Bob Gould, 2004

A little piranha’s observation on the big fish in leftist websites

Source: Ozleft, Green Left Weekly discussion list, May 18, 2004
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

Green Left discussion list, May 19, 2004

The discussion about Green Left Weekly’s energetic self-promotion of its rather large web response is of some interest. While Ozleft, with which I’m associated, doesn’t get anything like the large hit rates of GLW and the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS seems to get even more than GLW) our modest experience throws some light on web responses.

For instance, without any publicity at all we put up an article by myself on Australian race experience and policy, and it has drifted up to nearly 300 hits in a couple of months. An article, again by myself, on multiculturalism has drifted up to about 1000 in a few months.

Occasionally I get emails from people who’ve used my articles in preparing essays. A lot of the hits seem to come from people Googling on keywords. This obviously does not equate with the larger hit rates of GLW and the WSWS, but clearly some of the same elements are present, on a larger scale.

GLW has performed the extremely labour-intensive task of putting up about 12 years of a weekly newspaper on the web, and GLparamatta and others promote the Green Left discussion site systematically, week after week, on numerous websites and discussion sites, and they harvest a substantial response. More power to their elbows.

The same broad principle applies to the even bigger hit rate of the WSWS and the very substantial hit rate of Workers Online. Energetic and professional web activity generates a substantial response — at the level of web viewing.

In this day and age that’s clearly an important sphere of political activity and as a relatively late convert to the web who is now an energetic web publicist I wouldn’t want to belittle any of that.

The following problem, however, arises: how is that despite the quite extraordinary hit rate, particularly on GLW and the WSWS, that the overt political activities of the groups that produce these sites, and use them so intelligently, remain at such an extraordinarily modest level?

I go, from time to time, to public meetings called by the Socialist Alliance in Sydney, and the attendance at those meetings remains in the range of 60-100 people — the same range at which meeting like that, conducted by the Alliance and the DSP, have sat for the past 10-15 years.

I don’t want to enter into territory of the triumphalism, and the reaction to it, generated by this argument. I’m rather more interested in the disparity between a large web presence and the apparent lack of change in the political influence of the groups running a successful website.

On our much more modest scale, we’re quite pleased with the overall response to Ozleft. Almost all the material we put up gets a respectable response. It seems to me the site has some political impact, and I keep encountering people who react to issues raised in various articles.

Nevertheless, the problem still exists of connecting off the web with people who show some interest in material on the web.

It seems to me, at that level, none of us have found an answer to that, yet.