Nadine Dorries is the MP for Mid Bedfordshire. On her web site she has something that she calls a blog, although it only really resembles one superficially. Up until a couple of days ago, the biggest problem with it was that it didn’t allow linking to a particular entry, you could only link to a page containing all of the entries on a particular day. A couple of days ago things changed and the site became even less blog-like.
You’ll have seen the recent news about the Commons science and technology committee’s report on the abortion law. Dorries was one of two members of that committee (the other was Bob Spinks) who didn’t agree with the report’s findings and issued their own “minority report“.
In that report they say this:
We were greatly concerned to read in the Guardian on 27 October an article clearly aimed at undermining the credibility of Professor John Wyatt, which contained detailed information about Wyatt’s evidence, which was passed by him to the committee after his oral evidence session, and which could only have been passed on to the journalist concerned by a member of the Select Committee. There should be an enquiry about how this information got into the public domain and as to whether such a personal attack represents a serious breach of parliamentary procedure..
The author of the article in question was Ben Goldacre of the Bad Science web site. In a blog posting, Goldacre points out that the information that Dorries and Spinks are so concerned about him having access to is all in the public domain.
Readers of Goldacre’s blog tried valiantly to post comments to Dorries’ blog explaining her error, but none of these comments were published. Eventually Dorries posted another entry on her blog explaining that she would no longer be publishing any comments on blog. She claims that it’s because she doesn’t have time to moderate the comments before posting them. A cynic may well think that it’s because she doesn’t want to run the risk of people pointing out her errors.
And this is, of course, where Dorries’ web site loses all right to be called a blog. Too many politicians are deliberately misunderstanding the point of blogging. A blog is a great way to build up an interaction with your audience (in the case of an MP, your constituents) but too often these days we see blogs just being used as a monologue rather than a conversation. Even when sites allow comments, too many people prefer to remove (or not publish in the first place) comments that show them in a bad light or try to hold them accountable for their mistakes.
Of course, people should be free to publish or not publish whatever they want on their web sites. but if you’re not prepared to have a decent conversation with your readers, then don’t call it a blog. It’s just a marketing tool.