Monday, 11 October 2010

Why I love the internet

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Andrew Marr is very, very cross. It is the bloggers who are making him so grumpy. Apparently, the blogosphere is trashing every last thing he holds dear.

Here is what he told the Cheltenham Literary Festival:

'Most citizen journalism strikes me as nothing to do with journalism at all. A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting. They are very angry people. OK – the country is full of very angry people. Many of us are angry people at times. Some of us are angry and drunk. But the so-called citizen journalism is the spewings and rantings of very drunk people late at night.'

This is interesting for about five different reasons. I think the most interesting is that it shows that Marr only reads a very particular kind of blog. There are some angry writers out there, and some of them are angry for very good reasons, several of them in the great tradition of the angry, crusading journalists of old Fleet Street, with the same kind of fury at the madness and sadness of the world. But there are many, many bloggers who, rather amazingly in These Troubled Times, seem not angry at all.

I read a lot of blogs. My Google Reader is like a jostling corridor filled with crowds of people from all ages, places, walks of life. I read political blogs, and scientific blogs, and celebrity blogs. I read style blogs and interior design blogs and food blogs. I read those blogs which are snapshots of lives, with no theme or axe to grind. People write about their babies, their dogs, their houses, their best beloveds, their passions, their frustrations, their operations, their midnight fears. Perhaps this is somewhat self-selecting, but the common thread which seems to pull almost all of them together is: a deep sense of the humane. Sometimes people do get crazy furious, and sometimes who can blame them, but much more often they are overwhelmingly funny and kind.

Apart from the good hearts that beat out there on the highways of the blogosphere, what I love the most is that a blog will often take me to places I have never been. Today, I was directed, by the blog Sociological Images, to a ravishing and surprising photo essay on Afghanistan.

Afghanistan by Benjamin Rasmussen 3

Afghanistan by Benjamin Rasmussen 2

(You can see the full set here.)

I was fascinated by these pictures, and wanted to know where they had been taken. It turned out that the photographer, Benjamin Rasmussen, had gone right up to the north east of the country, to a place called the Wakhan Corridor.

I had never even heard of the Wakhan Corridor. Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I know that it is a thin strip of land artificially created by the Russian and British Empires at the height of the Great Game. Marco Polo rode through it on his silk route. It is home to the Wakhi people and a small population of Kyrgyz nomads.  They are great riders, and play a fierce game called Buzkashi, which is like a kind of polo, only played with a dead goat. They tend sheep, goats, yaks and Bactrian camels and take their tea salty. Snow leopards are very occasionally sighted. Literacy is confined to about ten percent of the population, although the Aga Khan is putting money into educational schemes. There are no shops, apparently, although every photograph I have seen of the people of the Wakhan show them wearing rather splendid clothes. (Some are obviously made by hand, but some are not; where do they go for their jackets, I wonder.)

None of this would have been known to me were it not for one of those blogs that Mr Marr despises so.

Here are a few sociological images of my own. The Dee Valley is not quite the Wakhan, nor are the Grampians the Pamirs, but we have our own loveliness.

There are the sheep:


The coos:


The ducks:


The dogs, of course:



The apples on my little apple trees:


The twisted old tree trunk, as beautiful as a sculpture:


And all manner of things in the shade of green:







See, Mr Andrew Marr? Before you go painting with your very broad brush, you might like to know that we are not all enraged, actually.

PS.  If you are interested, I found more riveting information on the Wakhan Corridor here.

PPS. I have been dilatory about replying to comments in the last few days. You have left me many lovely ones, and I thank you for them.


  1. People often despise what they are most like themselves. Andrew Marr seems like a very angry man indeed, and his comments show a remarkable degree of ignorance. I shan't comment on the drunkenness!

  2. Perfectly put Tania....and beautiful photographs as always :)

  3. Hear, hear! I get very cross about people tarring us bloggers with the same brush. Do you think Mr Marr is just a teeny weeny bit worried that someone might stop paying him a salary now we get free opinions on the internet rather than having pay to hear the views of the few?

  4. Agree with everything you've said and though I have been known to blog late at night whilst drunk, I'd like Andrew Marr to know I'm neither bald nor pimpled!

  5. Surprised and sad that Andrew Marr has it so wrong and that someone didn't say to him beforehand, "no, you are wrong, take a look and see".

  6. Awesome post! I am in total agreement with you on this one. I hope Andrew can find those bloggers who are pleasant. And your sheep and doggie photos are great! You always brighten my day.

    xo Marcie

  7. I think I know the sort of blogs Andrew Marr means - they are the sort started by people who populate the comments sections of the big name political blogs and many of those people are completely deranged. In fact it scares me to think there are actually people out there who think like that.

    Apart from that you are absolutely right!

  8. Very well said Tania.

    I follow a similarly eclectic mix of blogs and it never ceases to amaze me how truly wonderful bloggers can be. There's so much kindness and generosity out there - why don't people talk about that instead of moaning about how blogging is a Very Bad Thing?

  9. I agree with your first commentor that he must be dreadfully ignorant. He wouldn't rant like this otherwise. As usual, thank you for the photos. Melbourne right now is in full spring bloom. Absolutely gorgeous flowers.

  10. I LOVE this and feel I must be reading the wrong things (though clearly more in line with what you read) because I don't come across much anger in the blogosphere at all! :-)

  11. I'm gonna repeat what others said before me, in that I agree with what you say. The plant pictures are lovely.

  12. Krishnan Guru Murthy's response here:

  13. Lovely lovely comments, and thank you all for proving my point. :)

  14. I,m sorry to tell you , that you have you ethnic info of the Wakhan, all Wrong - The Wakhi people are a sub group of the Tadjik = who are in fact Persians !
    Where as kirkiz and a turkish people !


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