A Semi-Partisan Pledge Drive – Thank You

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Thank you for your support

Since starting my first pledge drive of the year last week, I have been both heartened and humbled by the response. I have been most fortunate to receive a number of donations, some from long-time readers whom I know well through the Comments section and social media, and others whom I did not previously know but have been reading Semi-Partisan Politics and finding value in it for some time. I am most incredibly grateful to everybody who has donated so far.

Political blogging can be quite a lonely affair at times – awake at 2AM, typing furiously into the insatiable cursor, trying to get a hot take or a more reflective piece out the door and published before the rapidly moving news cycle makes it completely irrelevant. And aside from some basic stats on WordPress it can be hard to get a realistic sense of how many people find their way to this site, like it and then keep coming back as regular readers.

Lord knows that the British political media does not make the job any easier. Most British political journalists and commentators for “prestige” outlets would sooner poke knitting needles in their eyes than link to an independent blog or news outlet, even if it has something unique or valuable to contribute. The EU referendum campaign taught us that much. But the growing pageviews for this blog suggest to me that a number of you are not happy with what the prestige Westminster political news media have to offer – or at least that you take their pronouncements with a pinch of salt, and like to seek alternative commentary and research to get a fuller picture.

It is those people – people like you – for whom I will keep on writing. Well, and also for myself. As my wife will readily attest, I do tend to become quite irritable quite quickly if I don’t get enough “fighting on the internet” time under my belt each week.

And in case you were wondering, no it is not too late to make a contribution! All donations – large and small, one-off or recurring subscriptions – are most gratefully received, and help to make it possible for me to continue doing what I do (and hopefully getting better at it as time goes on!).

If you find value in this blog and have not already done so, please do consider making a donation to my work using the PayPal link below:

 

 

Any donation, large or small, will help to ensure that this blog continues to provide independent commentary on British and American politics and current affairs, as well as advocating for the causes I have been dedicated to from the start – including Brexit, strengthening the nation state, constitutional reform, a federal United Kingdom, separation of church and state, free speech, civil liberties, healthcare reform, exposing the NHS Industrial Complex and opposing the insidious Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

Oh, and defending capitalism against the slings, arrows and sanctimonious internet memes of a new generation – my generation – who increasingly seem to believe that they can keep all of the good material things in their lives while undermining the economic system which made them possible in the first place.

And if you disagree with one or more of these positions, that’s fine too, let’s have a debate. A grown-up debate where we argue based on principles and facts, without pulling rank based on our marginalised identities or retreating to our safe spaces.

Thank you again to all of my wonderful readers and kind contributors. Each generous donation this past week has brought a smile to my face, and made me more determined than ever to keep on fighting the good fight here on Semi-Partisan Politics.

 

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A Semi-Partisan Pledge Drive

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Time to pass around the tip jar…

As I write this, the Labour Party cheerleading blogs Left Foot Forward and LabourList are launching fundraising drives in an attempt to capitalise on what they see as Jeremy Corbyn’s “triumph” in the general election and the regaining of the political momentum.

The left wing hubris in the week since the general election has been off the charts, with more fatuous articles claiming that Britain now has a permanent “progressive majority” than one could possibly read without going mad from sheer incredulity. Worryingly, the demonisation of conservative ideas and Tory voters also seems to be picking up pace, with Labour MPs like Jon Trickett actively accusing everyday, garden variety conservatives of practising “hate”, an accusation we once reserved for real extremists on the far left and right.

Worse still, many of the more spineless and uninspired elements within the Conservative Party seem to have swallowed this narrative unquestioningly, and are agitating for even the most tentative efforts at fiscal responsibility to be abandoned and core conservative principles thrown overboard in favour of competing with Jeremy Corbyn to promise the British people endless free goodies with no responsibilities and no consequences – needless to say, a competition we can never win.

The British Left has gone insane, claiming victory in an election which parliamentary arithmetic clearly shows they lost. The Conservative Party under Theresa May is proving itself a useless keeper of the flame of conservatism and liberty, cranking up the size of the state, eroding civil liberties and taking their Brexit policy direct from the mouth of Nigel Farage. Worse still, the Right seems to have completely forgotten how to engage young people, ceding the youth vote almost entirely to the parties of the Left without even putting up a fight.

