April 6, 2006

"Man, was I wrong."

Writes Matt Welch, looking back on his old optimism about bloggers, in contrast to mainstream media pundits:
“What do warbloggers have in common, that most pundits do not?” I enthused. “I’d say a yen for critical thinking, a sense of humor that actually translates into people laughing out loud, a willingness to engage (and encourage) readers, a hostility to the Culture War and other artifacts of the professionalized left-right split of the 1990s…a readiness to admit error [and] a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review.”
What's Welch so upset about? Blogging -- as he sees it, on the brink of quitting Hit & Run to go work for the L.A. Times -- devolved into partisan sniping:
I can’t shake the feeling of nostalgia for a promising cross-partisan moment that just fizzled away. Americans are always much more interesting than their political parties or ideological labels, and for a few months there it was possible for readers and writers alike to feel the unfamiliar slap of collisions with worlds they’d previously sealed off from themselves. You couldn’t predict what anyone would say, especially yourself.
People blog for lots of different reasons, and blogging is still burgeoning and developing. Don't cave into nostalgia for a Golden Age, especially one that got its golden glow from the horror that was 9/11. Things were bound to change and shake around, and some bloggers that you liked then may put you off now. But there are always a million new bloggers, and blogging is a beautifully fruitful format. The great power of blogging is the way it releases the creativity of the individual mind. That sense of not being able to predict your own opinions and observations -- that feeling of writing to discover your own ideas and interests -- is the great intrinsic value of blogging. There will always be millions of individuals blogging for the sheer joy of self-expression. Find them.

24 comments:

Goesh said...

Amen.

chezDiva said...

Ann,

I think you have it right and Matt seems to have completely missed the
point of what blogging is. He seems to equate blogging with the national unity that occurred after 9/11. But blogging wasn't responsible for the unity. It was individual bloggers who at some point in the past may have disagreed with each other politically but had come together as Americans to decry the unprovoked attack on this country.

It isn't realistic to expect a "cross-partisan moment" to last beyond the period of shock and unity soley because one blogs. That is up to us the people and if we haven't been able to pull it off before blogs it is unlikely that it will occur because of blogs or technology.

sonicfrog said...

What, so it's a surprise that we can't talk politics on the web without getting snarkey?!? What's the big deal. It's difficult to talk politics at the dinner table without idealogical worlds colliding, and this is with your family and loved ones. So what makes anyone think it would be any different on the web?

When I started to blog, I thought I would be writing tons of stuff about politics because I love the game. I'm not much of a partisan and not so keen on ideology. I am more tuned in to the campaign, the process of winning or losing the hearts and minds of Joe and Joan Q. Public that gets my antenna pulsing. That being said, I haven't written much about politics at all, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps I don't feel qualified. Maybe taking that path would require more time investment that I am willing to give. Or maybe there are already so many political blogs out there, why plant a sapling in a dense forest that won't get any light?

I just realized as I was writing about not covering politics at Sonicfrog, if you go to my blog right now, you'll see a political post among the most recent, so maybe I'm just full of crap:-)

VICTOR said...

Blogging may be burgeoning but there's certainly a shift that took place with many of the more popular blogs. Many have slowed down and don't post with the same quality any more. That's the wierd thing about blogging they're not to consistent.

Take blogs like Volokh and Powerline for example. They're totally different (and IMO) less readable than they were one year ago.

Der Hahn said...

I can’t shake the feeling of nostalgia for a promising cross-partisan moment that just fizzled away.

They were all supposed to realize they were *libertarians*, dammit!

J said...

"I used to think blogs would transform ideologues into nonpartisan truth-seekers. Man, was I wrong."

Detached from reality and unbelievably naive too. The whole article had a petulant "taking my marbles and going home" odor to it. I guess I'm sorry things didn't work out Matt's way, but at least he's got a new job at the LAT. Any other Reason subscribers feel like the magazine has veered left since Nick took over?

AJ Lynch said...

It's fairly predictable behavior for someone to vent about a job or industry they are leaving. Especially media types. And sports types that hop back and forth from the front office to the broadcast booth.

Recent media example include Cronkite, Aaron Brown, Ted Koppel, etc. Why should this kid be any different?

In some cases, you have to view as sour grapes after sucking at the teat for years.

Thorley Winston said...

Detached from reality and unbelievably naive too. The whole article had a petulant "taking my marbles and going home" odor to it. I guess I'm sorry things didn't work out Matt's way, but at least he's got a new job at the LAT. Any other Reason subscribers feel like the magazine has veered left since Nick took over?

