I love blogland. It is a relatively free and interesting place and, though some of its inhabitants are fairly troubled people, blogs don't have to be read and can't generally do that much damage; for all the justified satisfaction over the Prime Minister's special adviser this week, newspapers and the BBC do far more harm, frankly.

However, the long-term decline of newspapers is now quickening. Like H.G.Well's Martians, the cold congested hearts of the chattering classes are beginning to contemplate blogs. I notice, as someone without a TV who spends a reasonable amount of time online--sometimes far too much--that the wind seems to be leaving some of my favourite blogs. It's as though they were hothouse plants but somehow, the surroundings have changed and now they're on the prairie. The pressure and the excitement seem, for some, to have gone.

I also note American newspapers now heading online in droves, some beginning to drivel about meaning or purpose as these people often do when doing something self-interested. The appreciation index for a fantasy of non-profit but crusading online newspapers allowing citizen-journalists their head is being touted quite strongly by those still defining themselves by their status as journalists. An Asian Tribune piece last February also made that point, although more sincerely.

Blogs can do a great deal. I think that they can bring many people together, and when based around courtesy and knowledge, they can function almost as electronic ward democracies. But if they become simply a new host for those still determined to act as they have always acted, constrained by lawyers and politicians and dominated by accountants, the blogland I like will fade away.

Like Prussia, thinking that it saved itself by inventing Germany, within a few years there will be very little of substance left and, more importantly, another free place will have been given up.

I think that the west is in a near-fatal cultural crisis. I think that the best of it--reason, faith, free speech, the rule of law--may toddle off to India or be defended for longer than here somewhere in the Americas or Australia. That's a very old kind of European feeling, and in its way a continually unproved fetish. However, I'd be sad to see blogland go first.


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