/ 9 May 2007

Game on, says Bullard in blog war

Name and shame them, says Sunday Times writer David Bullard of the more nefarious and less intelligent citizens of the ever-expanding blogosphere — “the sort of wackos who gun down their fellow students at university”. Now an incensed blogging community is baying for his blood.

In what has been dubbed “Bullardgate”, the columnist is refusing to back down and has challenged bloggers to watch the launch of his own blog to see “how it should be done”.

“It’s a huge overreaction that’s been very good for me,” he told the Mail & Guardian Online on Wednesday. “I always try to be as controversial as possible, but this came as quite a surprise.”

Seventy million blogs are registered worldwide, and that’s 70-million people who “desperately want to be columnists”, he wrote in this week’s column — if only it weren’t for the lack of quality.

“Most blog sites are the air guitars of journalism. They’re cobbled together by people who wouldn’t stand a hope in hell of getting a job in journalism, mainly because they have very little to say. It’s rather sad how many people think the tedious minutiae of their lives will be of any interest to anyone else,” he wrote.

Many bloggers remain anonymous with good reason, Bullard argued. “The content of their sites is so moronic that even their best friends would disown them if they knew they were the authors.”

Objecting to “some anonymous, scrofulous nerd pumping meaningless drivel into cyberspace at all hours of the day and night simply because he can’t find a girl to sleep with him”, he used the example of a blog he visited that was so racist that “it would have qualified its publisher for a long spell in prison if it had appeared in print”.

“So what’s the difference? How come newspapers and magazines have to carry the names of their editors and publishers and watch their content and websites don’t?” he asked, adding it might be time for print journalists to “name and shame” some of the more offensive anonymous bloggers.

Such “generalisations” have angered many bloggers.

Vincent Maher wrote on his Media in Transition blog: “Based on what evidence is he saying bloggers see any relation between what they do and writing a column for a newspaper? There is no such evidence — maybe he’s confusing blogging with citizen journalism, in which case he should chat to the other people in his building who actually know what they are talking about. After all, Reporter.co.za is a Johncom project, is it not?”

Most South African bloggers are explicit about their identity, Maher wrote, further dashing Bullard’s “myopic”, “insulting”, “inaccurate” and “patronising” arguments, and questioning his “incredible level of hatred and malice towards people he has never met”.

“This seems to be a case of witch-hunting,” wrote another blogger, Nic Haralambous.

Bullard on Wednesday denied having had a “master plan” with the column. “People should read the article and come back based on what the article says. It’s not so complex that it would have been lost on them: there is lots of crap out there, people wasting time and abusing their blogs.”

Some blog commentators have said Bullard “is not worth so much angst” and agreed that many blogs contain “meaningless drivel”. One wrote on Media in Transition: “People are becoming lauded and supported for the hate speech they are writing against other bloggers. That is a dangerous edge to this medium.”

A comment on Media in Transition said: “Most blogs are absolute garbage, and the people writing and reading them ought to go out and do something less self-involved.”

Ray Hartley wrote: “The irony for me is that Bullard is actually being true to the spirit of blogging; he’s just doing it in print. Think about it: emotionally charged, unmediated, quickly researched, instinctive, raw and controversial. Now if he was just a little more technologically literate, we could have a great blog on our hands …”

While many others reacted viciously — “David doesn’t understand blogging, shame. Get back in your box, old man,” said one — Matthew Buckland was less hot under the collar, pointing out on his blog: “What some fail to see (or grasp) is that there is a strong baiting element to Bullard’s excellent columns.”

Bullard has since Sunday corresponded directly with some of the bloggers who have attacked him, and he has received some apologies for their “rude” comments. Still, it’s “game on”, he says.

Though he won’t necessarily post regular entries on his blog, he wants it to be a journalistic blog on which he can engage with readers through “freedom of intelligent speech”, he told the M&G Online. “I want to add a much-needed sense of humour that has been sadly lacking.”

“Just answer one question for me. Are you guys naturally stupid or do you have to get up early in the morning to practise?” he wrote on Maher’s blog. “I’ve checked some of your blogs and s**t they are so boring. OK … maybe I’m boring (very doubtful) but at least I bore 1,5-million high-net-worth individuals every Sunday and get paid to do so. Watch this Sunday’s print media for more to upset you and celebrate the launch of my blog … Game on, sharpen up; let me show you how it should be done.”

On the net

The Bullard buzz on Amatomu.com