catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Libertarian quips

with 33 comments

Government is not eloquence. It is not reason. It is a force. Like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

George Washington

I’m reluctant to promise a series of these, but this is one I’ve liked for a long time. With any sort of luck, I’ll hunt up some more favoured quips in the coming weeks.


Written by Admin

November 1, 2006 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

33 Responses

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  1. “Capitalism is the best. It’s free enterprise. Barter. Gimbels, if I get really rank with the clerk, “Well I don’t like this’, how I can resolve it? If it gets really ridiculous, I go, Frig it, man, I walk.’ What can this guy do at Gimbels, even if he was the president of Gimbels? He can always reject me from that store, but I can always go to Macy’s. He can’t really hurt me. Communism is like one big phone company. Government control, man. And if I get too rank with that phone company, where can I go? I’ll end up like a schmuck with a dixie cup on a thread.”

    ~Lenny Bruce

    Jason Soon

    November 1, 2006 at 8:01 pm

  2. “Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed upon, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow; yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. Itdoes not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.

    For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.”

    Henry David Thoreau


    November 1, 2006 at 8:09 pm

  3. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.



    November 2, 2006 at 2:50 am

  4. Lawsuit: a machine in which you go in as a pig and come out as a sausage.

    – Ambrose Bierce


    November 2, 2006 at 2:13 pm

  5. Maybe that could be good fundraising for the LDP – a desk calendar with appropriate quotes on it. I would certainly get one.

    Andrew Reynolds

    November 2, 2006 at 7:48 pm

  6. Add almost everything on this page.

    Andrew Reynolds

    November 3, 2006 at 12:47 pm

  7. No quote thread is complete without my gratuitous reference to Bob Dylan:

    A self-ordained professor’s tongue
    Too serious to fool
    Spouted out that liberty
    Is just equality in school
    “Equality,” I spoke the word
    As if a wedding vow.
    Ah, but I was so much older then,
    I’m younger than that now.

    Jason Soon

    November 3, 2006 at 12:55 pm

  8. Jason,
    I like P.J.’s comment on Jakob Dylan – “Because Jakob can carry a tune and write songs that make sense, critics feel that he lacks his father’s talent.”

    Andrew Reynolds

    November 3, 2006 at 1:23 pm

  9. His Bobness forgives your trespasses, Reynolds. I’ll let this pass but another outburst like that and you’re off to the Gulag.

    Jason Soon

    November 3, 2006 at 1:26 pm

  10. If you are poor and can read this thank a government schoolteacher. If you are poor and weak and can read this in English thank a government soldier. If you are poor, weak…and dead or enslaved by a more powerful enemy…thank a small government libertarian.

    A small-government libertarian is a free marketeer yet to file for bankruptcy.

    The small-government libertarian is the chippy child who kicks and scratches and slaps at his mummy’s thigh…then bursts into tears precisely one scary stranger after she drops his hand and walks away.

    Robertson’s First Law of Jackboot Libertarianism:

    “At any given moment in any given democracy, the volume of the libertarian small-government advocacy heard in the Town Square will be inversely proportional to the volume of the bombs exploding there.”

    Libertarians despise governments so roundly because they recognise that only by banishing government altogether can they become free enough to prove libertarian theory catastrophically unworkable once and for all.

    Jack Robertson

    November 3, 2006 at 1:57 pm

  11. Webdiary go broke, Jack? Can’t seem to find it anywhere…


    November 3, 2006 at 2:08 pm

  12. I think Jack is flogging a strawman. As many regulars here can tell you, libertarianism is not incompatible with a strong defence or even a good education system. Many libertarians do not want to get rid of the State, they just want it to focus on things it may be better at than private enterprise. And such a focus can improve its performance in the few things that it does get involved in.

    Jason Soon

    November 3, 2006 at 2:10 pm

  13. My views exactly, Jason. Thanks.


    November 3, 2006 at 2:13 pm

  14. Goodness me, a little touchie hereabouts, aren’t we. None of those other quotes, of course, involved caricature for mild comic effect…you libertarians, no sense of humour.

    ‘My views exactly, Jason. Thanks.’

    Spoken like a true libertarian sceptic, Helen.

    *Settles down with pizza and six pack to await next hysterically-solipsistic public make-over with breathless anticipation…*

    Jack Robertson

    November 3, 2006 at 4:43 pm

  15. Really Jack, if you aren’t capable of anything but intellectually vacuous comments, why do you bother?

    PS your verbose madman schtick which used to set you apart from other blog commenters doesn’t play very well anymore. We have GMB and he plays the role with thrice the IQ and double the conceptual originality.

    Jason Soon

    November 3, 2006 at 4:44 pm

  16. Haha webdiary pwned.


    November 3, 2006 at 5:03 pm

  17. Yep, looks like they’ve tanked it, Yobbo, and the refuse is now floating around the rest of the blogosphere.

    Sad, really, because I had a bit of time for Margo, even met her once at a function in Brissy.


    November 3, 2006 at 5:18 pm

  18. Jesus, Jase, if you regard this casual passing hoy as the ‘verbose madman shtick’ coming out to play then the blogosphere really has become lame. These days the loon doesn’t even get out of bed for under a grand. Plays OK when he does, though; you get your money’s worth. You…your resident conceptual geenyus Birdy…lots and lots of you, of all shapes, hues, self-annointed labels and sophisticated poses. It seems.

