A Times editorial has criticised political blogs, describing some of the individuals behind them as “completely uncivilised”.
The newspaper carried an interview with Conservative MP Sarah Woolaston yesterday in which she described the Guido Fawkes blog, Daily Telegraph columnist Dan Hodges and LBC's Iain Dale as unnecessarily “aggressive”.
Last week, Woolaston faced criticism from them and others after fellow MP Nigel Evans was cleared of a number of sex charges. Woolaston is known to have passed on the contact details of some of Evans' alleged victims to the police, prompting his arrest.
She suggested in The Times yesterday that “aggressive male bloggers” target female MPs. On her treatment after Evans was cleared, Woolaston said: “I haven’t had any women writing critical articles and I do think that’s very interesting.”
In an editorial, headlined “Anger Management: Aggressive blogging has a role in Westminster, but manners matter”, the paper notes that blogs contribute to the “decentralisation of media power” and that “competition keeps every trade on its toes”. It says: “This is a good thing.
“But there are downsides, too,” it adds. “On the web, because there is little or no face-to-face accountability, anonymous individuals are often completely uncivilised.
“Some blog editors make no attempt to moderate the conversations that they host. Too often comment threads resemble argumentative sewers.
“One of the explanations for the worst examples of internet-based debate is said to be the dominance of men. Few of Britain’s main political bloggers are women.
“As traditional male only clubs close all over the country, the bloggers’ club remains unattractive to women, if not formally closed to them.”
Yesterday, Guido Fawkes, which contributes a weekly column to The Times’ sister title, The Sun on Sunday, pointed out the editorial was written shortly after it had sided with UKIP over the paper's revelations about Nigel Farage last week.
We side with UKIP against @TheTimes, they write a leader – hiding behind Sarah Wollaston's petticoats no less – saying we're too aggressive.
— Media Guido (@MediaGuido) April 18, 2014
However, on Woolaston's comments, the editorial adds: "As for the 'aggressive male bloggers' that she suggests assailed her, there is not much evidence of anything particularly ungentlemanly.
"But the Nigel Evans saga did reveal a Westminster culture where too much is drunk and where people with power and status need to behave more carefully in the presence of often much younger people with whom they work and whom they may employ.
"Westminster’s after-dark culture might benefit from the attentions of 'aggressive bloggers' — of both genders."