serious debate going on in the blog comments most contributors will ignore the trolls and anyone who is being ott. The majority of those who comment (with such regularity) on the Opinion/Analysis pieces of the Irish Times, for example, are as recognizable now as some of the regular columnists – so tiresome/repetitious are they and their deeply held prejudices. That is just boring but nasty personal attacks should be 100% moderated imo.

      Ps Thought Vincent Browne & Co were being very irreverent last night (on Tonight with Vincent Browne, Wed. 13) and I felt v sorry for the gentle, refined Chilean Ambassador to be in such company.

    • “Me!” of course is Ruby/Sue and it illustrates my point nicely.

    • Deaglan,

      Bloggers are to people-who-comment-on-blogs as journalists are to people-who-write-letter- to-the-editor.

      If you don’t read blogs – and don’t know the difference between a blogger and someone who comments on blogs – then I’ve got question the basis of your opinion. I suspect Mr Marr has the same understanding of the topic. Your comment ‘life is too short’ is disappointing too. A lot of people would say the same about newspapers and journalists like yourself (and myself) would consider them ignorant or purposefully uninformed.

      I’m not saying all blogs – or even 90% – are worth reading. I’m saying dismissing them as ‘life is too short’ is… well if you did read some blogs you might become better informed.

      Just this week The Irish Times reported that the Covanta contract for Poolbeg had been released to Dublin City Councillors after a long period of delay despite councillors’ demands to obtain a copy. The report implied DCC decided to release it out of the goodness of their heart… this was not the case (it was the line DCC pushed). They were forced to release it to a blogger under environmental information regulations and councillors simply received a copy as supplied to said blogger. If you were not a regular reader of blogs you’d never get this context.

      I consistently find these added bits of context from reading certain blogs, information you’d never get in newspapers. The vast majority of which are never written in the aggressive/snarky tone spoken of further up this thread… there’s real quality out there.

    • robespierre says:

      To clarify my comments as I was in a hurry the other day. My rational for a moniker quite simple – I don’t want to be post under my name if I am posting the odd opinion during my working day.

      Having said that slander and libel under a moniker offers no legal protection at all in law. Technically, the same standard applies online here for posters as it does to Deaglán under his byline only we don’t have professional insurance against it so I have always adopted a cautious approach towards saber rattling and discussion online.

    • Mark, As far as I can make out, your own blog is a very valuable contribution to public knowledge. More of a website than a blog in the usual sense. You are an exception to the rule. Keep up the good work.

      Robespierre: Your comments are invariably constructive and well-mannered.

    • Joanna Tuffy says:

      I think that Mark’s point is that good blogs are not the exception to the rule. In fact there are many good ones, at present in Ireland, where some very good debate takes place. That kind of debate has taken place under some posts here, but it also takes place on the Irish Economy blog, the TASC blog, the Irish Election blog, the Cedar Lounge and so on. We need the kind of ideological debate that can be nuanced out in blog posts and the comments that follow, that is not really taking place in Irish newspapers (it does happen in some UK papers, like the Guardian, sometimes, and sometimes in their politics blogs, and also in the US on sites such as the Huffington Post). We won’t really get a handle on what Ireland needs to do to get out of our recession, and how to protect ourselves for the future, unless we start to look at the ideology that underpinned the political approach to our economy and society that led us to where we are. Blogs are one place to do that. I’d like to see more of that in the Irish Times Political Blog.

    • Mark, “Bloggers are to people-who-comment-on-blogs as journalists are to people-who-write-letter- to-the-editor.” I think this characterisation reads as a tad snarky towards those who comment though that might well not have been the intention. I blog and comment (and occasionally write to Madam Editor) and to do any of that I have to read; without reading there would be no commenting so to be so dismissive of those who comment is not really warranted. Sure, a fair bundle of those who comment are negative but that’s perhaps reflective of what provides the impulse for many people to write. They wish to offer a counter viewpoint, if one agrees with something they are more likely to nod their head in agreement and move on.

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