WordPress have recently updated the statistical information they provide for bloggers. It is now possible not only to count the number of visitors to a site, but to map where they come from. The geographical statistics for this blog make interesting reading, both for what they show and for the silences – I would never have guessed that I had dedicated readers in Nepal and Saudi Arabia, for instance.
Given that this is a blog about British anti-apartheid activism, it is not surprising that half of the blog’s readers come from the UK and the third largest national readership is in South Africa. Just short of 80% of readers reside in three countries: the UK, the USA and South Africa. There are respectable readerships in Australia, Canada and several European countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain). Beyond that, there are small readerships scattered across the rest of Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Each entry that is posted in this blog is sent to people who have subscribed to it and to my personal networks on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Given the right search terms these posts can be found quite easily on Google, and they can be found on WordPress through various tag categories. Through these social media networks the links get sent to a mix of personal friends, academic colleagues and former Non-Stop Picketers. Some of them are generous enough to forward posts they find interesting to their own networks. Through these personal networks, I can (in all probability) name the lone readers in Denmark and Iceland, both readers in Brazil and several of the Taiwanese readers.
What I find fascinating are one or two of the gaps, the loud silences, where there are very few readers. No more so than in relation to Ireland. Over the years many Irish activists participated in the Non-Stop Picket of the South African Embassy in London. The City of London Anti-Apartheid Group made links with the Dunnes Store Strikers in Dublin, and others on the Irish Left and in the Republican movement who were campaigning against apartheid. City Group’s anti-imperialist understanding of the struggle against apartheid led the group to send contingents on many Irish solidarity demonstrations and to draw parallels between British colonialism in Ireland and South Africa. Despite these links, and a long history of Irish support for anti-colonial struggles around the world, this blog receives virtually no hits from Ireland. So few in fact that not even all the Irish-based friends and colleagues in my personal online networks can have read a single page on the site. To me, this poses some interesting questions about the changes in Irish politics over the last twenty years – what was it about the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, or even the crash and austerity of the last few years that has disengaged Irish people from international solidarity? Has the focus of those sections the Irish Left that are interested in international solidarity work shifted so entirely to Israel/Palestine (another territory where virtually no-one reads this blog) that earlier histories of solidarity work have been forgotten?
Beyond my surprise and disgruntlement at not having an audience in Ireland, I suspect Irish (lack of) engagement with this blog is indicative of wider shifts in how Irish people understand Ireland’s place in the world. I’d be interested to hear what you think – especially if you are in Ireland!