I may have said this before, but the thing that makes Andrew Bolt’s blog successful is that he knows and works with his audience extremely well. This comes through not only in the things he writes, but also in what he leaves unwritten. Many of his blog posts are not so much about explicitly stating an opinion – and opening himself up to criticism of that opinion – as they are about setting up a context in which his conservative followers can make the definitive statements. Bolt and his commenters have become like an old married couple who can finish each other’s sentences.
Occasionally he will experiment, but he has learned to read his audience and back-pedal when needed – like when he offended Catholics yesterday by comparing them to “global warming believers”. A quick update was added:
Apologies to the readers below who are offended by the comparison. You are right: Catholicism is indeed more rational and benign than the green faith, and doesn’t demand forcible conversion.
But an example of Bolt’s more usual, minimalist approach is shown in two posts today that touch on issues of economic management. One, titled “The golden years“, simply quotes Alexander Downer’s assessment of the Howard Government’s legacy – including the fact that “We went through a golden era economically.” This gave his commenters an opportunity to agree wholeheartedly about the prosperity that the Howard era brought with it – and, of course, the way things have gone backwards from there.
A second post from this morning, titled “Rudd’s real climate change“, reported on Glenn Stevens’s recent comments about the economic prospects for the next few years. Andrew observed:
It seems the economy won’t give us great joy over the next few years, which is not going to help the unfortunate Rudd Government much, either:
The Reserve Bank governor yesterday spelled out a soft landing scenario that would allow him to cautiously continue reducing official interest rates and get inflation back under 3 per cent during the next three years. But it would be an extended period of below-average growth, in part making up for five years or more of excess.
Now, a commentator who wanted to engage in a bit of critical analysis might have tried to integrate this item with the other one. The Reserve Bank Governor predicts a slow growth period, “in part making up for five years or more of excess.” Doesn’t that suggest that perhaps the “sliding backwards” we are experiencing – and which the Boltheads blame on Rudd – was perhaps an inevitable by-product of the economy growing so rapidly over the final Howard years?
But Andrew not only failed to put two and two together – he also said very little about the causes of the current economic circumstances at all. Interestingly, he did use the word “unfortunate” to describe the Rudd Government. One might interpret that as suggesting that these are unlucky times to be seen as in charge of the economy – that it is out of their control, and yet they might suffer the public backlash. That doesn’t sound like something Andrew would actually say, though – but he leaves the implication dangling.
And that is where Bolt’s commenters come in. They dispel the implication that maybe something is not the Rudd Government’s fault. “Hapless,” not unfortunate, is what they are. Why, there’s even a suggestion that Kevin (sorry, “Krudd”) has engineered this with Glenn Stevens to make John Howard look bad. And there is lots of lamenting that Howard never received credit for the good economic times he delivered (perhaps by someone who didn’t see “The golden years” on Bolt’s blog – or perhaps by someone who couldn’t put two and two together). The “five years or more of excess” are carefully avoided.
This is just an example, but the process seems to be the same on many issues. This is how Bolt makes his blog a success. He doesn’t stick his own neck out too far – after reading those posts, I have no more information about how much credit or blame Andrew himself assigns to either the Howard or Rudd Governments for Australia’s economy. But he implies enough to give Teh Left something to disagree with, while providing fodder for his own followers to nod sagely in agreement. It’s a carefully threaded needle, and to my mind it is the one discernible talent he possesses.