From unvented rage to BoltWatch to The Blair/Bolt Project and beyond. The origins and raison d’etre of Crikey’s newest blog: Pure Poison.

I started An Onymous Lefty so I could stop boring my then wife at the dinner table with politics. I started BoltWatch so I could stop boring my then readers at An Onymous Lefty by inflicting the ranting of Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt on them. Subsequently, of course, it’s turned out that there are plenty of people who, far from being “bored” by such discussions, actually thrive on them …

It was February 2005. After a week in which retorts seemed to be required to four silly Boltesque diatribes — against feminism (Desperate Housewives is popular because it bashes men!), global warming (it flooded in Queensland, ergo the warmenistas have been proved wrong!), racism (imprisoning a white woman, Cornelia Rau, proves Australians aren’t racist!) and greenies (cyclists deserve to be hit by cars!) — setting up a separate site, where the columnist’s bizarre polemic could be quarantined and laughed at without infecting public discourse any further, seemed like a sensible option.

If “drawing Bolt’s readers to your site so they can swarm abusively in defence of their maligned leader” is sensible, anyway.

Funny thing about the more provocative and unreasonable of the mainstream opinionistas — on both sides of the political fence — they attract some very angry people to their cause. People thrilled to have their prejudices and half-baked worldview expounded in print. “He’s saying what I’ve been saying — only everyone I know groans and tells me to shut up when I say it! Well, he gets newspaper space to argue these things. My extremist view on the world has been legitimised! WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?”

Which makes them very difficult to ignore.

And that’s just when it’s badly thought-out attacks on policy or spiteful swipes at political groups in society. When they go after individuals, particularly far less powerful individuals without an equivalent forum for reply, well, turning your head and walking on by seems even less defensible.

Anyway, sometimes their victims just need to know that they’re not alone, and that the anonymous hooting monkeys on these sites do not represent the wider community — even the wider online community. Most people are decent, and having an obvious place for them to congregate and reassure victims that others can see through the smears, can be an entirely constructive thing.

Which is another reason why BoltWatch gradually evolved into a group blog, the first being time. After it became apparent that I (since this had nothing to do with my job) didn’t have the free hours (nor, to be honest, the inclination) to keep up with the entirety of Andrew Bolt’s prolific output (he should bind it together and turn it into an unreadable book one day!), and after the success of a few guest posts from readers, it became obvious what should happen next. The site was relaunched in early 2008 as The Blair/Bolt Watch Project, with more writers and an extra target — Andrew’s News Ltd colleague Tim Blair.

(Tim and Andrew share a worldview, an employer, a single mind … the main difference is that Tim is a bit more cunning in how he goes after his targets. He posts one or two technically non-defamatory but provocative sentences at the end of a quote, and then leaves his commenters to do the dirty work for him. And boy, do they! I’m sure you’ll see some examples of it covered here soon.)

The Blair/Bolt Watch Project writers have been kept busy ever since.

And you know what? It’s not just a duty — taking these guys on is actually a pleasure. The columnists we’ve been watching — and the ones we’ll be adding to the roll at Pure Poison, from both the left and right — produce volumes of the stuff each week. A lot of it is so disingenuous, misleading, nasty or simply nonsensical that it’s extremely satisfying to send up. All that’s needed is a space in which to do it, and an audience that’s been looking for an antidote to this sort of malevolent intellectual dishonesty.

Welcome to Pure Poison.

Who’s behind PP?: A motley foursome: Jeremy, Scott, Tobias and Ant. More about them here.

The latest PP stories:

  1. Being an opinion-maker means never having to say you’re sorry. By Tobias Ziegler
  2. Global warming is a load of crap. Or not. By Scott Bridges
  3. You’re wrong Kevin, just because. By Scott Bridges
  4. Andrew Bolt on the “writing class”. By Scott Bridges
  5. Bolt: Ross Gittins hates compassion and pity and decency. By Jeremy Sear

Coming soon to the Crikey blogs network: Michael Gawenda and Rocky. Who’s Rocky? Wait and see. 

And … it will soon have as many blogs as Nadya Suleman has babies: if you haven’t yet been there, introduce yourself today to the Crikey Blogs network.

Peter Fray

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