    ‘Sad, really, because I had a bit of time for Margo…’

    Once again, Helen, you’re more than a few seconds behind the fashionable trope of the day. The weeks after Margo went personally broke were when you should have been trotting out the RWDB party line of the moment: ‘…it wasn’t Margo but her sycophantic hangers-on what killed Webdiary, blah blah…’ At least Sam had the decency then not to try to wash the MK blood off his hands – the rest of them were like a gang of whimpering, excuse-making middle-class bully-boys who’ve suddenly realised that the lone chick they’ve been thumping and circle-pissing on for five years isn’t getting up this time. It was pathetic. So is your late contribution.

    Since Sam is the only one here approaching a real libertarian, allow me to bypass your fragile dilettantes’ egos, Jason and Helen.

    In fact the reason I commented here at all, Sam, or Yobbo, or whatever lights your fire, was because I took the political grid test your new party has bodged up and lobbed smack in your recruitment territory. Whether that makes you or me feel more bemused and nauseous is moot, because I’m not a party joiner and I think you’d sooner dog a round-eye than have me anyway, but I do admire bloggers who try to translate theoretical principles into practical democratic action within the context of proven real world systems. It’s why I stuck with Webdiary for so long, as a matter of fact. Say what you like about Margo – or, more’s the point, naff hangers-on like me – but she, and we, did try hard to operate within the context of the tried-and-true democratic frames to which everyone has equal access. Because some of us aren’t the greatest writers anyway and MK’s editorially…mmmm, libertarian? (sorry, couldn’t resist) approach indulged hyberbolic excess at times – itself mostly a result of an awareness of our likely impotence – it’s easy to forget that Margo and Webdiary did give a lot of voiceless and politically varied individuals. Including you, Helen, when you were still a pariah all over the joint. Webdiary wasn’t anti-democratic, as often claimed; it actually gave anyone who wanted to avail themslves of it a more direct pipeline to the nation’s governing processes than had been available through theMSM before. She tapped us via her Gallery presence into the various Parliamentary processes in exactly the way so many of her virulent blogoshere critics claimed to be demanding of the ‘MSM media gatekeepers’…. now, of course, even mainstreamers like the Sunrise team are getting into the direct democracy shtick, with the Hockey-Rudd stuff. I like it a lot. In our case, I suppose what influence we carved out peaked with NHJ!, and the campaign that won a pretty big swing against a very popular PM in his own electorate, against a national trend of increased majority – an overall resounding win that meant our brief and no doubt ickily smug moment had passed, of course.

    But your party would be pretty satisfied in these early days, I think, if it managed to insert your ideas and influence into mainstream political debate, exercised though those right democratic means, as did Margo Kingston and we, her sappy band of followers, for a while, at least.

    (BTW…Webdiary ‘tanked it’, Helen? ‘Refuse’? Come on, bit harsh. There is still a site going, albeit a bit different in tone and focus, but it’s manned like Catallaxy by volunteers who are committing no intellectual crime but trying to get their ideas out into an increasingly crowded marketplace. I guess ‘Margo functionaries’ – one of Blair’s funnier swipes – like me turned some Webdiarists off, sure we, and/or, I did. Maybe I turned off a lot. I don’t know. What I do know is that I and others like me did a lot of work to keep make and the site going for five years. Margo didn’t get much practical support from the paper, although it was more than she sometimes thought. In later years she cut her salary by half to defend her editorial control and stave off banner advertising. Fifty grand a year she was earning at the end. Not much for a journo of her seniority with two bestsellers under her belt, really. So…if you want to call me ‘refuse’, Helen, fine, but don’t patronise Margo with bullshit like ‘…I had a bit of time for Margo…’. Not now, when it’s just more solipsistic keening on your part, and not when sneering at her going broke in the same breath. Come on…you of all people know about petty personal abuse, especially when it’s based on attacks on personal identity, not work or views. It wasn’t ‘refuse’ like me and it wasn’t her comments policies that screwed WD…it was just that ‘refuse’ refuse: five years of sustained personal hate and abuse and, towards the end, betrayal by people she’d tried hard to give a fair go. It would have been nice if you’d had your kind blogosphere words to say about her when she could have used it…)

    As you Catallaxians who do get involved in the party will find out when you start to get your teeth into the concrete world, it’s very hard for anyone to make the shift from political theorising here online to practical application. You set yourself up as a target for every cheap shot merchant, troll, hater, reactionary and spoiler with access to a modum and a keyboard. But it’s also a great thing to try to do, a really gutsy and admirable ambition that deserves to be wished well. I do, Sam. I wish your party and ideas associated with it well and hope you make a real mark. If any of you actually take the time to go back and have a read of my own Webdiary archives, and even my nutty old blog from more ancient times – especially stuff on media reform, Iraq, identity politics, State funding of art, burecracy – you would, I suggest, find more of a manifest libertarian – and sceptical – posture than is often ascribed to yourselves in theory here. But then I would say that, of course.

    That aisde, also for what it’s worth, I think that making a go of a libertarian-ish party is a harder ask than most, because of the natural tension between the broad philosophy and the near-oxymoronic way you’re bound to apply it in a democracy. You are setting yourselves for easy meta-shots of just the kind I made. In Australia libertarianism has always had a whiff of the cult about it, probably (as many here have a bit queasily noted) as a result of the gun stuff more than anything. And it’s not a natural historical fit, because we are by dint of the daunting relationship between population and geographical size, a nation of large government instincts.