In short, there’s a lot going on and a lot to be fought over in the coming months and years. There are people to be held to account and ideas to be kept alive, particularly when the political party which should be the natural keeper of those ideas seems more inclined to accept Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left framing of the political and economic debate.

I haven’t done a pledge drive on this blog thus far in 2017, mostly because my blogging output was significantly reduced in the early months of the year, and it didn’t seem fair to ask for donations while cranking out less of the product. However, you’ll notice that the pace of blogging has now picked up once again.

And so, the time has come… to ask regular readers who get value from this blog and from my writing to drop any spare change you may have into my virtual PayPal tip jar.

 

 

As always, I want to make absolutely clear that my regular contributors and generous occasional benefactors are specifically exempt from this request – you guys are already tapped out, and I would not dream of asking any more from you.

However, if you have recently discovered and enjoyed this blog, or perhaps been a long-time reader but didn’t realise that this blog is supported by generous reader donations, your support would be greatly appreciated.

 

 

You may have noticed some changes on the blog lately. On election day, June 8, we launched a new blog theme. Partially at Pete North’s suggestion, I made the change because the old theme was beginning to show its age and the grey text was difficult to read. Hopefully everyone will find the new theme more modern, streamlined and easy to navigate. However, if you have any issues then please do let me know.

I wrote last year about my hope that 2017 would be the year of the independent political blog. It is happening – slower than I would like, but unmistakably happening nonetheless. Many of the intelligent think pieces and best bits of commentary are now published on Medium, or on WordPress or Blogspot blogs, by people who would struggle to gain the attention of the BBC or the prestige media. And the ideas about Brexit pioneered by independent researchers like Dr. Richard North at eureferendum.com and championed by Pete North are now finally forcing their way into the mainstream conversation, albeit often in plagiarised and unattributed form.

The point is that we can influence the national conversation when we want to, particularly when independent writers and campaigners work together in a concerted effort. This is something that both the hard and soft Left have known for years – they have read their Saul Alinsky. We on the right, or elsewhere on the political spectrum, are still scurrying to catch up.

As Pete North rightly says in a recent piece, there is a political revolution underway in this country. While Brexit may not deliver any clear economic benefits in the short and medium term, the disruption that leaving the EU is causing to our political elite and frameworks for governance is ultimately a necessary thing. They are no longer fit for purpose. This had to happen eventually.

But with only a few honourable exceptions, most mainstream commentators and much of the media have not yet broken out of the old paradigm. Overwhelmingly pro-EU, overwhelmingly metro-leftist and secretly (or sometimes openly) incredulous and baffled by people who think differently, their deep-seated biases and preconceptions warp their reporting and colour their coverage all the time, in hundreds of small ways which add up to one enormous cumulative effect.

As I recently wrote, the fake news actually worth worrying about is not the obviously false and hysterical stories about Hillary Clinton being a demon or other such nonsense, but rather the soft bias of the mainstream media, because of the way that prestige news reflects and moulds the worldview of key decision-makers in this country. One weepy Guardian article about Brexit meaning the end of cooperation with Europe, sincerely believed by people with proximity to power, does more real-world damage than a thousand angry Facebook memes about the EUSSR precisely because the Guardian article is credulously swallowed by people who then make consequential decisions based on their prejudice.

Even if you still find value in the mainstream media (and I certainly do – for all the low grade nonsense there are still some diamonds in the rough, and somebody has to hire reporters to go out and be primary newsgatherers) I hope it is now clear that the BBC, the national newspapers, their online personas and internet giants like HuffPost and Buzzfeed are not enough on their own. We also need independent media to keep politicians and the media honest, or at least hold them to account for their failures and evasions.

Long story short: you need independent political writers, and we need you. Now more than ever.

Any donation you can make to this blog – large or small, one-off or recurring – will be most gratefully received, and will aid in the fight.

Thank you.

 

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New Year Update

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A few changes for 2017

Greetings from Texas. Getting the blog up and running again after a longer-than-anticipated Christmas and New Year break is somewhat harder than in previous years – or rather, I should say that it is proving difficult to spurn the joy of unstructured leisure time for the largely thankless task of ranting into WordPress.

