Hat Tip to Paul S for pointing me to this dispute on Stumbling and Mumbling.  I tend to be on his side here about the supposed wickedness of Syrup in how he interviewed this character.  You enter this sphere, you have to face its rules.   Any other party.  Etc Etc

But my question is more basic.  Again, hattiping Paul for finding it: why on earth was and is Devil’s Kitchen So Popular?  Why is foulmouthed ranting about Libertarianism – a creed for those who find complicated messy life too difficult for their tiny brains – such a hit in the Blogosphere?  Who is reading this cr*p?  Why do they find it so attractive to read schoolboy abuse hurled at strangers they don’t like?

Which of you are responsible for this witless abuse being so high in the Wikio stats?  I know I’m a prissy mother’s boy who 1’s his sh1ts and so on, but is the right wing internet readership really so populated by immature, um, pr1cks?

I don’t dispute the right to publish how he likes.  I am just amazed from a blogreaders’ perspective.

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29 thoughts on “My question isn’t about Media Repression

  1. Reading that rant: it seems there are a lot of people who didn’t get enough motherly love when they were growing up.

    I do wonder if libertarianism is a natural political response to the internet. Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales is one I think (though he’s not anything like DK). The BNP’s membership list was put on Wikileaks. Chris Dillow talks about media repression, and I agree to some extent, but could the future herald the opposite: total free speech, no right to reputation, no privacy?

  2. Broadly, the reason for DK’s success is analogous to Guido’s – it provides an cathartic outlet for the rage most powerless libertarians feel about the contemporary political system. Imagine you’ve read Atlas Shrugged as a teenager, realised that you must be one of these titans who holds the world upon their shoulders, and grown up to realise you’re merely a frustrated geeky nobody. Wouldn’t you want somewhere you could share your feelings about your obvious brilliance being kept down by a Socialist Conspiracy? Wouldn’t you want that place to be as extreme as possible, allowing you to glory in how maliciously wrong society is, and how MMMGRW (or whatever their latest global warming acronym is) is clear evidence of this conspiracy in action?

    To take up another thread, Devil’s Kitchen was like a junior version of the Daily Mail. The kind of opinion porn presented by the DM is intended to serve a very particular world view; it would be wrong to say that the value of the DM (and indeed all media) to its purchasers is present in merely how effective it is at delivering factual news report. Rather, it serves up a daily slice of opinion-confirmation, providing reassurance to the rather bleak world view that the country’s gone to the dogs since they were young. Success in the news market is not wholly determined by your ability to deliver news effectively, but also by the manner in which it is presented. In this sense, a world-view-confirmer is something you can package and sell as part of a news product. That’s why News International repeatedly lobbies against the balance restrictions in British broadcasting: there is a clear market for the sort of news product Fox News represents, which at present is being served by the likes of DK.

    Of course, I can make no claim to be better, as I buy the Guardian for exactly the same reason. I do, however, argue that DK’s dismissal by Neill was worrying for reasons outside of media repression, which I’ve blogged about here:
    http://declineofthelogos.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/this-panopticon-parliament/

  3. DK? People read it because it was fun.

    Watching that part of the psyche which all of us keep repressed out of politesse come bubbling to the surface was and is fun.

    Absolutely everybody has read something (or seen on TV, heard on the radio) from one or other of the fools (to taste, Cameron, Balls, Howard, Brown, St Vince, Griffin, nef, Polly, insert name of choice here) which prompts the sotto voce “oh do fuck off you snivelling little c…”.

    The fun is in seeing the not sotto of the voce.

    As Natalie Solent (one of the more thoughful of libertarians) has pointed out, one of the advantages of the internet is that it allows those who had thought that their views were not shared to find that in fact, in however small a number, they are shared by others. Whether that’s about macrame, cross stitching or the fact that anyone with the desire to rule us is, by definition, someone we don’t want ruling us.

    DK, who I know well, would be horrified if anyone actually took the blog as being an accurate representation of his views. It’s catharsis, the purging of those entirely uncivilised feelings.

  4. I agree that the Internet is a wondeful thing; that it brings like ‘minded’ people together who like the same stuff. What bewilders me is that this stuff is so very attractive. Perhaps someone could link to their Five Favourite DK posts.

    For me it demonstrates that popularity on the Internet is a very skewed and selfselective thing. Mutual interlinking between the popular blogs keeps them up there; and only a particular kind of weird person (e.g. the sort who are quite happy to be unbelievably schoolboy vulgar wannabe Blackadder wit to strangers, in a way they would be ‘horrified’ to be like in the flesh) is extremely fertile on the web; be they below Telegraph or Cif columns, the same voices and opinions endlessly.

