In case you have been living proper lives outside teh interweb, and/or watching Glee or reading “A Journey”, you may have noticed that the United Kingdom’s outpost of the world wide web has done asplode with blogging controversy.
A summary. Guido Fawkes – libertarian blogger who did for Draper and McBride – posted an entry asking if the taxpayer should stump up the cost for William Hague to employ another advisor, implying that the reasons behind the employment may have something in common with Lord Mandleson and his own staff. (Fans of Carry On films may want to run through the implied suggestion with anyone who isn’t).
Fast forward to today, and William Hague’s advisor has resigned. In a statement from the Foreign Secretary, all suggestions that he is homosexual are thrown to the winds, and genuinely shocking admissions about his wife Ffion suffering numerous miscarriages are made in full detail. From some dark part of the internet came suggestions that the marriage was a sham; even Guido didn’t wander into this particular domain (and quite right too).
Twitter has gone into meltdown, although the twitteratti always do. Influential conservative blogger Iain Dale has written a thoughtful piece on how he feels being a blogger during this rather dark moment for the British political blogosphere.
Through Twitter I stood somewhere in the middle on all this. Guido is one of the best of the current bloggers, treading where the mainstream media often dare not venture. He has made errors – the Newsnight mess for one – and this is perhaps an issue with a hint of a shark being prepared for jumping. This is not some “typical Tory sleaze”, as I have seen some suggest on Twitter, as though Guido is part of a mainstream conservative conspiracy. Much more innuendo than appeared in the original piece can be found in messageboards and chatrooms far removed from Order-Order. Typically, a bogeyman has been found for the wider net’s failings.
Hague’s statement is brave and emotional. There is no justification for the intensity or insensitive nature of the worst attacks on him and his wife. The political bloggers who see themselves as salacious or daring should realise that being headline news can be an unsettling and upsetting experience. It is not possible to hide from the glare of on-line onslaughts against you, with message boards and newspaper articles often never removed from a site’s archive history. The personal smears on Hague had no relation to the original piece, and should rightly be condemned.
Iain Dale is right to ask the bloggers in this country to relax somewhat, to regroup. Paul Staines – the real name behind Guido – is to make a comment tomorrow.
Fawkes’ blog is still important and integral to the British political discourse. There are only a small number of blogs which are absolute must reads on-line, for even in the virtual world there are market leaders and big names. This incident should remind everyone nonetheless that there are real life consequences to on-line behaviour. Nobody on-line should consider themselves the absolute truth on any subject.
Lies spread across status updates far faster than the truth has time to log on to its Twitter feed, to update Churchill. Blogging and bloggers, in this country at least, may need to still grow and develop before it realises the full implications of that truism.