    As we get hotter, dryer, and less prosperous in relative terms, I think it’s going to get much harder to convince Australians of the economic necessity of a free-breathing global market patched directly into parochial service provision networks. Politically for now, it’s a superficially incompatible economic arrangement to try to sell. But as the true price signals of environmental degradation are increasingly allowed to factor into the cost, say, of competing with Brazilian oranges, and as labor costs start to even out globally via outsourcing and education-osmosis, libertarianism will be well-laced to articulate and fine-tune what will start happening by default anyway.

    Put it this way: if it doesn’t happen, whether by default or led by a party, then I doubt we can do much about global warming in time. Certainly late-day Road to Damascus posturing by big government opportunitists of left and right, who see yet anoither opportunity (like 9/11) to increase the size and reach of their government empires… isn’t the answer.

    I hope it works out well, Sam and Co. Good luck, anyway, whatever that may or may not be be worth. Try not to throw the babies out with the bathwater in the name of pragmatic compromise too often.

    I will make donation to the party to help pay for the space I have used here uninvited. Thank you for it.

    Jack Robertson

    November 4, 2006 at 10:55 am

  19. Jack
    You’re being a little sensitive here, not me. I responded to your first comment by taking it seriously and giving it a serious and civil response (well forgive me for taking you seriously).

    After which you descended into snark and I responded by dredging up your ‘verbose madman’ past – you only get as good as you give, Jack. Not sure how I am supposed to have a ‘fragile ego’ by responding to your obvious snark with snark of my own. Double standards.

    As for Margo, I’ve launched a few projectiles at her in the past but no more than I’ve launched at other bloggers (including Tim Blair himself I might add) so save your recriminations for the right blogs.

    Jason Soon

    November 4, 2006 at 11:43 am

  20. That’s a fair point, Jason. Sorry. Yeah, I am probably oversensitive these days. I’ve accumulated reasons over the years, perhaps. Or imagined them into being. Thanks for taking my posts seriously.

    In mitigation the collateral damage snark of mine that got your snark snarking was more a pissed off response to the snark from your latest contributor. Margo Kingston gave Helen Dale a really good go when she came knocking at Webdiary, in the days when Helen was still being treated like a pariah by most ‘right-thinking’ MSM forum gatekeepers, whether left or right or whatever. Her first response (as both Catallaxy poster and moderator of this thread) to my name appearing here at Catallaxy, which obviously she must recognise as a bit player presence from her Webdiary contact, was not to snark at me or my post, but at Margo Kingston being broke. It’s not funny coming from anyone, because it’s true, but it’s especially lousy coming from someone whose byline Margo at times copped stick from ‘right thinkers’ for running at all back then.

    It’s good for you that Quadrant and now Catallaxy have given you an opportunity to contribute to public debates again in a fresh context, Helen. But Margo gave you a go once too. If you want to mock me as ‘Webdiary refuse’, OK, fine. But it’s not right of you or anyone at Catallaxy to take nasty pot-shots at MK’s demise – she’s history now, and yes, she is doing it tough – just to get some extra nasty dig in at me.

    That is a fair recrimination for this blog thread.

    On the wider point about fired projectiles, Jason, I have and had no problems with hard criticism of Webdiary at any time. What was hard to take was the pure hate stuff. It was relentless, profoundly nasty, often coordinated…and sometimes indirectly legitimised by MSM figures who applauded the key bullies often making jokes at the expence of her appearance and so on. Nothing to do with you, sure.

    Yet rarely did any of those bloggers who Margo gave a go in the early days of the pre-blogosphere step in to defend her from that sort of thing. One of the earliest things Tim Blair ever wrote in Australian cyberspace was on MK’s website. She gave him right-of-reply to a comment I’d made defending her on the online vox-pop box attached to an early OZ piece he did on cyberspace. We all know what his thanks turned out to be, but in those early days everyone from Tim Dunlop to Geoff Honner to Mark Bannisch to Helen to a hundred others now blogging and blogging well took advantage of MK’s generous and groundbreaking opening up of the MSM forum rights she’d painstakingly earned for herself over her career. Almost none of them helped those of us who stuck with her rather than go blogging solo fend off the personal stuff that had her in exhausted tears almost constantly towards the end.

    I don’t necessarily include you in that criticism directly, Jason. I don’t think you were ever a Webdiary commenter from memory. But you still could have lobbed up the odd gallant comment anyway, when idiots in wigs started mocking up MK ‘lookalike’ blogsites, emailing erect penises to her girlfriend, suggesting she be hosed down and put in a mental institution, and so on. So could you have, Helen.

    But it was mostly embarrased silence, lest the RWDB’s accuse you of being a Moonbat, too. Look the other way, pretend it wasn’t happening, and walk quickly past the circle-pissers…hardly very sceptical or libertarian.

