Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 25 June 2009


When the World Wide Web introduced us to the concept of blogging it seemed that we had discovered a new tool to help us do democracy better in the twenty first century. Everyone would be able to have their say on the net, cheaply and instantly, and decision makers could be much better informed about public opinion, both local and national.

But this has proved to be a tremendous belly flop. I am not sure if you have seen the blogs rum by national and local newspapers recently but if you have you might be shocked. They have become largely forums for personalised attacks and outrageous slurs. Those hardy few who make reasonable contributions stand out like a beacon in the dark. The result is that few people in authority ever look at them.  What a wasted opportunity.

The real problem is that people are allowed to place their despicable views on line behind the cowardly protection of utter anonymity. This has given a tiny of minority of people in our society who might be called losers and loonies (although of course I would never be so unkind) to give free reign to their unpleasant views. It is the Lord of the Flies returned; anarchy over the airwaves.

Imagine a public meeting – and I have been to and chaired many over the years - if someone stood up and spouted off abuse, they would be quickly silenced by popular disapproval. They would almost certainly be asked to give their name before they spoke in any event. If such vicious diatribe was sent by letter to the newspaper postbag they would never publish it in a thousand years. But they somehow allow their websites to be taken over for this purpose.

So if we are to recapture the website blog as a useful forum to enhance our debate, it seems to me that two things are necessary. First the media organisations both local and national should insist that the blogger publishes their real name and e-mail address. In certain sensitive cases, this could be withheld at the discretion of the website manager. Second, the media organisation should robustly moderate the entries to screen out the most abusive.

I have learnt over the years that good ideas are not the preserve of the elected few. But we now need to clean up these blogging forums if they are to be of any use at all. What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 09:52