Bruno Waterfield has written a blog entry about a leaked Commission document looking at the media environment in Ireland and how that contributed to the debate (and the result) in the referendum in Ireland on the Treaty of Lisbon. The leaked document is available here. The document has a lot of analysis of the mainstream media in Ireland, but I especially want to focus on the parts about blogs, particularly this paragraph:

Blogging is also seen as an anti-establishment activity. Few Yes campaigners came out with forceful counter arguments or were inspired to do so. Because of the many different sources of No campaigners on the internet, classic rebuttals is [sic] made impossible.”

I’m not sure to what extent blogging is an anti-establishment activity, but it is undoubtedly the case that few Yes campaigners were determined to fight hard for their beliefs online. But that’s nothing to do with blogs or the internet as such – it’s more to do with the fact that most Yes campaigners were luke warm in their support for the Treaty, while No campaigners, for whatever reasons, believed in their positions with greater passion and vigour than the Yes side did. Some of this has been debated on my earlier post about the referendum result.

So what should happen? Rather that bemoaning that politics.ie is run by a Libertas supporter (as the document does), what is anyone on the Yes side doing to setup something equivalent? What efforts did the European Commission make during the campaign to work with influential Irish bloggers to try to put across pro-Lisbon arguments? Little, as far as I can tell. For it is not in the mentality of a bureaucracy to engage with people in debate online – you’re not supposed to care about your work as a civil servant after all.

Complaining about online debate is the very worst possible reaction from the European institutions – online discussion is not going to go away.

3 Comments

  1. Why do you think that it is appropriate for “the bureaucracy” to exercise a role in a political debate ?

    I’m not sure it is appropriate for a bureaucracy as such to engage in a debate. But it’s also not appropriate to complain (as the document does) that everything is going against you in a debate if you’re not willing to engage with that debate…

  2. I have now looked at the Commission document, which I do not believe can be taken to be a serious text. (To be fair, it is not clear that it is making much claim for itself).

    The reference to the politics.ie board is disgraceful, patronising and inaccurate. Mr Cochrane’s link with it was completely irrelevant to the opinions expressed.

  3. Why do you think that it is appropriate for “the bureaucracy” to exercise a role in a political debate ?

    By the way, I’d be interested to learn of the “influential Irish bloggers” who opposed the Lisbon Treaty. My perception is to the contrary – the most influential were pro-Treaty. But like every other Irish elite group, they were too “clever” to spot a “snow-job”.

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