Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, April 30, 2004  

A friend of mine forwarded me a link with the intro, "I assume you've seen this." (I hadn't, incidentally.) He was talking about an article by George Packer in the current Mother Jones called "The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged." I long ago gave up any hope that the mainstream press would start integrating blogging into their journalistic network (spoilsports), but this is uncalled for:

Blog prose is written in headline form to imitate informal speech, with short emphatic sentences and frequent use of boldface and italics. The entries, sometimes updated hourly, are little spasms of assertion, usually too brief for an argument ever to stand a chance of developing layers of meaning or ramifying into qualification and complication. There's a constant sense that someone (almost always the blogger) is winning and someone else is losing. Everything that happens in the blogosphere -- every point, rebuttal, gloat, jeer, or "fisk" (dismemberment of a piece of text with close analytical reading) -- is a knockout punch. A curious thing about this rarefied world is that bloggers are almost unfailingly contemptuous toward everyone except one another. They are also nearly without exception men (this form of combat seems too naked for more than a very few women). I imagine them in neat blue shirts, the glow from the screen reflected in their glasses as they sit up at 3:48 a.m. triumphantly tapping out their third rejoinder to the WaPo's press commentary on Tim Russert's on-air recap of the Wisconsin primary.

Oddly enough, that analysis follows Packer's admission that he hates blogs because they consume so much of his time: "To change metaphors for a moment (and to deepen the shame), I gorge myself on these hundreds of pieces of commentary like so much candy into a bloated -- yet nervous, sugar-jangled -- stupor."

For anyone who's spent much time spanning the blogoglobe, it's hard to reconcile these comments. Don't like the "contemptuous" tone of Blogger X? No problem--there are bloggers Y through infinity to turn to instead. Surely Packer's stumbled across a blogger or two among the hundreds who's long-winded and unprovocative. But more than that, I think his blogosphere fisking misses its real value--as an instantaneous filter for news, half of the reason for tuning in is to winnow down the good bits in a short time. The prose style is in many cases in service of getting you to the primary source quicker. A quick stop at the regulars (which of course differ for each of us) and you have an excellent idea of what's going on. Let's see, Kos will have the election news, Max will give me something interesting about the economy, Atrios will alert me to the Zeitgeist of the moment, Liberal Oasis will--well, you know the routine.

And contempt itself is the hardest thing to reconcile with the blogosphere. (From the Latin, contemnere, to despise, it means "open disrespect for a person.") Here you get real people trying to talk to real people. Bloggers really do care what people think--they certainly don't disrespect them. For contempt, let me direct your attention to a network whose "Fair and Balanced" motto is perhaps the most brazen expression of open disrespect for an audience any medium has ever known.

So I don't know what the hell Packer's talking about. But my "little spasm of assertion" here isn't contempt.

Oh hell, maybe it is.

Other bloggers talking about the article: Dan Drezner, OxBlog, CalPundit Political Animal, Matt Yglesias, Wunderkinder. None of them was sufficiently riled by his article to muster much contempt.

posted by Jeff | 1:42 PM |
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