The punditariat at the Australian has lashed out at bloggers yet again (see here and here for previous examples). This time it’s David Burchell, whose thesis is that all bloggers provide is a “vast outpouring of pseudo-expertise and vituperation“. Naturally bloggers have responded, with Gary Sauer-Thompson writing

There is no attempt by Burchell to engage with any Australian political blogger. All are condemned and tossed into the waste bin without any argument. Burchell’s position is one in which the reasoned arguments of Australian political bloggers on public issues is characterised by pseudo-expertise and vituperation whilst he rants and raves of the News tabloid bloggers is marked by expertise and reason.

Kim thinks Burchell is just trolling, while Jason Wilson is also unimpressed:

It’s hard to know who he means. Is Burchell including his colleagues at the Australian in this (whose work is often now presented online in “blog” form)? What about News Limited colleagues who are active bloggers, like Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, Tim Dunlop and Jack Marx? Is he saying that they are all just “staging ceremonies of degradation and purification”? Or does he just mean independent bloggers? If so, is it really the case that blogs from Ambit Gambit to Club Troppo to LP to the psephs are all just engaging in personal abuse? These don’t seem to me to be sustainable claims. Also, whose “view” is he quoting here? None of it makes a lot of sense, or rather, it’s hard to make sense of because it’s at such a high level of generality.

Who is Burchell referring to? Let’s see, Burchell writes:


Like the sellers of fake perfumes, or the senders of fake emails soliciting your bank details, the political dark side of the web is a veritable wonderland of imposture.

Junior computing lecturers masquerade as technical experts on the civilian death toll in Iraq, and happily cause to live or die a million or so Iraqi citizens, according to their fancy.

It looks like that bit of vituperation is directed at me. You see, in this post, I dared to criticise Burchell:

The Australian published a piece by David Burchell, a historian with no background in science or mathematics:

“Yet The Lancet — a respected publication, albeit not one known for its expertise in social statistics analysis — has given the report its full backing.

Yes, Burchell claimed that one of the leading medical journals in the world had no business publishing a study on mortality.

Well, I’m not an epidemiologist, but I know much more about mortality statistics than Burchell and yet the Australian passed Burchell off as an expert and published his erroneous critique of the Lancet study. (Burchell even assumes that the Iraq Body Count has recorded every single death in Iraq. See a recent British Medical Journal on the problems with such passive estimates.)

“Pseudo-expertise and vituperation” seems to be a more accurate description of Burchell’s work for the Australian than that of the bloggers that the Australian criticises.

Update: John Quiggin comments:

First, it’s amazing and depressing that the Oz seems determined to continue trashing its reputation, already in tatters from its embrace of global warming delusionism, and the thrashing it took from pseph-bloggers in the leadup to the 2007 election. Australia could use a good national newspaper but it doesn’t have one (the Fin doesn’t really count in this context), and only radical changes from the top down can bring the Oz anywhere near delivering on this aim.

Comments

  1. #1 Robert
    June 23, 2008

    Burchell’s article is spot on. Why don’t all you bloggers go and get a real life? The hours each day you frit away on fruitless waffle must adversely affect your mental and physical health. And to what end? Nothing! You really need help. My first and last post here.

  2. #2 The Robert who regularly posts here
    June 23, 2008

    The Robert who has posted only once here wrote:

    My first and last post here.

    Whew.

  3. #3 Lettuce
    June 23, 2008

    Than you Robert (#1), your position is noted and filed.

    And Robert (#2) aka The Robert, I agree:

    Whew.

  4. #4 Bernard J.
    June 23, 2008

    Robert First-and-last-post.

    Sorry mate, but it takes only one post to lose your virginity. Didn’t your mummy ever tell you that? You are now a part of the blogosphere, and will remain so inducted for all time.

    I hope that you are able to live with your self-loathing.

    Of course, your unquestioning support for Burchell indicates a non-analytical and likely a prejudiced mind, so loathing in general is probably your thing.

    That must surely adversely affect your mental and physical health…

  5. #5 Paul Murray
    June 23, 2008

    A “journalist”, surely, originally meant “someone who keeps a journal”. Blogging takes journalism back to its roots. So, the reader has to be careful not to believe everything they read. Horrors! Blogging, with all it’s obvious buffoons, might remind readers that they have to think critically! A century of work convincing the people that corporate news is so trustworthy you can belive it without thinking, down the toilet! Whatever will become of the MSM now?

  6. #6 bi -- IJI
    June 23, 2008

    Lettuce:

    > filed

    That must be a typo for “failed”.

    = =

    Wilson:

    > None of it makes a lot of sense, or rather, it’s hard to make sense of because it’s at such a high level of generality.

    Now I’m inclined to think that a pundit is just a high-class sort of blogger. Maybe there’s a sort of hierarchy here: troll-book authors, then talk show pundits, then newspaper pundits, then letter-to-the-editor writers, then bloggers, and finally blog commenters at the bottom of the pecking order. In terms of the overall quality of the work, it’s the same for all levels though.

  7. #7 WotWot
    June 24, 2008

    Why don’t all you bloggers go and get a real life? The hours each day you frit away on fruitless waffle must adversely affect your mental and physical health.

    In order to reliably make that claim, you must have wasted an awful lot of your precious time surveying many blogs, (using a statistically sound sampling methodology of course), carefully analysing and testing the blog debates to establish their overall worthlessness, and lastly proving a strong causal relationship between hours blogged and blogger’s (allegedly) poor health status.

    Bet you didn’t.

  8. #8 mister z
    June 24, 2008

    Robert #1, until you are Aware of All Internet Traditions like the rest of us, I think it’s for the best that you refrain from commenting. Same goes for David Burchell.

  9. #9 bigcitylib
    June 24, 2008

    TWo words for anyone who wants to compare levels of “expertise” in Blog vs. MSM stories: Tom Chalko.

  10. #10 bi -- IJI
    June 24, 2008

    bigcitylib:

    That wasn’t an “MSM story”, and Burchell isn’t a journalist.

    Burchell is a pundit.

  11. #11 saurabh
    June 24, 2008

    WotWot – rigor is not required in all instances. In this case it probably suffices to observe (a) hours wasted on bloviation against pig-headed trolls (b) in front of a computer (c) where at best you manage to win the approval of others in your echo chamber, and conclude that this is an unhealthy waste of time. But, like cigarettes, unhealthy things can be fun.

  12. #12 jade
    June 24, 2008

    …and happily cause to live or die a million or so Iraqi citizens, according to their fancy.

    This particular sentence fragment is worth several minutes’ contemplation.

  13. #13 Bernard J.
    June 24, 2008

    Bingo, jade!

  14. #14 spaghetti monster
    June 25, 2008

    Off topic, maybe noted previously but the banner ad on this site when I clicked my way here, was Shell, banging on about how green and fluffy they are.

  15. #15 saurabh
    June 25, 2008

    jade – remember, we live in the post-reality age. The simulation is more important, because it can actually affect our actions. A million ACTUAL corpses are easily buried and forgotten, and might as well have never been. Tim’s doing much worse, by scaring up a million ghosts and putting them on screen. That is an unconscionable crime that must be stopped.

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