The state of the British blogosphere compared the the apparently more vibrant one across the Atlantic is back on the agenda. On the Observer blog, Rafael Behr muses:
There aren’t all that many blogs in the UK, probably around 900,000, around a tenth as many as there are in the US. (Accurate numbers are hard to get.) So inevitably the anglophone internet has evolved a culture that is predominantly American. For those of us who admire much about American culture this is no bad thing. Libertarianism, unpretentiousness, heart-on-sleeve candidness, individualism are all part of the blogosphere DNA inherited from its US conception.
But there are also features of the US political landscape that have conditioned the way debate unfolds on blogs: the extraordinary divisions opened up by George Bush’s election, the confrontational relationship between the media establishment and the conservative heartland, the White House’s successful bullying of newspapers that has left a gap in the market for uncompromising anti-government comment, the mobilisation of post-9/11 national solidarity to paint political dissent as unpatriotic. These are factors that have informed the whole tone of political blogging, making it aggressive and dogmatically anti-media.
Some of those factors are reflected in the UK. The divisions over Iraq, for example. But not all of them. British culture meanwhile is traditionally hostile to zealotry, wary of dogma and inclined to prick earnest polemic with humour. Which means that the conversation between and on British blogs could evolve in different direction. One that is, for want of a better word, more polite.
Although I have no idea where the 900,000 figure comes from, I also believe the vast scale of political blogging in the United States when compared with Britain is largely due to specific political conditions in the United States.
The debate about the health of political blogging in Britian has been a recurring theme in the British political blogosphere for a long time now. But other thematic areas in the British blogosphere are having similar discussions. A commenter in the Observer blog points out a discussion on new media blog Broadband Stars about Britain’s Missing Bloggers in that field. That post was trigged by conversation between Gaping Void and Alistair Shrimpton of Six Apart UK about how far British bloggers are behind the Americans.
So perhaps the relatively small-scale nature of British political blogging can’t just be explained away by pointing to differences in the political cultures of the United States and Britain.