October 19, 2008

Andrew Sullivan has a long essay in the November Atlantic called "Why I Blog."

My first thought was: How weird to go on about this today. But then: How bloggish of me to think that nothing that could have been said years ago is worth saying today:
Blogging is ... to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.

You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world.... [A] blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before....

Alas, as I soon discovered, this sudden freedom from above was immediately replaced by insurrection from below. Within minutes of my posting something, even in the earliest days, readers responded. E-mail seemed to unleash their inner beast. They were more brutal than any editor, more persnickety than any copy editor, and more emotionally unstable than any colleague.
E-mail! You're not truly exposed until you have comments, and Sullivan doesn't, nor does he talk about why he doesn't. (He also doesn't talk about using the blog to enthuse over and over about a political candidate.)

But if you're looking for a long-form essay about blogging -- are you the kind of person who buys a paper copy of The Atlantic? -- this is nicely done.

30 comments:

Nickname unavailable said...

I subscribed to the paper edition of The Atlantic for about three years, beginning in 2002. I had to discontinue my subscription as BDS took over too many of the editorial decisions. Andrew Sullivan, who supported the war against Saddam Hussein, has his own special form of derangement, Trig Amniocentesis Obsession, or TAOism.

Palladian said...

"Andrew Sullivan has a long essay in the November Atlantic called "Why I Blog.""

Those who can't do, blog. Present company excepted, of course!

Palladian said...

OK, to follow up on the Annie Hall reference:

Those who can't blog, comment on blogs. And those who can't do anything send email comments to Andrew Sullivan.

Bissage said...

(1) Thanks for the recommendation to read Mr. Sullivan’s piece, Professor, but I only got so far as the word “grappling” before I had to stop with a terrible cramp in the part of my brain that controls my patience.

(2) I think they used to send me the Atlantic for free back in the 90s. I can’t recall ever reading anything other than the letters to the editor section. I’m pretty sure I used to pay attention to the art thingie they would put on the last page, IIRC.

Oh yeah, I think I might have bought a watch because I saw it advertised in the Atlantic. Can’t be positively sure about that, though.

Host with the Most said...

Andrew Sullivan is all about his dick first, above all else. Which is fine, but Andrew's main agenda is to get same-sex marraige passed no matter what the cost. He supports the lying scum who try to keep voters away from supporting Prop 8 in California with the lies of "It has nothing to do with affecting religion or churches".

Government Persecution of Christians for their personal beliefs about homosexuality has already begun:

April 2008: New Mexico commission orders $6,000 fine for Christian beliefs

August 2008: Doctors Religious objection overuled in elective medical procedure

And that's just 2 to start. And if Prop 8 doesn't pass, it's just a matter of time before California churches are sued to suppress their Constitutional rights of freedom of religion.

Andrew and his fellow haters of Christians won't be happy until pastors and churches are forced to recognize, and eventually perform, same-sex marriages.

That is why Andrew Sullivan blogs. If he were heterosexual, he would be the same lying person he is today.

Palladian said...

"Andrew Sullivan is all about his dick first, above all else."

Really? Because that doesn't make sense. Andrew Sullivan and every other gay person in the U.S. already has the right to put their "dick" in any legal, consensual orifice that they choose. If it's all about sex, we've already won. So then it must be about something else. I don't like Andrew Sullivan, but his feelings about gay marriage must have to do with something more than his "dick".

miller said...

I don't mean to be snarky, but exactly why do so many people think this guy is interesting or important?

I mean, really.

Suppose you weren't already reading him. Would you choose to read him?

And if you're already reading him, is it more a habit than an informed decision?

I find him boring and shrill, no more than the written exemplar of Keith Olberman. His opinions are tiresome and predictable.

At least Camille Paglia is unpredictable, irreverent, and funny. She shocks the left and the right. Plus, she posts to a forum that has a fair number of people who disagree with her. This guy's blog is nearly 100% effusive praise on how wonderful he is and how cogent his insights are.

Spare me. It's the worst of self-adulation, the equivalent of the shallow "Enough of me talking about myself. Now, you talk about me."

Chris Wren said...

"You're not truly exposed until you have comments, and Sullivan doesn't, nor does he talk about why he doesn't. "

Preeeeecisely. If you don't have comments, you're not really flying without a net. So I don't need to hear the "X-TREME SPORTS" analogies from Andrew. Much as I like his writing, he's not 100% on board with blogging. He's an online editorialist.

miller said...

I would emend to "an online editorialist who's paid by the word and has no senior editor."

That's not writing. It's typing.

Kansas City said...

Miller asks a good question about why anyone would find Sullivan's writing interesting or important.

