If for some bizarre reason you've been checking in here [Hi Mom! - ed.] you may have noticed a certain lack of - what do they call it? - content. My "writing" for the last month or so has consisted entirely of dyspeptic comments on other blogs, culminating with my spleen-venting here, which caused to Judith to comment "Boy, are you in a bad mood . . ." Indeed I am! For one of a handful of occasions since I started this little blog I actually am feeling downright curmudgeonly.
One reason for this, the major reason probably, is that I'm working an absolutely horrible temp assignment for some shyster personal injury attorneys. I didn't go to northern New Hampshire to work for free to elect George Bush back in November so I'd end up working for some sleazebags who make John Edwards look ethical now goddamit!
Simultaneously I haven't been posting here or even reading political blogs as much as I used to because I'm in a very bad mood with the political blogosphere in general. (Beginning with the fact that political bloggers insist on merely calling themselves "bloggers" as if they represented the only manifestation of the blogging phenomenon, or even the most important one.) I wrote Judith a similar e-mail describing my annoyance with blogs. Below is a slightly cleaned up version of my e-mail about my problems with the political blogosphere. Keep in mind that I include my own intermittent, humble efforts at blogging in the following criticisms:
1. This dumb Julia Gorin piece which everyone linked to is but the latest manifestation of the trend of every blogger linking to any random piece of crap just for the sake of linking it. The piece was indeed a piece of crap. It wasn't funny. It wasn't clever, and the point it made was fatuous, yet it was the toast of the day, because it had the word libertarian in it and because it quoted a blogger.And about that quote from Karol. As I understand it, she later made it clear on her blog that her quip was based entirely on one ONE friend of hers. So, to get this straight here, we have a journalist contacting a friend who has similar political opinions to get a quote - based entirely on anecdotal evidence and speculation - that she hangs a large part of her op-ed upon. How is this different than Big Media hackery again? (But of course to many political bloggers even though the piece is published in the Wall Street Journal and is written by someone who is regularly published in the Journal, The New York Observer etc. - because the author is a conservative and is friendly with bloggers - it will never be seen as part of the dread, evil, horrible MSM.)
2. The insane blogger triumphalism/self-involvement. Remember how one of the criticisms of Big Media was that it was too self-involved, how it always made the story about itself? Have you noticed how blogs have been doing the same thing? It started with the tsunami. From reading blogs I got the idea that the salient point about the tsunami wasn't that 250,000 + people had died but that the tsunami story showed that blogs had truly arrived.
3. The need to have a knee-jerk, unreasoned, highly emotional response to every single damn fucking thing. Can't Jarvis and Simon and the rest of them get off the computer and help their wives out for a second? Just because you have a platform where you can publish all the time doesn't mean that you should.
4. A corrolary of 3 is how cliquish and juvenile the whole enterprise has become. If you dis a given politician, pundit, or god forbid, blogger, then immediately that blogger/pundit/politician's entire fan club attacks you, most often with personal insults. (All the while, Reynolds links with "Jarvis smacks down Cole" or some such line, like a blogospheric gossip columnist.) Thinking, actually analyzing an issue, (which I think was the point originally, right?) has been completely lost. It's all about representin' your homies, a sort of geeky, boring version of the "rap wars" going on these days. If any thinking occurs it's after the fact as a retroactive justification for lashing out. As Kevin Drum (a blogger I'm normally not a fan of) once noted:
In fact, the political blogosphere is far more partisan than any organ of the mainstream media, more partisan than most op-ed pages, and most of the time more partisan than even the overtly political magazines. The blogosphere is about the most partisan and least independent voice this side of talk radio.
What I think most typically characterizes partisan hackery in blogdom is that peculiarly blind, unthinking leap to defend the positions - any positions - of one's 'man'. The initial stand on an issue is not the product of a little bit of thought, it is always the instinctive leap to the Man's side of the debate. The position is chosen first, the thinking comes much later (if at all), and then only to provide justification.
One thing we have not discussed about blogs is the extent to which they are a waste of time. The thing that struck me during my week or so of very elementary and intermittent bloggery is that it is very seductive. (It also helps overcome byline withdrawal.) It would be easy to shirk my job and swap thoughts with you and yours, and the time flies by and at the end we've generated an exchange that will be skimmed in haste by some number of people, to what end? And the same thing that is true of blogging is true of reading blogs, which I do pretty regularly: you can while away endless hours, skipping over the surface of half-baked thoughts and every so often colliding with something original or unexpected. Or you could play with your kids. Or go to a museum. Or read a good book. (Or a good newspaper!)