A few years ago I was doing some analysis of blogging as part of a PhD examining different forms of alternative media amid claims that the internet would lead to a reinvigorated public sphere. In that analysis I was critical of blogs, arguing they were spaces where like people had like conversations that usually ended in furious agreement. But the Overland blog – where there is often furious disagreement – proved me wrong. Overland bloggers might identify as lefties but don’t assume this to mean they speak in one unified voice. In fact, I’ve been challenged by the many different perspectives of the community of writers and readers that make up Overland on topics ranging from politics to literature.
This was really brought home when I posted a blog discussing Julia Gillard’s replacement of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister; the title of the blog, Shafting Kevin – not such a great day for feminists, should give you an idea of the tone.
The blog was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek piece critical of Gillard and her feminist credentials in the context of her role in the clandestine removal of Rudd. Not for a moment did I expect the blog would run hot and that 99 per cent of women who responded would be hugely pissed off with me. Nor, when I posted, did I anticipate I’d spend the next few days feeling like the Bettina Arndt of feminists.
I do confess to succumbing to the foetal position when women I admired took me to task. Part of the therapy that followed was to remind myself that one of the reasons I write is to stimulate debate. It seemed, however unwittingly, I’d achieved that spectacularly.
This brings me to something I most admire about Overland: the voice it gives women; passionate, artistic, thoughtful, intelligent, articulate women whose different histories and backgrounds, talent and knowledge make for diverse and lively conversations. They are women with something to say and they say it loud and strong.
As well as encouraging women and alternative points of view, Overland also supports new writers providing them with a forum and reach not often available in the very small pond that is Australia. No matter how good a swimmer you are nor how pretty your fin, it is difficult for new writers to get noticed when publishers look to the usual suspects to sell their wares.
It has been satisfying to see the faith and investment of Overland in new writers borne out by the names of its bloggers appearing on long lists and short lists for outstanding writing around the country.
One of the freedoms of writing for Overland is that writers don’t need to self-censor – arguably one of the most insidious and pervasive forms of censorship – as sometime happens when writing for mainstream publications. I got to blog a not-so-flattering piece critiquing sex in The Slap even though Overland is, with good reason, a great admirer and supporter of author Christos Tsiolkas. Methinks Christos would be the first to salute Overland for giving writers freedom to write without fear or favour.
But as well as a medium for serious discussion, Overland has a sense of humour and the blog gets downright groovy when it comes to music.
So, if you want to have a say about what is or isn’t great music, if you care about diversity, if you support the voice of women, if you want to read fiction that tugs at your brain as well as your heart, and yearn for more than the limited point of view you read in mainstream media, subscribe to Overland.
I came across this quote from H L Mencken in Toni Jordan’s Fall Girl that is as relevant today as it ever was: ‘the people the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.’
Support truth-tellers, support Overland.