    Meanwhile there is a silent majority who would be far more uncomfortable with the claim that there is a line between the two; I (try) to talk as if I might meet the interlocutor – as if I might be in DK’s position on the Andrew Neil show one day, I suppose. Why should this particular public indelible shouting style of communication suddenly remove the basic standards that people in ordinary social situations regard as minimal?

    Anyone hearing someone like DK going on like that in the flesh would conclude that he is a just a nasty c***. I don’t think the peculiar veil of the Internet does anything but helped us understand that he is really so. I’m glad he manages to be pleasant in person. How nice.

  5. “Why should this particular public indelible shouting style of communication suddenly remove the basic standards that people in ordinary social situations regard as minimal? ”

    Because it is different perhaps? See Matthew Parris’ column of yesterday in which he talks about how some of the most scathing writers (Auberon Waugh, Hislop etc) are in person some of the kindest souls around.

    1. So they piss off lots of people anonymously, possibly causing lasting harm (that copy of Private Eye calling X a lying toerag, corrupt fool etc remains for ever) but when they meet the person, they are charming. How nice . Or cowardly – the person in question can actually punch when next to the ‘kind soul’.

      The Internet is a wonderful way of being rude to people without social or physical redress … I would definitely pay good bucks to watch you and RM debating in the flesh.

  6. ““I would definitely pay good bucks to watch you and RM debating in the flesh.”

    So would I to be honest.”

    so would I. It would definitely end in tears. And possibly blood.

  7. I guess libertarianism makes the journey from inchoate rage to full blown political philosophy in the least number of steps. So people can enjoy the “political correctness gone mad!” factor to the max, while at the same time buying into something (very slightly) bigger.

  8. I’m no libertarian, far from it (though I used to be one before I went to Uni). But I read DK and yes, I quite enjoyed it. I enjoyed it because it was pretty well written, and even if I thought that 99% of what he wrote was completely mistaken or wrong-headed, it was an entertaining read (in spite of the swearing).

    Actually, now I think about it, I read loads of libertarian blogs. They’ve typically got personality, which I like, and I like thinking of reasons why I disagree with them.

    *shrugs shoulders*, I guess.

    1. I enjoy Guido, occasionally and Worstall, more often. Agree about the personality. I could do with someone showing me their favourite DK posts, though it’s not that important to be honest …

  9. I’m DK’s wife, and the first thing I ever know about him was his blog (I read it for two years before we ever had any contact with each other).

    I can assert with some authority that people ‘read this cr*p’ because DK was fearless and, at least when I started reading, he had nothing to lose. Since then, that’s changed, and he’s taken on responsibilities that mean he now has things to lose.

    But in the glory days, his anger was glorious and his inventive inspired. I admired both the imagination of his profanity and the sentiment that engendered it. You can have your holier-than-thou attitude – ‘I try to talk as if I might meet the interlocutor’ – but the fact is that DK is popular because he is fun. And good heavens, is fun hard to come by in Britain these days.

    1. Hi Bella

      Thanks so much for the comment. I wish I could say I get it now, but I just can’t – perhaps because I disagree so much with your last sentence – which to me seems like one of those libertarian overstatements about how constricted *we* all are nowadays (though I won’t put words into your mouth); we have free entertainment of a massive variety on the internet, blogs on everything, free music free video free opinions, you can travel anywhere, say anything, watch anything, download anything, read anything.

      Like that set of clips from the Wire, and I haven’t even got onto the Sopranos or Green Wing or whatever. Maybe I’m a bit Panglossian – I came back from a fantastic Stoppard play last night which while expensive was worth ten times the price for the sheer quality of the words and performance.

      – so why is this sort of personal abuse so important, I still don’t get. And fearless? What exactly is there to fear behind the veil of the INternet? Loads of men in their underpants screaming abuse at the screen and writing it down – or from their expat bars – what exactly is brave?

      But perhaps I would get it if people would only link me to some greatest hits. I remain open minded. I love great language, trust me – I don’t have to agree with the abuser if he is only funny

      1. Maybe I should not obsess on that one sentence, but I have an ongoing campaign against Tory miserabilism in particular here, to which the general reponse is: if “gosh it is so hard to have fun nowadays”, when exactly was it so much more easy? Please don’t tell me this is because you were an addict of fox hunting ….

