Flogging the Bloggers, Hobbling the Hip-Hoppers By William Bowles

14 April 2007

Thom PaineI’ve been writing the current series of these here essays for over four years and until recently at a frenetic pace, almost five hundred of the little fuckers in total. During this time we have seen the emergence of the cursed ‘Blog’, a curse because as per usual, the medium has become the message. As with everything else under capitalism even the noble and rediscovered art of expressing one’s self gets transformed into yet another commodity.

But nevertheless, the degree to which we have impacted on events is evidenced by the level of vitriol and fear displayed by the pundits of the imperium so we must be doing something right but then fear is the motif of our times. (For more on fear and our pathetic, intellectual elite, see Joe Bageant’s latest essay, ‘A Feral Dog Howls in Harvard Yard’[1] on the crumbling, overweight Empire.)

What is rarely commented on is why the aforementioned pundits have gotten their knickers in such a twist if we are such bad writers, ill informed and worst of all, derivative? Why do they bother to even acknowledge our existence? Even the establishment ‘left’ have to take a dig. Take the following editorial comment by former ‘Marxist’ Brendan O’Neill (was he ever?) and now editor of the online ‘Blog’ Sp!ked:

“Bloggers made the news this week instead of simply leaching off it. There’s talk of a ‘code of conduct’, ‘warning signs’ if blogs contain crude content. But blogs aren’t the place to go if you want erudite debate; they’re the online equivalent of a loud’n’rowdy student bar. Why would you impose codes on something like that?

“Bloggers often don’t have much to say of note, but I’ll defend to the death their right to say it to their three readers.” — Sp!ked, 13 April, 2007

Can you believe that these are the words of a so-called lefty? Three readers? And even as he defends our ‘rights’ he can’t resist twisting the knife just one more time. With ‘friends’ like these, who needs enemies? I despair of these privileged and arrogant arbiters of the written word (I’d like to know how many readers Sp!ked has?). The thing is, the intellectual mafia has had a monopoly on thinking for so long, that when a whole of bunch of ‘unknowns’ come along and tell it like it is, they really don’t like it when ‘their’ turf gets trodden on by our unclean and more importantly, unsanctioned feet.

What really frightens them is the simple fact that once challenged, the ‘gatekeepers’ of our minds can never regain their positions of privilege, because much more is at stake here than the egos or even the pathetic whinging of our alleged intellectual elite, for the plain fact is that for the first time since the media monopolies took over (what’s left of) public space, we have the tools to reach those millions (and reach them we do) of people who in spite of everything still yearn to know what the hell is REALLY going on in this fucked up world of ours.

We have to go back literally a couple of hundred years to find an equivalent to the ‘Blog’, in fact to the Broadsheets and Penny Dreadfuls, all self-published by people like Thom Paine who were quick to realize what the power of the printing press could achieve and who, in spite of every obstacle put in their way by the state including imprisonment for sedition and other ‘crimes’, churned out their clarion calls. No doubt Brendan O’Neill would have poured similar scorn on the ‘scribblings’ of Paine and co.

Interestingly, the wording used by the sedition laws of Paine’s time parallel all most exactly today’s anti-terrorism laws and then just as now, there were a number of them that got more and more draconian over time as the effect of the hundreds of printing presses started to impact on the ‘great unwashed.’

The most important aspect of the impact of the Internet and self-publishing is the simple fact that we have broken the monopoly of corporate-appointed mouthpieces of the status quo, so regardless of what one thinks of the quality or even the accuracy of the writing, the most important thing is that we have started to reclaim what rightfully belongs to us, the right to free and unbridled expression. No wonder the gatekeepers are fearful.

SupremoIt has also occurred to me that there are parallels between ‘Blogging’ and Hip-Hop, which has also incurred the wrath of the appointed arbiters of free expression and pointedly, Hip-Hop has also come under fire from both the ‘left’ and the right.[1]

Hip-Hop is the world’s most popular musical form and just like the ‘Blog’ has a global audience and one that cuts across every boundary imaginable. And in spite of the corporate bastardisation of some aspects of Hip-Hop, for the most part Hip-Hop is profoundly political in nature and an avowedly working class expression.

Just like the ‘Blog’, Hip-Hop has unleashed the creative juices of tens of thousands of people. Of course the quality varies enormously, from the banal to the breathtaking, but the important aspect here is that both are spontaneous expressions, free of formal constraints imposed either by a state-sanctioned ‘education’ system or the demands of corporate profit taking.

The hatred and fear expressed by those who diss the ‘Bloggers’ and likewise the Hip-Hoppers reveals the fundamental class basis, let alone an intellectual snobbery, of the criticism levelled at both forms.

Look, I’m a working class fellow, at least my roots are (my father was a full-time trade union organiser for the Musicians Union) and in class-ridden Britain, the stigma of being working class is most profoundly felt in the education system, which is where the rot sets in. Either one succumbs and sheds your roots (accent and all) and joins the intellectual mafia or forever remains on the outside looking in. Thankfully, and although I paid a price, I’m still on the outside looking in on the fools and not regretting one bit the fact that I rejected the conditioning and the ‘perks’ that went with joining the club.

Ultimately, what we are witnessing are the first stirrings of reclaiming what is rightfully ours, our voices, so fuck Brendan O’Neill and the rest of the elite, let them look on in fear and loathing, it makes no difference.


  1. https://williambowles.info/guests/2007/0407/feral.html
  2. The image was taken in the on-air studio of Yfm in Joberg by yours truly at the weekly Rap Activity Jam, a live contest of Joberg’s young Rappers.

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