    Sorry, Jason, you’re right, I am a bit sour and touchy about it all, still, frankly. She’s a good friend of mine, and as earnest and kooky as we all could be at Webdiary, it was never as bad as the response we drew from certain quarters might have indicated to an outside observer.

    as you’re about to find out if you get invoilved in the new party, anyone can tear down someone else’s earnest attempts at making something real and useful out of nothing. Tough criticism to keep you from believing your own hype too much is good. Piss-taking is fun. But when it stops being those, and becomes pure personal destruction, it’s hard to keep laughing at the increasingly nastier jokes being made at your solitary expense.

    Margo has her faults, but she’s a very decent person who got treated very, very badly by Australian journalism and the blogosphere. Both her Webdiary archives and Not Happy John! stand up better every day, by the way.

    It would be nice if a few more bloggers gave her an explicit nod of acknowledgement some time. And it would be nice if ex-Webdiary Catallaxians like Helen showed a bit more grace especially.

    Thanks again for the space. Good luck with the party.

    Jack Robertson

    November 4, 2006 at 7:07 pm

  21. ‘I have long distrusted the wilder shores of sustainability because we owe civilisation to non-sustainability. When, a few thousand years ago, our Stone Age forebears hunted their prey to extinction, they compensated by inventing agriculture and houses – to the relief of those tired of living in damp, unheated caves. Since we humans invent technology specifically to finesse non-sustainability, the more non-sustainability we engineer, the richer will be our technologies.’

    Terence Kealey writing in Economic Affairs, September 2000

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 4, 2006 at 7:21 pm

  22. Jack, I left webdiary because I was getting abused by the likes of Peter Woodfoode (spelling?) and frankly I’d gotten jack of it. Margo may be broke, but that’s not because she was bad at her job. It’s because she was unwilling to learn the business side of doing well in the blogosphere – something Tim Blair has learnt in spades and we’re all still working on. I have a signed copy of Not Happy John, and I still have a fair bit of time for Margo.

    I think she’s got the wrong business model, and I think some of that carries over into your treatment of people who you don’t know very well. If you snark at me, I’ll snark in response – something I never used to do. I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt while they’re nice to me, but if they’re not, then I don’t. I used to, but I learnt the hard way that Australian public discourse doesn’t reward that sort of behaviour.

    You come to Catallaxy and snark at me, I’ll bring out the verbal skills that won me all those gongs at age 21. I know that’s probably unfair and mean, but I wrote the grand total of two major posts at Webdairy – two – before the lefty idiots like Woodforde started carrying on like their house was in a tree. So I don’t give them an even break any more, and every time John Howard kicks them in the head, I cheer. It drove me to the right, and taught me that there’s the grant total of one (countem) political grouping where I can feel at home. I need my personal liberty, so libertarianism is it for me. The rest of them can frankly go hang.



    November 4, 2006 at 7:35 pm

  23. Jack

    Firstly I really had no idea Margo was actually broke and I’m sorry to hear that. It’s certainly not something I would have wished on her.

    Secondly you’re right, I haven’t had much to do with Webdiary. I contributed one piece to it many years ago about how disgusted I was with the government’s handling of the Tampa. I think that was it. Aside from that over the years while it was still on the SMH I may have taken a few potshots at some pieces which I took a dislike to but really, I’ve taken more potshots at Miranda Devine than I ever have at Margo. Though I suppose the main reason for that was that Webdiary sort of fell off my radar after it moved from the SMH site.

    I appreciate what Margo was trying to do and I realise she has played a role in nourishing some stellar blogging talent – notably Don Arthur and Darlene Taylor. But when she decided to launch webdiary on her own, that was when the blogs really started to blossom and I thought the bloggers were doing it for themselves anyway so Webdiary just fell off my radar given the number of things to keep track of. That’s just my perspective of it, it doesn’t diminish my appreciation of what she was trying to do.

    I certainly wasn’t involved in nor did I keep up with any of the subsequent hijinks that followed its launch.

    Jason Soon

    November 4, 2006 at 7:40 pm

  24. I knew she was broke, Jason, and I suppose I should have said something. But she refused to do anything about Woodforde (a classic Green Left Weekly bot) so I said nothing.

    Just because someone is on your side doesn’t mean you let them run off at the mouth. I ‘soon’ GMB more than any other poster, despite the fact that I broadly agree with most of what he says. Margo and her friends never learnt that lesson, so rather than cop the crap, I left (I was also half way through a law degree and had a good law firm job lined up, which made it easier).

    And yeah, I probably hate the left as much as Tim Blair, but know I’m too eccentric to ever fit into the right’s ‘grouping’. I want to be allowed to be me, and right now there’s only one political grouping that allows me that luxury.


    November 4, 2006 at 7:55 pm

  25. “As we get hotter, dryer, and less prosperous in relative terms, I think it’s going to get much harder to convince Australians of the economic necessity of a free-breathing global market patched directly into parochial service provision networks.”

    Who is this Soothsayer?

    He appears to be carrying a great deal of baggage.


    November 4, 2006 at 8:32 pm

  26. Suggest you google him, GMB – he’s a good if verbose writer, and has real potential. Apart from that, I’m really not qualified to comment.


    November 4, 2006 at 8:40 pm

  27. Graeme
    As I’ve alluded to, his prose style was an early prototype of your own. A passionate and well intentioned fellow and a blast from the past (we used to take potshots at each other when I had my old blog).

    Everyone carries baggage.

    Jason Soon

    November 4, 2006 at 8:45 pm

  28. No dog in the fight but a few points as a long-time blog commenter etc.

    I disliked the way Margo was attacked personally. Always did.

