Just another Joe Bloggs

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The following is an article by a journalist colleague, Robert Dwek. He doesn’t have a blog, but as this is such a good article (first published in Marketing Week magazine), I offered to post it here. Enjoy.

Read on…

Are you familiar with something called MSM? Do you like fisking? Do you frequent the Blogosphere?

No, I’m not referring to exotic sexual practices in a subterranean night club. I am in fact talking about the most exciting area of the Internet right now – by a long shot.

I’ve referred to web logs (“blogs”) many times before but something seminal has just happened. And this really is hot off the press, as it were.

A blog called The Daily Ablution, run by one Scott Burgess, an American living in the UK, has just forced the Guardian to fire an employee. This is the most impressive direct action yet seen by a single non-professional website.

The Guardian had been employing a Muslim journalist with ties to the extreme and frequently banned organisation Hizb Ut Tahrir. Burgess found this out by Googling the journalist’s name (Dilpazier Aslam).

He was motivated to do so after reading an article by Aslam immediately after the July 7 London bombings. This high-profile piece for the Guardian opinion page expressed anger at moderate Muslims who don’t “rock the boat,” and explained the bombings as a “sassy” expression of opinion.

By Googling the author’s name, Burgess discovered an article he had written for Hizb Ut Tahrir, on a website called khilafah.com (“Khilafa” translates as “Caliphate”). It called for a rather literal form of Jihad, involving the subjugation of all non-Muslim countries.

The Guardian initially tried to ignore Burgess. Ironically for a publication which has championed blogs – online diaries and bulletin boards which are almost free to use and make perfect platforms for activists of all stripes – the Guardian tried to treat his concerns as those of a powerless letter writer.

But this is when the “blogosphere” – the increasingly interlinked world of blogs – sprang into action. The Daily Ablution’s revelations were soon being “syndicated” – cross-referenced using hyperlinks – on hundreds of blogs around the world. Some of these blogs have become very powerful media in their own right, for all their amateur status.

To cut a long story short, Burgess’s revelations were sufficient to force the Guardian to take action. Given a choice between his allegiance to the Jihadist organisation or his continued employment at the newspaper, the journalist in question chose the former.

The Guardian, however, wrote an anonymously bylined article designed to smear Burgess’s character and undermine the credibility of his blog. I, like many other Internet users, am very glad it did so since this is what led me to the Daily Ablution in the first place. Burgess “fisked” – quoted and critiqued, line by line – the attempted character assassination, making the Guardian look even more ridiculous and unprofessional than it already had done.

Thanks to the interactive nature of blogs, a great many people have already commented on “l’affair Aslam” and given the Burgess a great big virtual slap on the back.

His blog has now become famous and will become a must-read for the blogerati. Indeed, my daily “media” reading is now so chock-full of new names and faces offering first-rate information, analysis and insights that it leaves little time for those strange things called newspapers.

How ironic that it was the “MSM” (Main Stream Media) Guardian that resorted, shamefully, to an anonymous attack while the new media little guy has kept his head, and name, above the parapet at all times.

It seems almost unreal but the “MSM” is being sidelined before our very eyes. Bit by bit, the new media landscape is producing a tectonic shift. Blogs are becoming major media channels and are even beginning to benefit from commercial funding. One thing’s for certain, there is no turning the clock back – this is going to get bigger and bigger. The global village is finally a reality rather than a cliché.

Some of the most investigative reporting these days is being done by people like Burgess, using nothing more than a Google search. The implications of all this are far-reaching. I would put it on a par with the invention of the printing press in terms of social change.

Look at what Burgess said when writing to the Guardian to air his concerns about Aslam: “My readers are interested in knowing whether Guardian newspapers were aware of Mr. Aslam’s affiliations before he was hired.” See those magic words? “My readers”. Therein lies the incredible redistributive power of the blog, of which the good socialist Guardian should surely approve. Instead, like all defensive institutions, it tries to silence what it doesn’t want to hear.

As one reader of the Daily Ablution wrote on the site: “Clearly, the Guardian dinosaurs are totally outclassed by the far nimbler warm-blooded blogosphere.”

And as blogger Melanie Philips (also a Daily Mail columnist) noted on her much-referenced web log: “The firing is the first (albeit small) British mainstream media scalp taken by the blogosphere, whose vital role in policing and holding to account unaccountable mainstream media has now at last begun to have an effect in Britain and well as in the US.”

For marketers, this media revolution means doing what they have long claimed to enjoy: thinking outside the box. To quote Bob Dylan, “And the first one now will later be last, for the times they are a-changin’.”

By Robert Dwek

robert_dwek AT yahoo DOT com

ENDS

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