Having taken a full fortnight away from the daily grind has been refreshing, and also revelatory. 2016 was the fifth year of Semi-Partisan Politics and by far the most successful, with a threefold increase in readership compared to 2015, helped along in large part by the EU referendum campaign and the American presidential election. But this positive trajectory has come at the cost of nearly every free moment in my all-too-undisciplined free time.

Writing a political blog (and trying to make it successful) is hard. In order to build and maintain an audience you have to publish nearly every day, often multiple times. Unless you have the benefit of establishment connections to furnish you with gossip or pimp out your work, you have to be demonically active on social media, tweeting effectively and trawling for pageviews on Facebook. And for a one-man outfit like this, time spent promoting the blog on social media is time taken away from writing and the all-important reading and research which adds value to the content, while too much time spent reading and writing at the expense of self-promotion means that one’s best work often goes largely unread.

Whatever value Facebook has as a medium for discussion and promoting this blog, it is also a black hole from which I now intend to escape. I could easily double or triple this blog’s readership in a short time by actively promoting articles on the various political Facebook groups – and indeed I did so for a time in the buildup to the EU referendum. But my time is limited, and I will no longer waste it affirming people’s current biases to a lazy applause of “likes” or posting in hostile groups only to receive endless comments telling me that I am Hitler. A well-placed Facebook intervention may draw in countless likes and re-shares resulting in a thousand additional pageviews, but too often this is low quality traffic with no loyalty or engagement. The readers I value most are the ones who stick around without Facebook nagging, and who both educate and argue with me through the Comments.

SEO is a cruel mistress. This blog’s most-read piece for 2016 was a short, throwaway piece about Tony Benn’s euroscepticism and likely stance on Brexit. Because of an inadvertently well-chosen headline and a dearth of similar articles it placed well on Google, and attracted many thousands more views than the polemics, fisking pieces or other articles of which I am far more proud and which contain much greater originality.

Meanwhile, the British media establishment continue their demented hostility toward the political blogosphere and dogged refusal to acknowledge some of the best and most original analysis out there (though fully aware that it exists) simply because it appears on a site with a .wordpress or .blogspot suffix and does not carry the imprimatur of the prestige titles which increasingly churn out so much unoriginal pseudo-analysis or breathless court gossip.

This blog has been linked several times in both the National Review and the New Republic, the premier conservative and liberal journals in America, despite the limited attention that I have given to US politics this year. Meanwhile, links from the incestuous British media are almost non-existent – though I am grateful to the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow for occasionally citing this blog in his own excellent and comprehensive political liveblogs. But the idea of sullying myself trying to attract the attention of SW1’s finest on Twitter in exchange for a mere “like” or (rarer still) a retweet no longer holds any appeal.

Then there is the constant feeling that one is only as good as one’s most recent blog post – which, if you are me, means long periods of self-doubt and wondering why I am bothering in the first place. As the email bulletins and Google alerts ping into the inbox every hour of every day there is the constant feeling of needing to go “on the record” about whatever new person or event is driving the 24-hour news cycle, of committing a hot take to public record while it is still relevant, to assimilate the latest information and latest developments, and then inevitable feelings of inadequacy when this high bar – impossible to achieve while working a full time job – is not met.

I have also been dwelling on the fact that the words published on any political blog do not hold their value for long. Sure, some articles will be blessed by the SEO gods and provide a constant stream of traffic, but generally speaking a reaction piece I write in response to a Guardian headline today will be lining the digital waste paper bin by tomorrow. I increasingly want to write words that hold their value for longer, and to some extent this means stepping back from the fray and going more in depth, which in turn requires more expertise (and a rebalancing away from writing toward reading and research).

The upshot of all this introspection is that the thought of returning to the fray – spending the bulk of my free time hunched over the laptop, only to be studiously ignored by those who drive the national conversation – has been less than appealing, especially while I am still enjoying the company of my American family and have easy access to some of the best tacos and Tex-Mex food that money can buy.

Fear not, though. Or don’t start celebrating, if you are a fire-breathing SJW who hates my guts. I’m not going away. This blog will continue. But I have taken a long, hard look at my priorities and there will be some changes afoot.

