Biblioblogging in an Age of Neoliberalism 1

Biblioblogging can show the connections between scholarship and contemporary cultural trends partly for the reason of a tendency towards explicitness on a range of topics. Through biblioblogging, the conventional constraints of academic publishing are considerably looser and it means bloggers can be overtly political and engage with a whole range of cultural and current events. Furthermore, it is intimately tied in with the tendencies of the mainstream media and it regularly mimics and replicates the very style of (for instance) newspapers, the online versions of which also typically have a number of blogs. At the same time, blogging is still part of the public persona of the scholar (and here I would put a blogger’s personal politics to one side) and so it becomes an ideal collection of material for testing the role of ideology and cultural trends in contemporary scholarship.

When it came to dominant positions concerning the Middle East, bibliobloggers followed dominant mainstream media positions. There were a very small minority of exceptions, but these were typically marginalized or ignored. This pattern remains the same when it comes to the acceptance of the validity of neoliberalism and related -isms. In Jesus in an Age of Neoliberalism, this is shown through two test cases: the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and a pseudonymous blogger.

The Haiti earthquake certainly did provoke a deeply sympathetic response on the biblioblogs, but also covered over the effects of neoliberalism which appear to have played no small part in the disastrous aftermath. In particular, this masking involved the ways in which vague concepts relating to ‘religion’, ‘Scripture’ and ‘God’ can be brought in to cover over some of the uncomfortable issues surrounding external involvement in human suffering. Similarly, a key ideological function of the far right and extremism – to bolster the benevolence and credibility of the centre and the liberal consensus – was echoed on the biblioblogs. In the case of Haiti, the hate figure was Pat Robertson. Robertson infamously claimed as a ‘true story’ that the Haitians ‘swore a pact to the Devil’ to drive out the French and ever since they have been cursed. Like the widespread media reporting of this somewhat ‘distinctive’ take on history, there was strong condemnation across several biblioblogs with plenty of further condemnation in the comments sections. This is not, of course, to defend Robertson in any way nor to disagree with the general view on the biblioblogs (on the contrary). The point is to look at his ideological function. The constant criticisms of Robertson played their part in the manufacturing of catastrophe and deflecting the problems away from the (neo-)liberal consensus.

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