A chap working within the PR field has weighed into the argument around regulation of blogs. The article in the Sunday Business Post was as tiresome to read as the website of the chap in question, to whom I shall henceforth refer as ‘Mr Republic’
The basic precept seems to be that there should be some form of regulation and registration of blogs. There is one response to that, which bloggers are currently queueing up to express; you’ll regulate nothing on my blog, dear chap.
Ideally, the Irish blogging sector should have a professional membership body with a code of conduct. Even better, they could come under the remit of a watchdog for blogs that would have a role similar to an ombudsman.
Indeed, the official line of the blogger against an assault like this needs to be “Nemo me impune lacesset” : “Nobody shall provoke me with impunity”, or, perhaps more succinctly: “Don’t Tread on Me”. Attempts to reduce the rights of human beings to express their viewpoints, create their own reviews and comment on the stories of the day should always be met with profound suspicion and rejected. In this case, with a PR wonk taking such a view, it behoves us to consider the objectives Mr Republic has in seeking the regulation of blogs.
What’s the point?
If you regulate something, you do so in order to reduce behaviour of which your regulatory system disapproves. Certainly, nobody has a problem with regulating people whose blogs are contributory to offences.
I have some confidence in the courts system of Ireland in determining whether blogs have overstepped the mark, should they be attached to trial of offences; and it’s possible to see how a blog could seal the deal in a conviction. There needs to be no further legislation to achieve this, irrespective of where the blog is hosted.
What regulation of blogs would do, one would presume, would be to regulate those blogs created or hosted in Ireland. We’d all have to register with a quango, get a badge for our websites, and subscribe to a code of conduct. This would be horribly prejudicial to the possibility of free expression that it would either kill blogging or be utterly ignored. I argue that it should be ignored.
Mr. Republic continues, referring to his way of doing business with the mainstream media:
It allows me to bring them closer to the story by giving them‘‘ off the record’’ information, or details on an ‘‘unattributable basis’’, confident that I am protected by their professional standards and that what is agreed as off the record and unattributable will remain exactly that.
Unfortunately, this is not something I can feel confident of when dealing with most blogs.
Quite right! If Mr Republic tried that shit with nábídána we’d laugh him out of it. And you can rest assured his ‘unattributable basis’ would become pretty fucking attributable, if we thought exposure would be warranted.
A PR wonk like Mr. Republic can seek to gain only one thing, in reality, from this sort of regulation: a reduction in the number of outlets for negative reporting against the interests of the PR fraternity, and a reduction in regulated and price controlled outlets for advertising and story seeding. Mr. Republic has presumably tried to get bloggers to follow a line he’s promoting, and discovered along the way what it’s like to herd cats.
Why should blogs not be regulated?
As adult human beings, we take responsibility for the things we write, and for the steps we take to evade regulation. I host my blog outside Ireland, but write most of the posts on it in Ireland. Sometimes I write the posts in the United Kingddom, because I’m the sort of mobile hep-cat blogger Mr. Republic is unable to control. I have a right to comment on products I buy, ideas I hear, things I am encouraged to buy. If I want to go around incessantly telling everybody by word of mouth my views, I can, with slander to regulate me. I can write letters to people, and libel can regulate me. Blogs are simply a way for people with views to express them in a machine readable format for free and easy transmission.
In fact, blogs are a clearly free form of opt-in media; you don’t have to read my views, and you can click to return to Mr. Republic’s pisspoor website if you wish. But I’m buggered if I will submit my blog for regulation to the Irish Government or some ad-hoc self-regulation body; I will not entertain the idea of a closed shop of groupthinking semi-sentient cretins who believe that a badge on a website is anything other than a form of media control.
A parody for non-fans of blog regulation
We have reviewed Mr Republic’s website, and present for your consideration: Digitalis PR, a parody or spoof.
I’m a little disturbed that my parody site is better than the real thing from an accessibility perspective and from the perspective that no two pages on mine are the same. As you will notice, his Digital PR and Public Affairs page have the exact same content.