Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Surprising Turn of Events

All blogging is an exercise in egomania, an arrogant assumption that someone out there will find what is written interesting. I had an inbuilt advantage in this respect, in that people do seem to be weirdly interested in prisons.

Even so, I thought that my blog would at best be a slow burner, gradually infiltrating its way across the web. The last few weeks, then, have been something of a shock. Google my name and at long last I'm not buried under a zillion entries about a pirate. The Guardian gave me a damn good spread and the Independent did a piece on the votes issue. Most bloggers never see such mainstream attention.

Equally surprising is the level of support that I have received. This has not been universal; many of the comments to my Guardian Online articles were viciously incoherent. This is what I mostly expected and challenging such venom was the main point of my starting the blog. I am nothing if not always available for a good argument. This combativeness doesn't detract from my gratitude to those who have made supportive comments or engaged with my arguments.

Most surprising was that I became a story in its own right. I laid out my stall in my initial posts, in that I hoped to provoke debate. This was never intended to spark any sort of campaign over my imprisonment, only over prison per se.

This places me in a dilemma. Should I now ride the wave and foster a campaign on my behalf? Or should I continue the blog as originally intended? Given my unexpected prominence and audience, it would be selfish of me to merely promote myself and my situation. In which case, I have decided to continue the blog as intended, that is to be a general commentary but added to with a greater intrusion of my personal situation. Little pieces of autobiography can serve as useful illustrations to a broader point. Trying to please everybody risks pleasing nobody, I realise, but the truth is that I am but one amongst many and if I can use my situation to raise awareness of the general situation then it is only proper that I should do so.

And having gained a following, the temptation is to avoid saying anything that could upset anyone. But those who know me would explain just how unlikely that is. I hope to continue being challenging and I can only hope that this is taken in the spirit in which it is offered.

All in all, the past few weeks have been a very surprising turn of events. Thanks for your involvement.


  1. Ben,
    it's your blog. And as someone who has been blogging regularly for four years (albeit with access to a computer - yeah, I know I'm just showing off now), I'd say that because it's your blog you have to run it in the way you feel most comfortable with.

    Whether that's campaigning, insights, funny incidents, autobiographical detail or whatever, it has to be you.

    Hopefully this comment will be passed on to you at some point :-)

  2. You must do whatever sits well in your own soul, but personally I feel that you are of much more use to society *out* of jail considering the fact you've used your time in jail productively, and strived to understand not only your own behaviour but also how you can use that understanding for the good of others who would otherwise end up in the same place.

  3. Well it doesn't stop you using your blog occasionally to publicise any efforts to get you freed. Assuming you have a good case, which your posts so far seem to indicate, then I think that you would receive support.

    Good luck in getting into the real world.

  4. It's because you write well and have interesting things to say. Just keep going the way you have been, and you can make a difference.

  5. I'm glad to hear you've decided to carry on as intended Ben. This is definitely one of the most interesting and thought provoking blogs I've ever read.

    Keep it up!

  6. I don't think you have much choice, you have become a cause and people will now fight for you. It would almost be churlish not to ride that wave ;)

    I am convinced that you can do more to fight for prison reform from the outside than you can from where you are now.

    Keep it up.

  7. I would be a bit careful about obviously campaigning on your behalf Ben as firstly it might be seen badly by THEM and secondly you don't want to prejudice any court case. By all means give us snippets of biography, but let it stand on its own.

    We can draw our own conclusions.

  8. Difficult. I would continue as you are and keep us abreast of developments particularly regarding your move to an open prison and release. If the same thing happens as before (Parole Boards agrees to release, Justice Secretary does not) them I am sure some may want to bombard the Department of Justice etc etc.

    I will not always agree with you Ben particularly relating to prison service management or indeed any management issues. I do understand your stance which is shaped by your reality. However, I will sometimes offer alternate positions in an attempt to offer a balanced argument. I always feel that if one is experiencing difficulties then it helps to have another voice which you may not always want to hear. It is always wrong to collude out of sympathy and not helpful in the long term.

  9. My first visit to your blog, which I really like. Keep it up, in the form you've been doing it so far, is my advice. If something's not broke, it doesn't need fixed.

    It's so incredibly helpful to get the reality of Prisonworld more fully understood by the public as the tabloid media... well, better not finish that sentence!

    I'm trying to do the same with my blog, albeit as staff rather than prisoner. A prisoner's eye view is extremely valuable.