I am not yet at liberty to discuss the most significant change that I will be making from a personal perspective. Suffice it to say that I have decided that being taken seriously without some serious form of credential is almost impossible, and that it is time to bow to this inevitable fact. At present, I am neither a politician nor a lawyer, nor an accredited expert on the constitution, the European Union, healthcare reform or any of the other subjects on which this blog touches. Over time, this will now change. The focus of this blog may therefore shift and be refined slightly over time, though there will be no immediate change.

The fruits of this work may not be visible for some time, but I hope to be able to provide more detail in due course. In the meantime, here’s what you can expect:

  1. Slightly less frequent updates (I religiously posted nearly every day in 2016; this tempo is now likely to decrease)
  2. More short reaction pieces or flags (bringing other worthy articles or videos to your attention with only limited commentary from myself)
  3. Fewer “fisking” pieces (taking apart and critiquing articles and speeches line-by-line)
  4. Hopefully a few more longer-form, ruminative pieces on certain subjects close to this blog’s heart (Brexit, free speech, identity politics, healthcare reform and the NHS)

And one thing will not change. This blog will continue to be stridently independent, and I will at no time “sell out” to raise my profile through artificial means. If I happen to be published, linked or quoted elsewhere in the coming year, it will not be the result of modifying my positions or moderating my tone. Likewise if by some chance I end up back on the BBC as the token “anti-social justice” guy.

I will still be in Texas for the next couple of weeks, but activity on the blog will now slowly start to ramp up again. Please accept my apologies if I am slow to approve or respond to comments, emails or tweets – the backlog is long, and I am still very much in holiday mode.

I wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous 2017.

Sam Hooper.

 

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Deep In The Heart Of Texas

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Back to the ‘Heart of the Rio Grande’

Well okay, way down at the southern tip of Texas, a few miles from the Mexican border, to be more precise.

I’m off to Texas to spend the Christmas and New Year celebrations with my American family. Blogging will continue (I hope to resurrect the Postcards from America series started last year and have the chance to write a few more reflective pieces) but will be at a slightly slower tempo, with occasional hiatuses on those days when we are either travelling or making merry.

I am currently seeking recommendations for good places to eat in Austin, Houston and Las Vegas – if you have any inspired ideas, please do get in touch!

Many thanks as always for reading, commenting, cheering and arguing with me here at Semi-Partisan Politics. Stay tuned!

 

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Will 2017 Be The Year That Independent Political Blogs Make A Comeback?

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Now more than ever, we need good political journalism and incisive commentary to make sense of the world and the challenges (and opportunities) facing us in the new Age of Brexit and Donald Trump. And increasingly, the only way one can find good analysis is by turning to independent bloggers

Veteran American television journalist / late-in-life social media champion Dan Rather has shared with his Facebook audience some thoughts on how they can best encourage and reward good journalism in the Age of Trump, following a presidential election campaign in which much of the mainstream media was deemed to have failed in its core duty to provide rigorous, civic-minded coverage and analysis.

Rather, who has provided an articulate and dignified left-wing running commentary on the 2016 presidential election via his Facebook page, writes:

There is no shortage of long, thoughtful articles that are worth a read. The problem is that our current journalism business model doesn’t seem to support the better instincts of the press as much as it should.

So if you want to know what you can do, please choose to support the press. If you find a news source you like and you think it is doing a good job, pay for the subscription. This doesn’t just help the bottom line but it is a vote of confidence in the system. Share smart, thoughtful pieces on social media and in emails to your friends. Let’s run up the clicks and views of the best of journalism. Also, I think we can not be passive with our news any longer. If you like what you see, let the publicans and journalists know through all the digital tools at your disposal. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, let them know as well. Or turn it off, refuse to follow the click bait.

The press is a vital partner in out democratic process. It is under incredible strains from a drastically changing media landscape and a potentially hostile in-coming administration. As citizens we should care deeply about this and vow to do something to help.

Many of us, for various reasons, have cause to be greatly disappointed with the mainstream media – whether we are left-wing or right-wing, British or American, supported Brexit or staying in the EU, preferred Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

With very few exceptions, television news has become a wasteland of quacking, know-nothing talking heads who specialise in providing visually pleasing, information-lite political gossip and who force their way onto our screens either by virtue of having had some dismal prior political career, fortunate social connections or simply the willingness to wear a bow-tie un-ironically while under the age of sixty.