Sullivan is a self important and self obsessed guy, who used his sexual orientation and supposed conservative views to make a name for himself, then went into a combination of absurdity, emotional rants, conspiracy theories and egotism.

John Stodder said...

I don't mean to be snarky, but exactly why do so many people think this guy is interesting or important?

It is remarkable, how far Andrew Sullivan has fallen. Long before I got hooked on Althouse, I read Sullivan's old blog several times a day. He was similar to Ann in that he was an intelligent, unpredictable companion through the news of the day, with some interesting enthusiasms on the side. It is just plain astonishing how far his writing, thinking and ethical bearings have all declined.

It used to bother me a little that he didn't have comments because I thought a lively discussion could have ensued, as often happens here, across a multi-partisan span.

Now, it's pretty obvious that he doesn't post comments because he can't bear disagreement, can't hold up to fact checking, can't let his editors see him being exposed daily as a debased fraud. In short, he's a coward, probably the most cowardly blogger of them all, a weak-kneed bully.

Roger von Oech said...

I used to read Sullivan back in 2003-04, but hardly at all since then — after he morphed into Keith Olbermann.

I agree with your comments about comments, Ann. Your commentary is interesting, but what really makes your blog are the comments!

I wish Glenn Reynolds had comments — at least on some of his posts.

Isaac said...

He does address comments -- or lack thereof. He writes:

A good blog is your own private Wikipedia. Indeed, the most pleasant surprise of blogging has been the number of people working in law or government or academia or rearing kids at home who have real literary talent and real knowledge,and who had no outlet -- until now. There is a distinction, of course, between the eduted use of e-mailed sources by a careful blogger and the often mercurial cacophony on an unmediated comments section. But the truth is out there -- and the miracle of e-mail allows it to come to you.

(Bottom of page 112, left hand column).

Palladian said...

"A good blog is your own private Wikipedia."

But, of course, he misunderstands Wikipedia. The idea behind Wikipedia is that, in making it open and freely editable by anyone, you have a potentially limitless pool of knowledge from which to draw. But the key requirements are open and freely editable. Wikipedia works as well as it does because there's no initial wall of separation between reader and contributor. You can freely correct, add or edit information. If you vandalize or post inflammatory things, it will be "deleted" (actually reverted to the old, pre-vandalized version) very quickly by any number of volunteer editors. This is very much like what happens at a blog with comments, like Althouse.

Sullivan, on the other hand, is not at all like Wikipedia. He's like the old Encyclopedia Brittanica. You can submit things to him and he chooses what he will and will not use. There is no openness to Sullivan's "blog". It's simply an opinion column published in a "new" format. But that doesn't make it a "blog" or a new kind of writing or journalism. He might as well have written a piece called "Why I'm the Luckiest Bastard to get Paid to Write an Opinion Column without all those Pesky Old Standards of Quality and Accuracy".

Henry said...

I started reading Sullivan right after his famous "exploding toilet" post. Then he became an exploding toilet and I stopped reading him.

Donald Douglas said...

"...nor does he talk about why he doesn't..."

Well, he goes by a nickname called RAWMUSLEGLUTES, from what I understand. Could be the no comments thing guarantees discreet inquiries only.

Original George said...

Get under a corporate umbrella.

Trooper York said...

Andrew Sullivan is a truly vile person.

Evil in fact.

It has nothing to do with his sexuality.

It has everything to do with the type of person he is.

Vile and evil.

Revenant said...

Andrew Sullivan has a long essay in the November Atlantic called "Why I Blog."

Unless the "long essay" consists of the word "narcissism" typed 2300 times, I suspect it isn't terribly honest or accurate.

Ann Althouse said...

The lack of comments at Instapundit is a different thing. Glenn wants people to blog and he'll link to them. Instead of keeping everyone inside his site, he radiates out. That's very generous of him. The whole system is the equivalent of blog + comments. Sullivan isn't linking out nearly so much. I don't get the feeling Sullivan cares much about other bloggers. He wants to be your blogger.

Chris Wren said...

Well, another thing about Andrew Sullivan and comments: I've never once seen or heard of him leaving comments on other people's blogs. To me, that's a pretty central feature of the reciprocal nature of blogging - as opposed to simply posting one's thoughts online. Of course, commenting on other blogs is definitely not mandatory, but it makes you wonder how much he's interested in blogging as a community activity.

stormhit said...

Actually, he's directly addressed comments. This year even.

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/03/comments.html1300

sonicfrog said...

♫ Hey anyone, will you read my work?
It took some time to write, will you take a look?
It takes up way to much time I fear
I will lose my job, but I want to be a Blogosphere writer,
Blogosphere writer.

It’s the wandering thoughts of a musician
And I write it simple so you’ll understand.
You can leave a comment or send an e-mail,
I just lost my job so I want to be a Blogosphere writer,
Blogosphere writer.

