John Hawkins: What convinced you to start your political website?
Tim Blair: Ken Layne and Matt Welch were having too much fun running theirs. It seemed wrong somehow. And then all these Norwegians and bellicose women and law professors began appearing online ‘ I was the last person on earth without a website.
Anyway, Layne helped set the site up for me last December, and then he taught me the secret HTML wisdom. Welch pimped me to several sites early on, which quickly built a profile, inasmuch as a weblog run out of a Sydney suburb can have a profile.
John Hawkins: How long have you been writing for Time magazine and are you still doing so?
Tim Blair: I worked there from 94 to 99 as senior editor of the Australian edition of the magazine, and again in 2000 covering the Sydney Olympics. I still write occasional pieces, but I’m not on staff.
John Hawkins: How did you end up writing for Fox News?
Tim Blair: Scott Norvell, the Fox.com big cheese, sent a note to a few Bloggists inviting us aboard. It’s been fun; huge feedback, and nice people to deal with.
John Hawkins: What sort of effect do you think blogging is having on the political scene across the world or is too early to tell?
Tim Blair: I think the main effect is on the interpretation of politics; while politics remain much the same, we’re now seeing a range of voices outside of the mainstream press analyzing those politics.
John Hawkins: What do you think enabled you to become one of the best known political bloggers? What separates your page from the pack?
Tim Blair: The exciting and innovative graphics. Well, maybe not. I’m not sure I am that well known, but people seem to like the jokes. Even if the jokes are about people here in Australia they’ve never heard of. I wrote this one thing about a bunch of Australian writers that most Australians hadn’t even heard of, and was surprised when sites in the US linked to it.
Also, my jokes tend to be bitter and personal and not even that funny, so I’m filling an overlooked market niche: the bitter, personal, unfunny blog. People were screaming out for this. Too many sites were entertaining and witty.
John Hawkins: I’m sure you page does a massive amount of traffic so why don’t you have advertising on your page?
Tim Blair: Maybe I should have advertising on the page. Hey, Amex, over here! You don’t need that Sullivan guy! Cheaper rates at my site!
As it stands, I don’t even have a tips jar. Something I should do, I guess. Once I learn how. Being a conservative, I should be much greedier, of course. Or so I’m told.
John Hawkins: Why do you think that so many of the popular political websites on the web are conservative?
Tim Blair: Because conservatives are starved for conservative content and analysis in the general media. Lefties always point out Rush and O’Reilly andWill in the US and the few con pundits who exist in Australia, but these people are massively outweighed by the liberal bias of the non-pundit mainstream press. And, for that matter, by the non-con punditry as well. I don’t see the government helping fund a right-wing NPR.
John Hawkins: Let’s say you have someone who just started a political website. What advice would you give them?
Tim Blair: Know your limits. Don’t try to be more productive than Reynolds, more despairing than Juan Gato, more aggressive than Damian Penny, cleverer than Postrel, funnier than Lileks, as pointed as Jacobs, or weirder thanTreacher. Just define your politics, argue them closely, and, whenever you have the chance, insult somebody. Preferably Michael Moore.
Oh, and explore stuff you like outside of politics. I like the dogslife.blogspot site, because I like to read about dogs, although I don’t own one. Natalie Solentwrites wickedly about all sorts of things besides social/political issues. Layne and Welch write these hilarious off-the-cuff one liners they probably don’t think anyone cares about, but which make their sites so readable.
John Hawkins: It seems like everyone has been talking non-stop about the conflict in Middle East for the last week. The only thing anyone seems to agree on is that there is no easy answer. That being said, why don’t a crack at it? How can peace in Middle East be achieved?
Tim Blair: I couldn’t presume to say, except that it most likely will start with getting rid of Arafat. After that, who knows. Different players, different game.
John Hawkins: Why do you think that seemingly the entire world except for the United States has come down so firmly on the side of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians?
Tim Blair: Because the entire world is wrong. As presented by the media, anyway. I can’t believe that global opinion outside of the press is as one-sided. After the big pro-Jewish rallies in Paris last week, I’m sure it’s not.
John Hawkins: Are you surprised at the large rift that’s occurred in US-European relations since Sept 11th and what do you think the implications of that split are?
Tim Blair: Bush foreshadowed the split by announcing early that the US would take action whether any European allies were joining the US or not. Strange, isn’t it; Bush was meant to have no knowledge at all of Europe, but he picked the mood there perfectly.
As for implications ‘ well, none of them are good for Europe.
John Hawkins: Australia doesn’t seem to have the same level of anti-Americanism that many nations in Europe do. Is that the case in your opinion? If so, why do you think that is?
Tim Blair: We’ve got our anti-US forces. Lots of them. We’ve taken the precaution of rounding them up and keeping them penned in newspaper offices.
John Hawkins: Do you think Australia will support the US long term in the war on terrorism? Why so?
Tim Blair: Yeah, we’ll be there. We’re brother nations. Twenty Australians died on September 11. It’s our war, too. And both major parties here know it, deeply.
John Hawkins: If and when do you see the United States hitting Iraq? How do you think it’ll work out?
Tim Blair: It all depends on Iraq’s fearsome Elite Republican Guard. Why, those feisty desert warriors could hold out for minutes. Dozens of US troops will be required. Perhaps they’ll even need their weapons.
Don’t know when, of course. Wouldn’t expect it to last long once it happens.
John Hawkins: Here’s a theoretical question. After the United States topples Saddam Hussein, do you think we’ll hit Iran next if their government hasn’t already toppled by then?
Tim Blair: Hopeful answer: Iran implodes out of fright, and no attacks are needed. It could happen. They’ll have a great view of Saddam’s demise, after all.
John Hawkins: Are there any lessons from the ‘Cold War’ or from ‘WW2′ that we can apply to the ‘War on Terrorism’?
Tim Blair: Yes. That wars can be won. So-called cycles of violence can be ended. Ruined, warlike nations (like Japan after WW2) can become prosperous and peaceful. And liberty will prevail, because it is the strongest force. More people are prepared to die for freedom than for tyranny.
John Hawkins: Could you recommend some of your favorite political websites to the rest of us?
Tim Blair: Apart from the sites mentioned earlier, there’s Drudge, of course. In Australia, www.ipa.org.au, www.cis.org.au, and weeklyjames.blogspot. I used to love Margo Kingston’s Webdiary, but it seems to have been killed.FreeRepublic.com is a fantastic resource. WND has great links, and sometimes lively original copy. Did I mention foxnews.com? I’d better, or Norvell will have my legs broke.
Thanks to Tim for taking the time to do the interview. You can read more of Tim’s witty commentary by clicking here.