Alister Cameron // Blogologist

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Words as weapons: when a commenter upstages a journalist!

I love this “age of social media”. We’re seeing the “populace” given voice in ways that have never existed before. Here’s an example from today…

The Mighty PenIn a Guardian article just published, entitled The ‘continent of smoke’ is still burning, writer (and Guardian Weekly editor) Natalie Bennett chooses very insensitive timing to discuss Australian urban planning, population, climate and such favourite lefty topics. She doesn’t seem bothered that the search for Victorian bushfire fatalities is not yet concluded, and the large number of irate commenters have expressed their disgust in no uncertain terms.

It seems clear that Natalie is not about to win any awards for journalistic excellence for this piece, but I invite you to consider this comment from one Edmund McMahon, which goes to prove that a commenter can well and truly upstage a writer, if his prose is good enough. I submit that Mr McMahon has done just that with an very well crafted, erudite and scathing response. When writing is as good as this, there is no need for expletives or rudeness to “put someone firmly in their place”… just the impressive force of linguistic excellence.

Judge for yourself:

Hi Natalie,

I have read the Guardian and the Guardian Weekly since I was about ten. This is the article which has finally persuaded me it is time to stop. Do you not think it is slightly regrettable to choose the death by burning of perhaps 200 people as an occasion to sermonise against the stupidity of the victims, and to admonish a bereaved society for existing in the first place?

Your article is – as others have pointed out – crass, moralistic, poorly written and grotesquely smug. A core of unexceptionable (if rather dimly grasped) facts, are wrapped up in a rhetoric which caters to a punitive fantasy dear to some Britons who are anxious to displace colonial guilt.

The real Australia (virgin nature and soulful indigenes) must be rescued from the yoke of modernity by the progressive consciences of Clapham! A population of 20 million must be reduced by four-fifths and a modern economy must revert to the harvesting of free-range kangaroos! I do hope you are getting up a petition against these draconian colonial ‘planning laws’ which prevent us colonials from living in a ‘caravan’ or ‘small bark humpy’, as nature so clearly intended.

Professor Flannery’s arguments about population and agricultural sustainability (which BTW have been revised several times since you and he last chatted 20 years ago) have a lot of merit. But, as he would no doubt point out, traditional land management practices can only inform contemporary solutions. To propose that Australia can solve today’s problems by reverting to firestick farming is about as useful as suggesting that Britain could rescue its financial system by embracing barter.

Still, thanks for your input. It seems a shame that such insight, expertise and sensitivity is wasted on this expatriate preaching to the converted. Please come home, run for public office, save us from ourselves.

What a delight to read. His polemic takes on a life of its own. This is words as weapons.

So be warned. If you think you have the upper hand as a mainstream media (MSM) journo, you don’t. The social media revolution is upon us and this is the day of the commenter putting the writer in his/her place… and I, for one, love it.

Have you seen other examples of this? How have you seen the “locus of control” in the online conversation shifting from the few to the many, from the MSM to the Average Joe?

10 Comments

Note: Commenter website links are not no-followed, in case
you were wondering... I believe in rewarding commenters!

  1. Posted 8 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    Words as weapons indeed!

    Beautifully crafted response! The dry wit and sarcasm, compounding of points, and the demolition of so-called facts…

    Edmund McMahon – if I’m ever as wrong or as smug as Natalie Bennett, please give me a chance to retract!

  2. Posted 8 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    Indeed he was rather more polite than my initial blogspray. I am a bit of a lefty but I must admit there is a class of expatriate writer, Ms Greer being the other who comes to mind, that revels in quite bizarre treatises that stem from some sort of noble savage imagery of both the country and its people and is frankly not worth the space it verbally inhabits.

    Fancy running the same argument in respect of other nature-traumatised parts of the world: all SEAsians should live in the hills, all Africans should just pick up and move full stop. Do we all move to Greece, the only place I’ve ever noted to have close to perfect weather?

  3. Posted 8 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    Thanks Alistair for highlighting this SUPREME example of the levelling of the playing field!

    Finally,”we the people” CAN fight back effectively against the ugly monoliths of the “Fleet Street” Press!

    It should also serve as a lesson to Small Businesses everywhere that they are now in a unique position to take on the Big Boys through Social Media! If their message is well crafted, they can win, and thrive, in this new, transparent, and glorious, world, post 2008!

    And, don’t worry Brent, you could never stoop to such inconsiderate depths!

    Thanks again @alicam !

  4. Posted 8 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    It’s a well written response, but I don’t see how this is all that much different to the ‘old media’ letter to the editor. Sure, it might reach more eyeballs than in the past, but it’s not like social media invented critical repsonse by members of the public.

  5. Posted 8 years, 10 months ago // Permalink

    There are some situations where words are more powerful then the weapons.There are some people who only fight by the words they use not by the weapons.So words are more powerful then weapons.

  6. Posted 8 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    Great repost from Edmund – however – good job he was responding to a Guardian piece and not something on the Daily Mail.. otherwise his well crafted response would have ended up in the Mail’s /dev/null bin.

    I would be intrigued to see the ratio of published to unpublished comments on the right wing rag sites where freedom of thought, never mind freedom of speech, is frowned upon.

  7. Posted 8 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    I am a part time web developer and now want to switch myself to Web2.0 Application Development, i was searching some stuff about Web2.0, Social Media, Social networking and Blogs, by passing Google Search i came acroos your website which has excellent resources of Web2.0 and e-Marketing.

  8. Posted 8 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    Yes, it’s great that pretty much everywhere on the net now you see the comments input. It ensures an automatic balance on news stories, editorials, blog posts etc. However, that’s just the net. It needs to move to TV which is the real hypnotizer and brainwasher here!

    The financial crisis might be a chance in this regard. How long until TV channels have to seriously revamp (See John Stewart vs. Jim Cramer) or even close down? It’s already happening to newspapers across the US, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for instance is shutting down after 146 years and is completely going web.

  9. Brian
    Posted 8 years, 9 months ago // Permalink

    No way? A smart person read a stupid article and responded?
    THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT IS AT AN END AND TRADITIONAL MEDIA IS DEAD!
    It is possible that I am being sarcastic, as well as intentionally self-referential.

  10. Posted 8 years, 8 months ago // Permalink

    Thanks for a great example of something that’s come up for me watching the MSM weird fascination with Twitter unfold. Since there’s a left tinge here, let’s reference the dialectic. First, I believe that there is struggle between old controllers of production (Thesis) and Web 2.0 emergent influence (Antithesis). The Synthesis will result in far more diverse content through collaboration between editors/journalists and all of us. We are everywhere, and they can never match us for breadth. People are not going to “take over” media. However, in the meantime, this is the Media Reformation. I expect a struggle (snide defensive remarks about Web 2.0 as ineffectual, “scandals” like “Scientists Warn of Twitter Dangers” by none less than an uninformed CNN http://is.gd/sn2w), but MSM will lose until they realize their core competencies have been changed for them; we are less interested in having MSM tell us how to think. As human beings, they have proven themselves as self-serving and corruptible as anyone else. Retweeting myself @csrollyson…

    “The revolution will (no longer) be televised” ,^)

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