No Fan, He
Joseph Rago of the Wall Street Journal is less than enamored of blogs:
The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.
More success is met in purveying opinion and comment. Some critics reproach the blogs for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs, they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren’t much rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.
Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . .
Is that all? Jeez, that’s a pretty devastating bill of indictment (though much, if not most of it, is true). Rago continues:
Because political blogs are predictable, they are excruciatingly boring. More acutely, they promote intellectual disingenuousness, with every constituency hostage to its assumptions and the party line. Thus the right-leaning blogs exhaustively pursue second-order distractions–John Kerry always providing useful material–while leaving underexamined more fundamental issues, say, Iraq. Conservatives have long taken it as self-evident that the press unfavorably distorts the war, which may be the case; but today that country is a vastation, and the unified field theory of media bias has not been altered one jot.
Leftward fatuities too are easily found: The fatuity matters more than the politics. If the blogs have enthusiastically endorsed Joseph Conrad’s judgment of newspapering–”written by fools to be read by imbeciles”–they have also demonstrated a remarkable ecumenicalism in filling out that same role themselves.
Are most blogs awful? Indeed, they are. So is most of what passes for entertainment on, say, television. But the price is right, and there are some jewels among the dreck.
Do we spend time on minutiae, such as John Kerry? Indeed, we do (and I’m going to keep doing so, by God! – but you know, the guy was the Democratic nominee for President just two short years ago). But we DON’T shortchange Iraq; indeed, the fact that Rago could make such an assertion makes me wonder just WHICH blogs he is frequenting. I dare say even on this humble blog I’ve spilt hundreds of thousands of words on Iraq. Was all of it a valuable contribution? No, not even most of it. But over time, I’ve carved out real positions, and engaged in dialogue with my readers and commenters, and both been persuaded and persuaded some myself.
So, in the spirit of Christmas, I say to you, Mr. Rago: Bah! Humbug!…