Blogosphere writer

It’s a thousand words, give or take a few,
I’ll be writing more in a day or two.
I can post jpegs I know they’ll make you smile,
I’ll pretend I’m smart cause I want to be a Blogosphere writer,
Blogosphere writer.

If you really like it you can hyperlink,
It can make you laugh It can make you think.
Blogging’s easy I’ve got google ads too
But I need some traffic cause I want to be a Blogosphere writer,
Blogosphere writer.

Blogosphere writer

Blogosphere writer - Blogosphere writer
Blogosphere writer - Blogosphere writer ♫

I was going to link to by blog, but since nobody reads it... [sob, sob, sniff, snif :-( ]...

(the ultimate bleg???)

Zachary Paul Sire said...

And if Prop 8 doesn't pass, it's just a matter of time before California churches are sued to suppress their Constitutional rights of freedom of religion.

This is a false argument put up by the wacky prop 8 financiers (who are not even from California but are a bunch of out of state zealots) intended to scare people. Allow me to speak for all the gay people in California and tell you that the last thing any of us wants to do is sue people for not taking our fucking picture or for not presiding over our ceremonies.

Believe me, most of us want Leather Daddies, not ministers, to officiate our weddings, which will take place in sex dungeons, not churches. And every gay person I know has a gay pornographic filmmaker for a friend, so we'll let him handle the photography.

Take your fear mongering threats of lawsuits and gay people blowing up California back to the loony bin, please.

Spread Eagle said...

This is not new. Before there was Andrew Sullivan there was David Brock. I'm not seeing a dime's worth of difference.

Yachira said...

It is just plain astonishing how far his writing, thinking and ethical bearings have all declined.

He has AIDS, doesn't he? That might well account for the decline in his intellectual ability. He's also famous for
discussing
the amount of testosterone cream he rubs into his chest (I believe as a treatment for his AIDS). Says it makes him feel great, virile, etc....

Zachary Paul Sire said...

The only good thing about Andrew not having comments is that it's one less venue for people like Yachira to display their complete idiocy and total ignorance.

yashu said...

Count me among those who's shocked & saddened by Sullivan's transformation (though by now I've come to despise him). NB: it's not about any ideological shift-- I don't have a problem with that; such a shift (by a writer or blog) can be done interestingly & in good faith. It's about coming to have a complete lack of perspective... including ethical perspective.

His blog was very important to me, at a critical time during which I was engaging in my own ideological reorientation. He was one of the first blogs-- actually, I believe his was *the* first political blog I came across, and came to read regularly, sometime after 9/11. It was an independent, interesting, relatable voice, unlike any I had around me (in academia & the Bay Area).

Fortunately, I found other favorite blogs & had moved on to them for regular reading, long before the worst of his decline-- so I didn't actually witness much of it. When I see what he's become now, I feel sad & perplexed (mixed in with the disgust he too often inspires, e.g. with Trig-trutherism). I will always be grateful for the Sullivan blog that was, and the role it had in my life-- as I developed my own political independence, individual & idiosyncratic point of view (an ongoing process), not fully at home in either party (though my shift has definitely been to the right).

Revenant said...

This is a false argument put up by the wacky prop 8 financiers

It isn't a wacky argument. It already happened in Canada. Given the courts' long history of creatively reading free speech rights OUT of the Constitution, there's legitimate reason to worry that the courts here might one day rule against the expression of Christian viewpoints on homosexuality.

I don't plan to spend a whole lot of time worrying about it, since I'm a pro-gay atheist -- but if I were a Christian I might.

LoafingOaf said...

I think they used to send me the Atlantic for free back in the 90s. I can’t recall ever reading anything other than the letters to the editor section.

I subscribe the the Atlantic and the first thing I do is skip straight to the book review section to read Christopher Hitchens. I like Hitch in general, but he's at his best in the Atlantic.

I was browsing the new issue while taking a dump this weekend and didn't have time to read Sullivan's whole piece. So I scanned it looking for an interesting section. My eyes took me to the same part Althouse quoted.

Anyway, I see the usual "I used to like Sullivan back when I agreed with him most of the time...."
Yeah, he's a little too into Obama, but it's still a good blog! Sullivan may be too arrogant and propagandistic (which he was back when you guys liked him, too!), but other than that I read his blog for the same reason I read Althouse: I know each day I can skim over the latest posts and find a quirky diversity of content on all kinds of subjects, and I know I'll find some of them interesting.

Sullivan's in the tank for Obama, but he's not in the tank for the whole Democratic Party. The blogs I'm sick to death of are the ones in the tank for either the Democratic or Republican parties.