      2. Point taken. Britain is a great deal of fun – I should not have put it in that way. Since you ask, here goes.

        When I first ran across DK’s blog, I was living in Oxford with some very lovely lefties, who nevertheless reacted to my political opinions as if I were birthing myself from John Hurt’s thorax. And my initial reaction was, ‘If they think I’m a monster, with my generalised anti-statism, what in the world would they make of this guy?’

        So a great deal of the fun was in imagining how they would hate him – and imagining how they would react if I said the same kind of things he wrote. I never said such things, of course. That’s not my style, and my psyche is remarkably free of violent thoughts or impulses. But it has always been a tremendous pleasure to me read DK and know that he doesn’t care whether people think he is a monster.

        As to the political side of his ranting, I enjoyed watching, in real time, as he made the same ideological journey I had made a few years before (only he was responding to British developments while I was responding to American ones). And then as he moved into new territory, I did too, disagreeing with him sometimes (UKIP? really?) but following in his footsteps in others. And always there was that hyperbolic violence and swearing, which was so entertaining and stood out (in my mind) from all the other people I knew and blogs I read. His style is not so rare any more, of course, but at the time I found it very novel.

        In essence, then, I was always uniquely cognisant of him as a real person, in a way that I’m not of other writers. And the fearlessness I mention is really just the impression I had that he was totally fine with people knowing who he was and the cause and nature of his rage. There was not a shred of self-doubt anywhere. He was obviously putting his naked thoughts right there on display. I was seeing an un-airbrushed photograph of a personality, when all most of us ever see is the airbrushed version. And I found that the worst of DK, warts and all, was actually more appealing than the best of a lot of other people I knew.

        In another world I might say my appreciation of DK was actually due to who I was: my own self-doubting, conciliatory moderation, and my personal preference for people with grandiose flaws rather than petty, mean ones. But clearly there are a lot of people who liked his blog for exactly the same reasons.

      3. Clearly there are – and perhaps I should read it in its new incarnation. Though I think it’s uncontroversial to say your appreciation is unique. I mean, I try my best here, but no-one has so much as asked me on a date, let alone proposed. I try not to seem hurt.

        “And always there was that hyperbolic violence and swearing, which was so entertaining and stood out (in my mind) from all the other people I knew and blogs I read.”

        You know what, I see what you mean, potentially. For I would be a total hypocrite if in the same week I post a link to a 10 minute video of the Wire, with all its profanity and violence, and labelled it as poetry, yet condemned the same on the blogosphere without reading it.

        “There was not a shred of self-doubt anywhere. He was obviously putting his naked thoughts right there on display. I was seeing an un-airbrushed photograph of a personality, when all most of us ever see is the airbrushed version.”

        That’s where we have a difference of taste; I see doubt as the sign of an intelligent mind, and this is what motivates a lot of my recent squabbles with the overcertain. The airbrushing is part of the skill. The first drafts of great poetry are seldom as good as the final one.

        But now I’ve seen Tim’s linked here – I’ll let some others take over. Thanks for the comments

      4. Oh, and as it happens, those lovely lefties I used to live with have all met DK in the flesh now and seem to think he’s a pretty cool guy, to the point where one remarked thusly to me about the Daily Politics interview: “It was quite revealing to see it – I’ve always been a fan of hard journalism, but seeing someone I vaguely know on the receiving end is the first time I’ve considered what it must actually feel like (sc. pretty fucking terrifying). Hope it hasn’t taken the wind out of his sails entirely.” That’s pretty generous considering that the first time they met, DK called the person in question a ‘massive soclialist cunt’ at the top of his voice in a crowded restaurant.

  10. I enjoyed DK for the way he explained Libertarian ideas, Chris never took himself seriously on the Kitchen which made it all the more enjoyable, far too many bloggers take what they say too seriously. Through the Kitchen I found many of the blogs I read on a daily basis including Anna Raccoon, Old Holborn etc. As for the swearing, it didn’t bother me, as someone who does not swear a great deal I found it integral to what he was writing and emphasised the passion he had about what he was writing.

    It is a shame that instead of focusing on the what the Libertarian Party stand for and waht they would do differently Andrew Neil chose to focus on the website of one member of the party, would he for instance if Tom Harris appeared on the Daily Politics continually go on about Tom’s website or would he ask him abouot Labour Party policy, I feel it would be the latter which is why Andrew Neil who I previously thought was a good interviewer went down in my estimation.

    1. Fair excuse. I’ll keep an eye out for the new one. Otherwise it will have to generate blogmythology, lke some lost Schubert sonata. Or schubert cursing his head off at the piano, depending

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