George Orwell on Political Blogging

Christian Hogsbjerg points out that political blogging is the contemporary equivalent of pamphleteering and recapitulates George Orwell’s writing on the subject.

In his 1948 introduction to “British pamphleteers” – a collection of classic pamphlets ranging from John Milton to Jonathan Swift – George Orwell noted that the pamphlet was special because it was inherently subversive.

“A pamphlet is a short piece of polemical writing aimed at a large public, it is written because there is something that one wants to say now, and because one believes there is no other way of getting a hearing.

“A pamphlet may be written either ‘for’ or ‘against’ somebody or something, but in essence it is always a protest.”

Orwell continued, “If one had not a certain faith in democracy, one would not write political pamphlets, one would try to get one’s end by intriguing among influential people.”

Accordingly, “pamphleteering will flourish when there is some great struggle”.

There are signs that today the lost revolutionary art of pamphleteering may well be making a welcome return, albeit not quite in a form Orwell ever imagined.

It strikes me that the recent explosion of political “blogging” – resulting from the development of new technology which allows anyone with internet access to freely publish their thoughts online on a weblog – may well be ushering in another great “age of pamphleteering”.

The significance of the rise of blogging is often overstated, but the rapidity of its rise in popularity remains remarkable. Technorati, a blog search engine, tracked 100,000 blogs at the start of 2003, and today, two years on, it is estimated there are over 65 million.

Link via Histomatist

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2 thoughts on “George Orwell on Political Blogging

  1. Can you give some examples? Pamphleteering involves some length and analysis. Many posts and comments are short and seem to end up in repetition of slogans and formation of packs with comments like ‘great post’, ‘right on money’ and so on. Some of the presentations are like Powell’s presentation at UN. Some groups seem to be trying for a more share of funds or prestige for their own groups using blogs. The topics die out quicly after a few days and many seem to be taking up the same topics from the main stream media. Lot of bloggers seem more interested in the number of hits rather than exploration of issues and often seem to attack others out of jealousy or misunderstanding. Lack of face to face interaction and diffuse interprtation of various concepts may be one of the reasons. I think thoughtful pamphlateering necssarily invoves somewhat lengthy articles (which can perhaps shortened by giving links) and clarity of the terms used. I must add that I found some like Rajshekhar’s fracturedearth, Alternativeperspective, and Andrew Leonard meet these criteria to some extent. What sort of examples do you have in mind?

  2. I share your observation about the majority of the bloggers. of the three blogs you have indicated, I follow only the first two, of these, Raj’s blog is rather academic, but Prof Shukla’s blog is one that I’d consider to be closer to a pamphlet (it actually used to be a newsletter earlier).
    Some of the blogs that I follow and consider to be good examples are:
    American Leftist
    Left I on the News
    All things Pakistan (whenever its is political)

    I have to admit that except for Prof Shukla’s blog, I am not aware of any good Indian political blog with which I share my own ideas, at least broadly, which means, a liberal/left blog).

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