Can blogs change an opinion?


Blogs can do many things. They can inform, entertain and sometimes educate. They can be a useful and more creative platform for someone to write more freely than when they begrudgingly trudge through the corporate work they might have to do for their 9-5 pay packet. And, if the mood takes them, they can summon up their alter ego and fill their blog with all the bile they want - assuming the manager of the blog they're writing for allows it, which they often do [nod to Michael, MD of Creativepool]. After all, not many of us are allowed to write like Jeremy Clarkson or Caitlin Moran in our main day job.

But I learned quite an interesting lesson recently. If someone already holds a strong opinion about a certain subject, my blog will probably do absolutely nothing to change it. I wonder if this has anything to do with bloggers sometimes being considered to be the poor cousins of columnists or "real" journalists? Do the latter have more influence than bloggers - apart from a minute group of elite bloggers, such as those that can allegedly make or break a movie's fortunes, based on their reviews?

A week or two ago, I was asked to write an article for The Guardian. I do sometimes read The Guardian on Saturdays - but I might also read The Times and I've even been known to leaf my way through The Telegraph too - although mainly because the other two have sold out. As you can see, I'm not especially politically minded, and I mention this deliberately.

As a lifelong stammerer, I have previously written articles and blogs about disability and equal opportunities, and, following the success of The King's Speech, I was also asked to appear in a series of interviews on BBC Radio 4's You And Yours. The reason I was approached to write the article for The Guardian on 6th December was because, that morning on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Sarah Montague had asked Ed Balls whether his performance at the dispatch box the previous day (in response to George Osborne's autumn statement) was good enough "in political terms".

Balls replied that he had a stammer and sometimes it gets the better of him. The Guardian wanted the opinion of a stammerer, and their reaction to Osborne saying that he thought that Balls's response to his autumn statement was the worst he'd ever heard, and that this had nothing to do with Balls's stammer.

If you'd like to, you can read my Guardian article by clicking here.

When I was asked to write this article, there was what I felt to be a fairly clear agenda: the Tories were laughing at and bullying Balls (bullying "The Bruiser"? Really?) and Osborne was arrogant to suggest that Balls's blunder was nothing to do with his stammer.

Naturally, I wanted to give a balanced view of the incident. I watched Balls's performance at the dispatch box countless times; I listened to his speech; I watched the reaction of Ed Miliband; I watched the reaction of David Cameron and George Osborne. It was absolutely clear to me that the latter did not laugh at Balls because of his stammer, but because he accidentally said the exact opposite of what he meant:

"The national debt is NOT rising; er, is rising, is not falling; I'll say that again" So he initially said the opposite of what he meant. In fact, in the clip, Miliband clearly flinches as a result of the error.

I also listened to Balls's interview with Sarah Montague on the Today programme a number of times; she did not ask him about his stammer per se and was, in fact, very careful to qualify her question by asking whether his performance was good enough 'in political terms'. Balls chose to interpret the question in one particular way, stating that his stammer sometimes gets the better of him. I'm not saying he shouldn't have done that; I'm saying that she did not specifically ask him about his stammer. He could well have chosen to answer differently.

Politics aside, as much as I admire Balls for doing his job with and in spite of having a stammer (mine is much more severe, as it happens), I don't actually agree that it was his stammer that caused the problem. But even more importantly - given that I was writing for The Guardian - I don't believe that the Tories were laughing at his stammer one little bit, and I said as much in my article.

Within about three hours, I had more than 120 comments on my article on The Guardian's website. Whilst I was very glad to receive so many, I was very struck by the fact that many of them seemed to completely and utterly misinterpret my argument, either accidentally or - more likely - on purpose. A lot of people were slating the Tories left, right and centre, accusing them of bullying and playground taunting. And yet I had rejected this notion completely in my article. I also stated absolutely truthfully that I would have written EXACTLY the same article had it been a Conservative MP in Balls's position. I suspect only someone who occasionally reads both The Guardian and The Telegraph can claim that. The fact that Ed Balls himself is now following me on Twitter doesn't impact my politics (or lack of them) in any way. I believe that he showed immense strength of character and handled himself with dignity, but that has nothing to do with party politics.

So my point is this: a lot of people simply read what they want to rea't fit in with what they already think. I bet nobody has turned off Question Time with the opposite opinion of the one they had when they turned it on.

Whatever we write, whatever we say, whatever views we hold: does anyone ever change their mind? Or if the answer to that is yes, what sort of heavyweight writer status does one have to achieve to have that sort of impact and influence?

If you're up for it, we could always try a little experiment. If you DID think the Tories laughed at Ed Ball's stammer, read my Guardian article by clicking here, and then tell me if you've changed your mind after having read it. I'd be very interested to know:

by Ashley Morrison

Ashley is a blogger, copywriter and editor.

Follow me on Twitter @Ashley_Morrison


More Features



The 3 pillars of performance branding

Molecular archaeology is a relatively new discipline which provides those practicing it with a deeper understanding of the past through the scientific analysis of molecules extracted from ancient samples. For instance, recently the presence of...

Posted by: BrandCap


How an audience-led approach can help luxury brands win in search

Who’s got game? - high street vs luxury We’ve seen the news articles of brands announcing store closures and reporting losses, such as Miss Selfridge and Debenhams. Miss Selfridge reported losses of £17.5m ahead of their flagship...

Posted by: Creativepool Editorial


Design agencies speak out on mental health

Illustrations: Vault49 Today marks World Mental Health Day, an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. The subject has become more important than ever as the world continues to change and...

Posted by: Creativepool Editorial