    That said, Margo herself (& company) caricatured the ‘other side’ as people with an inherently evil worldview and people didn’t take kindly to that. Of course, Webdiary lefties didn’t think this was vicious because, you know, right-wingers are fair game in moral warfare, right?


    As far as I can see, SL is still copping snark from some quarters, from people who seem to resent that a gifted woman of letters isn’t on the lefty reservation. She has responded with a great deal of patience.

    Nobody wants Margo to be going through hard times but Jack’s story of a group of innocents done over by a nasty mob of digital brownshirts and ingrates strikes me as, at best, exaggerated – at worst, adolescent.

    I hope Margo gets on her feet again soon.


    November 4, 2006 at 9:05 pm

  29. Thanks CL. If I was less pissed I’d have a nice bit of good Catholic Latin for you, but can’t think of anything right now.


    November 4, 2006 at 9:33 pm

  30. How has Margo gone broke? It can’t be as a result of webdiary because as I understand it she only put in about 40G of her money and then called it quits.

    That may sound like a lot of money to some people but she did earn round $100 G a year when she was working for Fairfax.

    She was loopy and that’s why she was criticized. I’ll never forget that she went with a story about the US/ Boeing working on a secret anti-gravity machine that was supposed to take over the world.

    She was a nutball. What she’s like as a person is irrelevant. She also promoted hatred of rightwingers and the stuff that ended up being published was beyond normal decency. In fact Margo is partially responsible for people taking hard edged views these days.


    November 4, 2006 at 10:59 pm

  31. Pardon the delay, everyone, a busy Sunday.

    Fair enough, Helen, on Peter Woodforde, whatever abuse you copped from him probably would have been the result of my moderating indulgence. You’re not alone in your underwhelmed impression. Many Webdiarists I think despaired of my blind spot when it came to Peter. It wasn’t because he was ‘on my side’, though. He’s on no-one’s side but his own, I suspect. I just happened to take to his very Antipodean sense of the absurd. And he can blog in a really good pirate voice, which as you know is very important in the blogopshere.

    Flippancy aside, I’ll cop your point. PW can fling abuse with the best of them, and clearly I let him rant away way too much at times. But even granting this, I’m not sure I accept your extrapolation re: the business model comments.

    Tim Blair (say) and Margo Kingston both started out in the cyberworld using exactly the same ‘business model’ for a popular, sustainable punditry website. It’s called ‘a paying real world job – preferrably one with a toehold in the MSM already’. My hunch is that anyone who thinks that an Op Ed type blogsite can make them a stand-alone living is being wildly optimistic. Tim’s site was for ages the most popular such one in the local ‘sphere and may still be, but unless his recent elective plank-walk from The Bully reflects a major boost in monthly revenue from his online writing – and it could, I dunno – even his is never really going to be a family feeder, I would have thought. I think that apart from a few large collectives, the only political blogs that will ever pay a living wage to any sort of staff (even of one) will be those associated with established MSM outlets, parties, think-tanks and/or foundations, say.

    In other words, Op Ed business-as-usual, effectively.

    Tim Dunlop has gone the full circle from the Webdiary ‘business model’ back to the Webdiary ‘business model’, with his drafting into the News realm today. For years The Oz railed at the arrogance of Margo and the SMH presuming to ‘moralise’ about politics and ‘interfere’ in the democratic process via an electorally-unaccountable do-gooding blogsite, blah blah…I hear tell Tim’s version of Webdiary is to be called ‘Blogocracy’.

    You have to smile.

    Maybe someone with Blairelzeebub’s profile can now scoop in enough to pay himself adequately…but I’d be surprised. Even the biggest such big hitters like Instapundit tend to keep their day jobs. Andrew Sullivan’s site has gone scurrying onto the Time payroll. Eric Alterman’s is only still blogging on after MSNBC arsed him because an established public interest media website picked him up. Andhe’s got a day job (or several hundred). Huffington Post – the creme de la creme of Larvatus Prodeo/Webdiary/Troppo style sites needed AH’s millions (and MSM celeb contacts and allies) to kick off at all.

    As for LP, well, there’s some quality writers – that genius kkkkkkk is especially awesome – and an unusually cohesive group dynamic over there, yet they’re all volunteers and the site relies on donations just to stay alive.

    To be honest I never really bought into the ‘blogosphere journalism revolution’ crap.
    I haven’t blogged for four years so I guess I know jack shit, really, but what always seemed intuitively apparent to me was that, just as no-one is ever going to pay to have a conversation with someone they meet in a public square where talk is free, so too no-one was likely to pay for the privelege of consuming blog-pearls of wisdom they could get probably for free next door. Just because everyone’s now a publishing mogul doesn’t mean that writing talent and originality isn’t as rare as ever. And as usual, what there is is always going to gravitate to the high-paying MSM (read MSM-blog) sooner or later. Symbiotically and in turn – as usual – the MSM(-blog) imprimatur will continue to be a defacto ‘quality assurance’, its own point-of-difference and advertising shill for the blog there-in.

    Starting to sound familiar?

