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.
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.