It seems that blogging is going mainstream. The New Republic, a magazine almost 100 years old, has just started its own blog, called &c.
A “blog,” (for those who don’t know, short for “weblog”)
is a website that is updated regularly–daily, sometimes more often–by
its author or authors, with comments, thoughts, and links to other
sites. Blogs are just websites, really–the only difference is that
most blogs are created by services like blogspot.com,
which generate html and publish it to the net, freeing the author
of any need for technical skills. There are hundreds of thousands
of blogs on the net, more every day, on every conceivable topic.
The “democratization of publishing” promised by the internet
is here, and its face is blogging.
It used to be that all of these
sites were small-time affairs, read by tiny groups with similar
interests (goth fashion, Kirsten Dunst’s dietary habits, you name
it). Over the past few years, however, several well–established
political commentators have started their own blogs–one of the
first was Mickey Kaus’ Kausfiles,
which is now part of Slate–and
now magazines and newspaper websites are following suit.
The attraction is obvious. An author
doesn’t have to wait on a publication schedule. He/she can write
things down as he/she thinks of them, making up-to-the-minute comments
on breaking news (or whatever). Also, the format is informal, allowing
for humor, speculation, and more personality than officially published
Many high-profile blogs contain
links allowing regular readers to make donations. In a Sep.
30 post on his Daily Dish
blog, Andrew Sullivan, a right-wing homosexual (one of… uh…
one), boasted receiving 230,000 hits in the past week. Sullivan,
who was fired from the New York Times for (he alleges) reasons of
pure political bias, has become something of a celebrity in the
“blogosphere” (a typically awkward piece of terminology
in these circles).
When I first conceived of this site,
I was attracted to the idea of putting a blog in it. It’s a way
of getting political opinions on the web without running a gauntlet
of editors, and–why lie?–a way of impressing said editors. I was
particularly inspired by Josh Marshall’s Talking
Points Memo, a blog that has just the right balance of timely
news, interesting links, and self-deprecating wit.
However, as I surfed around to more
and more blogs, the idea lost its charm. For every high-traffic,
eloquent public commentary like Marshall’s, there are a hundred
by pundit wannabes,
little more than nagging ideological attacks on other blogs, like
marginalized loners in the cafeteria trying to make friends by attacking
the popular kids. The closer one gets to the “blogosphere,”
the more it looks like a world I am all-too-familiar with: academia.
It’s a relatively small group of people, desperate for each other’s
attention, an insular group that follows their sub-domain obsessively,
seemingly at the expense of a larger perspective on contemporary
culture and historical trends.
I won’t deny that I like the idea
of lots of people interested enough in what I think to come read
about it on a regular basis. But to get there, I would have to do
what the political bloggers do: move to D.C., network desperately,
read the Washington and New York Times every day, and immerse myself
in the minutiae of political back-biting, in the hopes of getting
one of the important people to notice me and link to my site.
It’s no virtue, I suppose, but my
entire life I have been averse to that kind of excess specialization.
I know lots more than the average guy about politics, but not nearly
as much as the Marshalls or Sullivans. The same could be said about
my knowledge of music, web design, movies, philosophy, history,
cooking… you name it. I am a textbook dilettante, and there’s
just no room for dilettantes these days. There are too many voices,
too many people clamoring for attention, too many willing to learn
everything about one thing.
It may consign me to a life as a
non-entity, publicly speaking, but I just can’t sacrifice my curiosity
about so many things in the pursuit of one thing. So, this journal
(I’m not calling it a blog because, 1. I hate that word with a passion,
and 2. it’s not about one thing, but about whatever crosses my mind–i.e.,
about me–and that’s not a topic the public is particularly interested
in) will be read by family and a few friends, perhaps, and no more.
For now, it’s a sacrifice I can’t see any way around making.
Upon reflection, I worried that maybe this post is
self-serving and immature, tantamount to saying that I didn’t
want to do the research to get all the facts, I just wanted to give
my opinion; opinions, however, are like assholes, and everybody’s
got one, and if I don’t want to become knowledgeable enough to write
worthwhile political commentary, then I don’t deserve to be read,
right? Then I read the first paragraph on this
blog, and I’m back to the high-school-cafeteria theory.