    Queering the ‘blog-revolution’ further is the fact that not onoly are those established MSM outlets racing to hire the best established bloggers, but established MSM Bylines are increasingly blogging as an adjunct to their own hard copy work. (BTW, pardon my ego, H, but…p. 400-401 of NHJ…ahem…bloody Mayne never gave me my free year’s m’ship for the mega-plug either, the cheap buggers…)

    But as far as ‘paradigmatic media revolution’ goes, it’s a non-starter. As the boundaries blur between blogging and MSM it’s the MSM alone which will profit from any revolutionary change, enhancing its epistemological dominance, using its existing market power and career-cachet to lure the new talent and corner whatever new revenue avenues really are going to fall out of the new technology. You watch Tim D trawl in oodles of commenters out of the wider blog-sea…as did Kevin Drum, the first of the genuine amateurs to get picked up by The Man. Blogging and commenting is a time zero sum game – what Rupert gains, Surfdom loses.

    Despite all the frantically casual energy and ironic wit expended by bloggers and commenters on maintaining a lackadaisaical, take-it-or-leave-it, MSM-sceptical air about the business of debate and discussion and ideas…in fact we all of us want our deathless prose and pearls of wisdom to appear in the most credible, widely-read and far-reaching forum we can. That’s always going to be the commercial and public broadcast MSM. It may well be a much more ‘online’ looking MSM, technically…but the ‘business model’ principle of product differentiation doesn’t change. The very alignment of a blogger with an MSM imprimatur is what will value-add to certain pieces of information, in an information-saturating marketplace.

    Media/forum incumbency, reach, volume, slickness, aesthetics…these ‘package & delivery’ aspects of information, as opposed to content, are going to become paramount in the information wars, as we all forget how to think and feel for ourselves about subjective abstracts. We’ve all grown up saturated with constant information, H – it’s much harder than we realise for our generation to decide with confidence what we think is good and bad information without recourse to quality aide memoires: ‘experts’, ‘analysts’, ‘critics’ (spit!), ‘public commentators’.

    Public opinion or media peer pressure plays an enormous role in determining our own ideas.

    So there’s never been a more important time for the deliberative manifestation of libertarian impulses. Manifestation, not just theory…that’s why I liked MK’s journalism so much (and occasionally get snarky with tub-thumping libertarians who can talk the talk forever, but get all coy when they’ve got to risk making a dickhead of themselves to be truly libertarian…). For all MK’s – or because of – her public rough edges and occasional outright nuttiness, she was always chafing and scratching and kicking at the passive information complacency that seems to define so much public discourse now. Whether she was yelling at Bob Carr or harrassing Tony Abbott or please-explaining Hanson, Margo turned over the chairs in the living room. Sometimes it was just a self-pitying tanty and all she made was a mess of the place and a fool of herself.

    But usually the public places she trashed looked a whole lot better for being a bit less tidy.

    It’s going to get harder, not easier, to make that kind of impact from the blogosphere from now. The MSM has finally ‘got it’ about blogging, which is that it’s…just writing. It’s just a word processor, a typewriter, ballpoint, a quill…as usual, they’ll want to bring the best writers inside their tent, where they can housestyle-train them; and as ever, the best writers will, rightly, want to say ‘yes’ to that marker of their talent and originality…and rush inside.

    As ‘Nabakov’ pointed out on TD’s site, we all want the chance to piss in the punch. Not necessarily to spoil the punch, I would say for most (in the end), but rather because into the punch, inside the tent…is simply where all the biggest dicks and hottest twats line up to take a piss, and everyone who fancies their pen wants to see if it’s good enough to join the queue.

    The blogosphere was never about bloggers creating alternative ‘business models’ for bringing down the elitist Boomer media. It was simply about taking their place, the same thing every generation of new writers wants to do to their elders.

    What stuffed MK was simply Margo’s decision to walk from the Herald at all. She had little real choice, after the SMH made what she saw as ‘offers she couldn’t accept’. It was the net result of a lot of pressures from various quarters, but the bottom line was that the Herald had had enough of her consistently uncomfortable style and mode of reportage – as I said, sure, abrasive and ill-judged, often. After NHJ became a bestseller in latte city and some regional quarters even as JH’s popularity held and held nation-wide, she turned into a bit of a lefty-lightning rod in the culture war, even though she’d tried via Webdairy and when writing NHJ! to avoid stark us-and-them stuff. When JH bolted the eleccy MK was on borrowed time at the SMH. Yesterday’s news, and so on. Had she not been quite so tired and isolated from her MSM peers – and as I said increasingly shattered by the nastier stuff from some internet voices…she might have slugged it out for another round at the Herald. And been in better more upbeat shape when she finally did move.

    Possibly hangers-on like me could and should have been more forceful in telling her she was nuts to walk away from that MSM imprimatur. And, of course, the salary – which, as I wrote earlier, JC, she had preferred to cut (to less than half what you asserted), in order to keep Webdiary as it was originally intended, editorially uncompromised.

    I know I’m going on a bit here, Helen. It is cybersapce, though. Plenty of space. So I wonder if you’d mind me getting a bit presumptuous – as a matter of reciprocal appreciation for your kind words. Take it or leave it. It’s meant in good faith.