And the print media is little better. While there are honourable exceptions at many publications, too many venerable titles have either dumbed down to the point where they have become utterly unreadable clickbait, or else sold their inquisitorial souls to the establishment in order to churn out tedious defences of the status quo and scurrilous hit-pieces on those who seek to disrupt it.

In many cases, a combination of scrambling to capture new revenue streams and remain financially viable combined with a fawning desire to be “liked” by the right people in Westminster and Washington D.C. has all but hollowed out the ranks of decent political journalists and de-fanged once-formidable publications.

In this, my good friend and fellow Brexiteer-in-arms Pete North has it exactly right:

In the final analysis the legacy media is dying. Our media was once a luxury liner. It is now a corred garbage scow with corrosion holes in the hull. It is dying a much deserved death and every bit of bad news for the newspapers is good news for us bloggers. I can think of plenty blogs who produce better and more informed content in an afternoon than the usual suspects manage in a week of trying. And there is good reason for that.

Outside of the bubble you have a certain distance from the fray and not in hock to the peer pressure inside it. Outside the bubble is the only place where free thinking can occur. To join them is to become them. And who would want to stunt their intellectual and personal growth in such a way?

This does of course mean that writing is now done largely as a labour of love. There is no money to be made nor recognition to be had. All that matters to me is that for every moment readers spend on advert free blogs is a moment they are not reading the Spectator or any of the other garbage. Every blog post I write is an act of vandalism on an established media whose final gasp cannot come too soon.

[..] This is the year where the word “blogspot” and “wordpress” carries prestige. The low grade tat of the legacy media shouldn’t even be acknowledged. If it didn’t exist at all we would be no worse off in our understanding of events and politics would be all the better for it. The dinosaurs have had their day and we should not mourn their passing. We should do what we can to hasten their demise.

Trust Pete to find the almost John Galt-like nobility in what we bloggers do – it certainly beats “fighting on the internet”, which is how I had previously been describing my nocturnal pastime of ranting into WordPress.

But joking aside, as Dan Rather says, “If you find a news source you like and you think it is doing a good job, pay for the subscription. This doesn’t just help the bottom line but it is a vote of confidence in the system. Share smart, thoughtful pieces on social media and in emails to your friends. Let’s run up the clicks and views of the best of journalism.”

Some of the best political commentary right now comes from independent bloggers who write entirely in their spare time as labour of love, with no hope or expectation of recognition by the failing mainstream media. Therefore, if you have a favourite blogger or bloggers and are in a position to do so, consider making a donation or regular subscription to aid their work and acknowledge their effort. Share their articles with other people who may be interested in reading. It all helps.

I am personally very grateful to all those who have kindly donated to Semi-Partisan Politics over the past year. The vote of confidence you make in me with your PayPal donations and standing orders helps to keep me writing.

But this is much bigger than me and my little old blog. One thing that struck me as I live-blogged the US presidential election results last Tuesday night was she sheer number of outlets providing live coverage. Beyond the usual television stations there were live YouTube channels, Periscope broadcasts, websites, other live-blogs, Twitter and Facebook personalities and more. Newspapers were offering video broadcasts and television broadcasters were offering written analysis. And all of this from every political perspective under the sun, from triumphant Trumpists to crying Clintonites to Bernie Sanders supporters shouting “I told you so!”. From having to rely on a handful of networks and newspapers a generation ago, one is now paralysed by having too much choice.

(Now of course this raises important questions about the bubble effect, and one certainly doesn’t want to saturate oneself with endless sources bias confirmation – but that is a separate discussion).

But of all the cacophonous voices offering independent perspectives on politics today, very few will likely still be around in the same guise to cover the 2020 presidential election in America or general election in Britain. And more than likely, some of the best will have had to hang up their keyboards because of the pesky need to pay rent and buy food, while other, inferior writers and journalists go from strength to strength.

So I’m with Dan Rather. If there are writers or publications which provide you with indispensable or enjoyable analysis or commentary, make sure you vote with your wallet (and the social media sharing buttons) to let them know. And the sum total of these efforts may be a newly flourishing independent political blogosphere which continues to put much of the mainstream media to shame.

 

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