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Monday 20 April 2009

Shock of the New

In the post-Ealing film comedy The Wrong Arm of the Law, a gang of Australian criminals starts operating in London, giving themselves legitimacy by posing as policemen. This so offends both the established body of criminality, and the real police force, that the two join forces to see the Aussies off. As the criminals’ representative says to one of the senior policemen, “We pull a job. You chase us. We both know where we are”.

It was this exchange that came to mind after I found myself, firstly, watching Newsnight Review on Friday evening. Why? Dunno. It had been a long day, and I wasn’t quick enough to turn off the TV. But there was Ian Hislop, archetypal “young fogey” editor of Private Eye, apparently laying into the blogosphere in general, and Paul Staines in particular, in the wake of the Damian McBride email business.

Then, the following morning, the Telegraph also went after Staines, who is better known under his blogging nom-de-plume of Guido Fawkes. Many have seen the Telegraph article as evidence that the paper is being used by the Labour Party as a conduit, and that this is merely a payback hatchet job executed on the say so of Pa Broon, or at least someone close to him.

However, put the two together, and you get something rather more straightforward: the establishment media versus the blogosphere, the latter being something that some journos either do not get, or would rather the rest of us do not. The reason that there was a common target is straightforward: Staines has had the recent scoop, and the departure of Damian McBride happened before the mainstream print media got involved (although the knowledge that the Screws was going to publish may have helped him out the door).

As I posted previously, the Eye would have previously been the conduit for the McBride emails, but as a fortnightly, cannot match the immediacy of the blogosphere. Moreover, the Telegraph had tried to get something out of the story the previous Saturday, and its being usurped by a mere blogger would have hurt.

So the Hislop grumble and the Telegraph hatchet job have a simple commonality: the established order take exception to a newcomer on what they see as their patch - with the potential for many more newcomers to follow in short order – and react accordingly. They may look like incompatible bedfellows, but it’s as in the film.

We both know where we are.

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