    You talk about ‘hating’ the left, and even allowing for a bit of hyperbolic shorthand and a glass of wine or two, I don’t understand why any Miles Franklin-winning novelist would let herself fall for those sorts of meaningless generations. Especially a libertarian skeptic lawyer brand. Especially one who once had the guts to have a go at what might well be, even for a Jewish writer with impeccable Holocaust credentials, a bit of a literary suicide mission: trying to climb inside the head of a Nazi mass murderer, and articulate why he did what he did in a humanly convincing way. It’s a big theme for a twenty-one year to tackle, and good on you for trying.

    I don’t want to presume to get into a tit-for-tat about how successfully you did it, nor about all the other ancient authorial controversies. I’m not qualified to do so anyway; enough people at the time who were qualified were impressed.

    The success or otherwise of your creative vision isn’t what makes me presume to speak my mind; it’s the fact that you once had the ambition to apply…(ahem)…’the verbal skills that won [you] all those gongs at 21…’ (ahem) to entertain such literary ambitions, but now, here you are, buying into the meaningless rhetorical tit-for-tatting of the Keating-Howard-etc ‘culture wars’, like some one-time big city contender reduced to belting provincial local toughs in Paddy Mac’s travelling boxing tent.

    Helen, it’s no more possible to hate (or love) an abstract political label than it is to fight a ‘war’ on terror. Who it is that you really ‘hate’? (Or disdain – I doubt you hate many people).

    Peter Woodforde, maybe. OK.

    So what of…Robert Manne, or David Marr, or Anne Summers, or John Pilger, or Kerry O’Brien, or Phillip Adams, or the younger cultural studies new lefties like Catherine Lumby and the new literati over at Sarasparilla, or the ‘No War! Opera House Two, or Antony Loewenstein, or Albanese for that matter, or the Dixie Chicks, or Al Gore, or Bob Brown, or Marieke Hardy, or….or what?

    They are or were or could be on ‘the left’. Or not. To suit. Right?

    Labels like ‘left’ and ‘right’ and libertarianism simply don’t fit together, H, just as those kinds of blanket labels and creative writing don’t fit, either. Specifics, specifics, specifics, isn’t that how it goes? In the Information Age especially, when everyone can wrap their fat lips around a self-justifying blog-megaphone at will, a term like ‘The Left’ becomes the supreme Humpty Dumpty pap-filler. Far from engaging with each other, we all end up locked petulantly in our own rooms creating imaginary strawman enemies which we then slew fearlessly. That’s pretty much where we’re all fucking stalled at, in this fucktarded Culture War thing that your and my best creative fucking years have been lumped the shit with, no? Every Op Ed or blog column you read nowadays spends the first 400 precious words setting up some idiotic strawman…to knock down. It’s the Current Affairisation of conversation – case in point is CL’s reduction of my previous posts to this, FFS: “… Jack’s story of a group of innocents done over by a nasty mob of digital brownshirts and ingrates strikes me as, at best, exaggerated – at worst, adolescent…”

    That’s simply not a story I recognise, CL. Or ever told. What do you possibly gain from hanging it off my tongue, and then cutting it down, too?

    Helen, you hate ‘the Left’? You hate it as much as Tim Blair? It must be fucking nasty, this ‘Left’. So I think I’d better hate ‘the left’, too, sure. Mine looks like Stalin and Pol Pot and, on genetic technology issues, just maybe that loony Moonbat Natasha Stott-Despoya, too, and those scary doctors in London who’ve just announced they want to legalise smothering retard infants. Your ‘left’, perhaps, looks like Peter Woodforde and GLW. Good-o. CL’s looks like me and Margo, I’d say. (I wouldn’t like to start on Joe’s…we’d still be here till Friday.)

    Robert Manne’s ‘left’ looks like Helen Demidenko. Andrew Bolt’s looks like Robert Manne. George Pell’s ‘the left’ looks like Andrew Bolt, at least when it comes to Mel Gibson. Mel Gibson’s ‘the left’ looks like Vatican II and Frank Rich. Poor apologetic Mel Gibson looks waaaaay ‘left’ to his old man these days, I bet. Frank Rich’s ‘the left’ looks like Christopher Hitchens, but only on 10 September 2001. Back then Hitch’s ‘the left’ was probably still some loony Spart fire-bombing animal labs in Manchester; two days later, it was Henry fucking Kissinger, whose ‘left’ is now Walt Meersheimer, Meersheimer’s is Finklestein, Finklestein’s might be Galloway, Galloway’s used to Saddam, except when he was shaking hands with Rummy, who’s is to the ‘right’ of them all, while Saddam’s ‘the left’ was the Ayatollah…I mean it can go on forever, this Alice-in-Wonderland stuff, and it has been for your, and my, adult life, hasn’t it.

    So here’s my definition of who you really mean, Helen, when you say you ‘hate [or disdain, or are sceptical of]…the left’.

    You ‘disdain and are sceptical of…all those whose politics you…disdain and are sceptical of.’ So there, Alice!

    Using blanket labels – as we all still persist in doing – is no more use than a circular motherhood statement like that.

    Fuzzy labels are for those who can’t use language properly, or won’t, for fear of offending specific people. Specific people are problematic in things like Culture Wars and political debates, because while ‘the left’ (or ‘the right’, et al) just has to sit there and cop shit, individual people can argue back and make their defensive case; and generally, apart from a few kooks and extremists, the vast majority of individual human beings are very likeable, or at least un-hateable, once you give them that chance to put their PoV for themselves.

