Janet Street-Porter deliberately set out to annoy me at the weekend. Yes, me personally. Just because I have delusions of grandeur it doesn't mean I'm not actually grand. To be honest she annoys me a little bit every Sunday, but it's normally just the mild irritation you get when someone hogs an entire page of your newspaper to shout very loudly about bugger all. This week she decided the social menace most desperately in need of her attention was the blogger.
Apparently blogs are the musings of the socially inept, written by the kind of people you sidle away from at parties. The mind recoils from the thought of attending any party where there was the remotest chance of meeting Janet, but if the worst did come to the worst the other guests would at least be entertained by the sight of two people sidling away from each other at speed. Our combined relative velocities would probably fall short of a sprint, but could easily amount to a lope.
She also says most bloggers have never experienced any culture other than the one within their suburban front room. The dominant culture outside my front room could only be described as suburban if you stretched the term to include downtown Mogadishu. I once sat down and counted the countries of the world I'd had students from, and stopped when I got to sixty. Not that this kind of cultural diversity pissing contest proves anything, and much of the world's great literature was written by people with rather more limited horizons by our standards, but I can't help wondering if the view from the Porter residence is as stimulating.
It's not all blogs she hates, to be fair. It turns out it's only 99% of them. And to be honest, I only find 1% of blogs interesting myself. But to think that condemns blog culture is to misunderstand it. Quite apart from commercial or spamming blogs, most blogs are only of interest to the friends of the author. These blogs serve a similar function to student politics, inasmuch as they provide a forum for adolescents to work their way through some of life's more egregious errors before they embark on anything that might actually matter.
But there are also some high quality specialist blogs out there. I've gone on often enough about the Science Blogs, but I might for instance add Stephen Fry's blog (go on, Janet, sidle away from him at a party), or the excellent art blog who killed bambi?, or so many more. Grown ups blog too, Janet. And 1% of blogs is tens of thousands of them. I'm only interested in a fraction of the Independent, but there's plenty in that fraction to fill my Sunday.
She finishes on a high note, which unfortunately manages to fatally undermine her case. The Facebook Diaries, written by TV actress Jane Slavin under the pseudonym Lucia Keenan, is about her brief affair with composer Michael Nyman, who wrote the music for the Piano and various Peter Greenaway films. Slavin met him through Facebook, had what she refers to as the Facebook Fuck, and then decided we all really needed to know about his ear hair and erection difficulties. It sounds sordid and neglectable, and that's the aspect of it that Porter focuses on.
But it's also a rollicking read, and crucially for our theme it's well written. You start off with some sympathy for Nyman, but this drips away with every selfish thing he says or does, until by the end you're begging her to humiliate him a little more. Of course we're only hearing one side of the story, but if half of it is as true as it rings you begin to understand the need for such a public revenge.
In the end, she invents a false Facebook identity and strikes up a fresh relationship with him under this pseudonym. He emails her suggestively and arranges a rendezvous in a cafe, which she attends. Deliciously, he assumes she's there by coincidence and makes up a lie about a meeting, only to have her hand him printouts of the emails he'd sent. It's nicely summarised by Richard Brooks in the Times.
And if it wasn't for blogs we'd never have heard any of it. It's hard to imagine a newspaper taking the chance on it, especially in diarised form. If Janet Street-Porter had succeeded in making her blog off, as she so originally puts it, we'd all have been the poorer for it.