Yes, my understanding though is that this was an intentional marketing decision on Gillespie’s part in that he wanted the magazine to focus less on economic and public policy issues (which tended to appeal to more Republican-leaning readers) and more on trying to attract “libertarian Democrats” (as if the term were anything more than an oxymoron). Hence the focus on so-called “same sex” marriage, the FCC, drugs, and profanity-laced diatribes against pretty much anything to do with the war.

Gaius Arbo said...

I think he's wrong. There ae so many people blogging about so many things in so many different ways.

I doubt it will ever be a huge monolith, blogs will come and go, quality will rise and fall.

But isn't that how it should be?

verification: ufmmwa - sounds vaguely profane....

reader_iam said...

"I used to think blogs would transform ideologues into nonpartisan truth-seekers. Man, was I wrong."

In a simplistic nutshell, this is one of the overwhelming problems with the whole pie-in-the-sky "citizenjournalist" notion. The medium may be the message, but it sure ain't a miracle-worker--especially when it comes to human nature.

Matt Barr said...

Read the piece a few weeks ago in the print edition. It struck me as an answer to the question, which probably only Matt Welch ever asked, "why didn't blogging pioneer Matt Welch become an A-list blogger?" That could be far fron what he was thinking, but that's how it sounded. Back when I started my blog, blogging was cool, and then... everybody else made blogging less cool.

David said...

Yes blogging can be "beautifully fruitful", but it can also be amazingly fruity.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Excellent comments!

Citizen Grim said...

He's just reading all the wrong blogs, apparently. I read a spectacular non-partisan post today about football today (er... non-partisan politically, anyway) and yesterday, I read about how to feed wild birds out of your hand.

If you go reading political blogs, of course they're going to be political...

XWL said...

And let's not forget it's 'THEY' who screwed up the possibility for a more agreeable polity and not 'US'.

(It doesn't matter how you define us/them, you hear that argument across identity groups regardless of the organizing principle (be it ethnic, religious, ideological))

In Mr. Welch's defense, I understand where he's coming from, but I think he's wrong.

I think you can be partisan, respect the folks of the other side, respect their right to hold their opinions, but find their opinions themselves ridiculous, and even contemptous at times, and when expressing that ridicule and contempt have some fun.

Plus, so far Mr. Welch hasn't shown much of an impact on the LATimes editorial page, it still ranges from banal to infuriating, and mostly unengaging.

(An OpEd page need not be entertaining (though it helps) but it should at least be thought provoking, if it's neither, it's a waste of space)

Maxine said...

I agree completely with your view.

I've rambled on too much on this posting, but here's something I wrote about blogging and "placeism".

http://petrona-maxine.blogspot.com/2006/03/placeism-in-global-network.html

Would never have occurred to me to think this way until I discovered blogging in December. What an experience. It is fantastic--- and a lot cheaper than psychotherapy ;-)

myelectionanalysis.com said...

Good points all. But a couple months ago, I went rooting through the Kos archives from 2002 and early 2003. The difference is astounding. Kind references to Instapundit, lack of profanity (it funny to read him refer to "crap"), etc. While there's still a ton of potential, something has changed in the last 2-3 years, and not necessarily for the better.

kmg4 said...

Another emerging ecosystem that will be very similar to blogging is machinima.

What is machinima? Think of what blogs are to Big Media, that is what machinima will be to the film industry.

The technology will get there in a few years. It will be great fun.

knoxgirl said...

That article's just plain weird.

He's leaving "Hit & Run" to go to the..... LA Times????

Because *blogging* is lame?????????

Oh-kay....

MikeT said...

While I agree with you in many respects, I think that Matt's assertions have a lot in them that needs to be considered. The Michelle Malkin thing in particular reveals a weakness in the "blogosphere," and many people aren't aware that another blogger, Vox Day, probably went even further than Muller in tearing her up. You can read the whole thing between them on his blog and WorldNetDaily.com's commentary archives.

More thoughts on what Matt was saying here.

peter hoh said...

Ann wrote: That sense of not being able to predict your own opinions and observations -- that feeling of writing to discover your own ideas and interests

That's blogging. There needs to be another term for those "blogs" which exist to support a particular point of view, where neither the writer nor the reader are ever likely to be surprised. I suggest we call them flogs.

Ann Althouse said...

I agree that Matt made many good criticisms.

Barry said...

I thought I was going to be a big time blogger- I got linked on a few blogs, even had an email comment of mine quoted in The Corner on Election Day 2004. But after a while it became clear that I was just another fish in a very big sea- with everybody blogging about the same things at the same time, linking to each other in predictable patterns.

It seems everybody wants to be the next Powerline or Daily Kos, just as all journalism school graduates after 1974 wanted to be the next Woodward/Bernstein. Most will fall short, get bored, and try something else. I did.

So I scaled back my blog and made it more personal. You want cutting edge political comment? I can't help you. I have some great vacation photos of Utah, though...