    That’s what Margo was always trying to do with Webdiary. Provide a place to dissipate and defuse the heat and hurt of the culture wars by getting people to argue with each other, not over and around and through each other, not fighting to a bitter standstill with….nothing more than their own conveniently misdrawn straw versions of each other.

    Some people had and have no interest in that sort of conversation, of course. Because nobody gets to ‘win’ that sort of encounter.

    As for the ‘scepticlawyer’ tosh, what the hell’s wrong with blogging as ‘Helen Dale’? Jesus, to wade through the blogosphere these days is like getting lost in a car-park full of red sports cars: vanity plates everywhere you turn. ‘IMSEXY’…’HRNY4U’…’Nabakov’…’Pavlov’s Cat’…’Currency Lad’…’BIGBOY69’…
    …’Gummo Trosky’…’Witty Ironic Decent Self-Effacing But Very Very Very Clever Intellectual Pretending Not To Be An Intellectual Just An Ordinary Australian’….(sorry, I made that one up)…’scepticlawyer’…that’s not the whiff of self-reassuring bravado I get there, is it?

    Me, I like what Winston Churchill apparently had to say about self-applied labels, Helen: ‘If you need to tell me you’re a gentlemen, you’re probably not one at all, but the precise opposite’.

    ‘Yobbo’, eh – what’s that all about, I wonder.

    If it’s securing your personal liberty and identity and being ‘allowed to be me’ that you want, don’t think libertarianism or any other ‘ismic’ label is the panacea. You won’t reclaim yourself properly until you stop disowning – or worse, rewriting – your own past. Retrofitting THTSTP as some cunning Ern Malley ‘hoax’ intended all along to flip the bird to some mythical ‘Left Literati’ that fucked you up a bit in the Press is a cruel, undeserved, gratutious insult to the brimming 21 year old girl who worked her tits off to produce an award-winning, shit-stirring novel. It’s a lousy betrayal by your older self of your own early talent and achievements, no matter how much you strap on the libertarian, ju-jitzu, gun-toting, anti-literati Lara Croft crap in compensating mourning for that girl. And in a wider sense, all it’s going to do is achieve the dubious dual aims of vindicating whatever miserable Lit Twit nobodies did take vicarious pleasure in aiding and abetting the public execution of that keen young girl, while betraying once and for all those decent Lit Twit nobodies who did try and have tried to stick by you, for as long as you’d let them.

    Worst of all, for what my uninvited two bob is worth: it’s just wrong – it’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s a personal and cretive and intellectual mistake, Helen – to allow your experiences, however shitty, to take you to this dismal place, when you’re still young and full of ambition and drive:

    “I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt while they’re nice to me, but if they’re not, then I don’t. I used to, but I learnt the hard way that Australian public discourse doesn’t reward that sort of behaviour.”

    What a load of self-pitying bullshit. Unless you see a token run in Paddy’s Quadders from time to time – ‘cos you’ve agreed to jump on the modish Culture War bandwagon of the hour and have a cheap swipe at ‘the Left’ too, hurrah! – as the sort of Australian public discourse ‘reward’ you do wish to get from your chosen behaviour.

    Take all your most virulent critics and pettiest sniggerers, including me in this angry compliment if you like, and line us up; then stand your 21 year old self in front of us, like a sergeant major, and invite us to step forward towards her if we’ve completed a novel. Then ask those of us who do to step forward again if we’ve had it published. Then, again, if they’ve won any awards for theirs.

    Then, again, if they’ve won the MF.

    By this stage there might be one or two standing next to Helen Demidenko, I suppose. And it might even prove useful to have them still at hand at this stage – but only to measure your older self, back-to-back, against that younger self. In order to let you know – with a fellow MF winner’s honesty – whether you have in fact grown bigger or smaller since then.

    By the way, Helen, I could do a lot worse than an epitaph like this: ‘Here lies Jack: he was good, if verbose, and he did have real potential… ‘

    Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Helen. You may remember yourself how these things can make a big difference in demoralising times. I hope I haven’t hit a bum note with my clumsy attempt to reciprocate, as best I can from my current position of great…erm…potential. You don’t need another nebbish either kissing or kicking your arse. Perhaps a hopeful sharp slap in the face will do.

    Write another novel in between winning cases, or whatever it is you ‘scepticlawyers’ do. Come on, I dare you. Imagine the shit they’d have to gobble if you won again.

    PS: Jason – I’ll gratefully add ‘well-intentioned’ to that headstone, too. Every little helps, as they say. By the way, I see you blow some harp. Do you know weenie juke radio? Essential listening. Do you blow with a band?

    Jack Robertson

    November 6, 2006 at 3:18 pm

  32. Jack
    No unfortunately I don’t play with a band. Something like that may well force me to hone my skills. No, I just play along to favourite tracks on CDs. Thanks for the tip on the juke radio site, I’ll check that out.

    I agree with most of what you have to say about the interaction between MSM and blogging.

    Jason Soon

    November 6, 2006 at 7:32 pm

  33. “As ‘Nabakov’ pointed out on TD’s site, we all want the chance to piss in the punch.”

    What’s the matter with you people? You are all mad. This is why Nabakov was so boring. He never had anything worthwhile to say.

    But pissing in the punch is pretty much what Jerks like Fyodor, Nabakov or Trotsky do.

    A confession.


    November 7, 2006 at 7:21 am

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