The political as a field, as a territory, a modality of thinking, being, acting, is all too readily overcharacterised. The tendency to mark out and safely store away the political, as if it were a discrete field that can be held at bay so as not to spoil a nice day, or get in the way of conspicuous consumption, is a symptom of a move to the right, of a move to a vision of state that conceives of politics as always already harmful, a debased, tortuous discourse of vested interests fighting for a small and shrinking terrain: this ubiquitous disdain for the political, already dealt with a length by many political theorists, marks the victory of a right of centre populist notion of the political – 'ideology' is wrong, bad, marked out always as in some sense rabid, extreme, zealous and 'common sense', pragmatism, 'good house keeping' have come to obscure, obliterate what the right like to characterise as old-style political soap-boxing. This is, of course, a foreclosure. So, with this in mind, how might we explain the popularity of political bogs?
Much has been made in the press and other mainstream media recently about political blogging. In fact, 'recently' hardly does it justice – there have been regular references on national radios across Europe for several years now, and blogging is spoken about at the highest levels of government. One is tempted to observe that, as soon as the oligarchs and autocrats get to it, it is already done and dusted. But let's assume (perhaps in a not altogether too cavalier a fashion) that in this at least, the oligarchs and autocrats have embraced (or are at least become cognisant of ) something quite powerful and therefore useful to them in the blogging medium.
The blogging world continues to be overwhelmingly dominated by single-authored or collectively authored maverick spaces, or cutesy cat journals. The presence of the worst type of blog, the personal journal, akin to a form of belles lettres writing or a degraded detail-laden obsessive cataloguing of pointless details of the everyday ego at work, has by no means gone away. Indeed most of the blogosphere continues to be indelibly marked by a kind of experiential aesthetic – what I did today, what I saw, how I felt and what I think will happen next.
Now, whilst the personal is always political (although its operation is inevitably veiled in the confessional tone of most blogs), it seems to me that the reason why blogging has caught the attention of the oligarchs and autocrats is because there are some blogs at least that seek to do explicit political work and, what is more, they are extremely popular.
So what is a political blog? What does it mean to blog politically?
Writing about politics is an extraordinary undertaking. I have attempted on this blog to address the political, but I always feel as if I am skating round it, dancing across its surface; I feel always as if I am struggling to grasp what it is to be political, what it is to write politically: some comments on this blog have pointed to a tendency to abstraction in mu writing whilst others have detected a certain tendency to avoid the question of agency, of who intervenes and how in political discourse. My instinct is to address these accusation with a refutation of a reductive or algebraic definition of the political: we are all quite familiar now, I think, with the subtle and persuasive work of theorists like Laclau, Mouffe, Žižek and Hardt and Negri for whom the political is a highly contested and dynamic terrain which swallows all in its wake, a totalising field of statements, actions, commitments, atachments and mappings of the friend-enemy binarisms; I am persuaded by this complex and dynamic imaging of the political and it is this, perhaps, that makes writing politically difficult for me.
Hence, I continue to operate with some unease and discomfort and find explicit political writing difficult. Yet many attempt it and succeed in varying ways in the blogosphere. I regularly read Lenin's tomb, for example, and she or he would no doubt chastise me for my bourgeois timidity, my luxuriating in the field when the field exists in order to have effect, to intervene, to exercise agency.
Where I have attempted in the past to write politically, I have fallen on a number of tactics which, I think, are not terribly unusual; in looking at these tactics, perhaps, I might begin to understand why writing politically for me is so difficult. Here are the approaches I have tended to take so far:
the use of hyperbolic or super-charged language, performatively positioned to exorcise anger, distress, trauma. The language I use here inevitably 'creaks' and is, to use one critic's term 'over-written'. What happens in this style of writing is that analysis is blocked or curtailed by the intensity of its execution. See this for example.
The use of strong language, insults, again driven by anger, but much more declamatory, more engaged in the act of shouting, of pointing, of wanting to cause harm: Lenin's tomb is much better at this than I am (see this for example). Here, thelanguage is focussed on engagement, on confrontation or on a perfomative attempt to engage a hidden or overprotected enemy. The frustration marked in this language also makes anaysis dificult but it does enact committment; it is marked by the enjoyment of that committment. (see this)
A tendency to speak in rationalising, calm and analytical tones, as if performing the reasonableness of my argument, attempting to operate as if there were no enjoyment, no sticking or clinging to this affiliation, no partisanship in my writing; write the absence of enjoyment, the lack of ideological ground, and you shall believe your commitment all the more. It is here I commit, perhaps, the greatest crime – to write as if there were no sticking to the traumatic kernel of my beliefs is to write as if dead.
Of course there is a mixture of these approaches in my writing, any number of attempts to find a middleground, and any number of strategies to hide what is really going on in this writing – I may seem calm but I am furious, I may seem angry, but I am going through the motions, I may seem analytical, but I am extemporising a falsehood in order to shore up the fantasy.
The crime I commit over and over, it seems to me, is to avoid the content of political discourse and obsess about its form, its operational structures and dynamics.
To blog politically, it seems to me, means overcoming this shyness and self-consciousness and to proceed to this 'content', the violence, the suffering, the injustice, the radicalised disengagement of rich from poor, the reterritorialising of the underclass into ghettos, and the drip-drop murder of thousands in the Middle East in the name of the fantasy of Western security. This is what politics is full of – of traumatic materials than cannot adequately be written, but which must be repeated stubbornly over and over.