Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Blobosphere

I was going to write about Anne Applebaum's article blaming the "Old Europe" for not fixing America's problems in Iraq after America spat on it, but others have been doing it without any help from me. Though you might want to read an old post of mine using a parable to explain why Europeans are annoyed and not too eager to help.

As my first choice was taken, I'm going to steal another choice from Shakespeare's Sister and talk about the Blob Mob, subtitled ""Written by fools to be read by imbeciles", by Joseph Rago.

Rago works for the Wall Street Journal and looks down on blogs:

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.

Nobody wants to be an imbecile. Part of it, I think, is that everyone likes shows and entertainments. Mobs are exciting. People also like validation of what they already believe; the Internet, like all free markets, has a way of gratifying the mediocrity of the masses. And part of it, especially in politics, has to do with conservatives. In their frustration with the ancien régime, conservatives quite eagerly traded for an enlarged discourse. In the process they created a counterestablishment, one that has adopted the same reductive habits they used to complain about. The quarrel over one discrete set of standards did a lot to pull down the very idea of standards.

Hohum. I have no idea why I wrote "hohum". Because I'm a blobhead?

But isn't it interesting how the wingnuts pursue populist policies of the nastiest kind: those encouraging racism and sexism and xenophobia, yet at the same time the populism of the blogs is a source of great condescending merriment? "The mediocrity of the masses?" Gulp. My mass isn't that great, goddesses being mostly of air, but I get the idea.

Rago makes a few pertinent points. For instance, it is true that blogs have so far been of limited value in debates across the aisle dividing political opinions. Most of that debate has turned into trolling. But the mainstream media (coughthe editorial page of Wall Street Journalcough) isn't any more capable of considered debate across party lines.

Likewise, Rago's statement that "people also like validation of what they already believe" is pretty much reflected in how people read newspapers or watch television. Those eager faces focused on Fox News don't belong to liberals or progressives (unless someone is paying them to monitor O'Reilly or Hannity). Could it be that Rago dislikes the validation aspect of blogs because it is about the only place now where progressives opinions get validated?

Are the blogs successful simply because "free markets always reward mediocrity"? (What on earth made a conservative write something like that?) I believe that at least part of the success of blogs is in the gaps they fill. There are points of view and opinions which the traditional media will not touch. For example, if you want to read about feminism what do you find in the mainstream media? Articles about feminazism, political correctness, the war against boys, the opt-out revolution of career women and so on. With the exception of a few magazines, not much which would give feminism any positive credit and not much which shows some study of the field. For those you have to turn to blogs.

Have a cocktail weenie, Joseph:

Oh, I forgot to add: The blogs have a fairly nice price, too.