Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bloggity Blog

"Every doer loves his deed much more than it deserves to be loved; and the best deeds are born out of such an excess of love that they could not be worthy of it, even though their worth be very great."--Nietzsche

"The various vitalities of human history are moreover not only in conflict with Zeus but in conflict with each other."--Reinhold Niebuhr

A brief word about blogging: Maureen Dowd (courtesy of Jurassic Pork) is right. Jane Hamsher is wrong. After all, let's be honest: most bloggers write about themselves. If it isn't their opinions merely (like your humble host), it is their opinions political. Which is the phenomenon of YearlyKos, which is phenomenal only in the number of people it drew who all want to meet the people they've been talking to.

Which, when you get down to it, is the definition of a "community:" people you talk to on a regular basis; people you share something in common with initially, and more and more share more in common because you talk to each other, and learn about and have more to share. Which is fine: but don't distinguish it from what it is, or declare it something new and different, or think you're on the brink of discovering cold fusion or the perpetual motion machine or politics that isn't political.

Blogging is still in it's infancy, but the lines are hardening fast. Of all the blogs on Huffington Post, the only one I know that isn't either commentary on the media or the blogger themselves, is Harry Shearer's reports on New Orleans. I have honestly learned more about New Orleans from Mr. Shearer and scout prime (now at First Draft) than I've learned from all the weeping Anderson Cooper has done over ruined houses and wet teddy bears. But sadly, most blogging isn't like that; most blogging really is, as Ms. Dowd puts it, people behind their computers, avidly scarfing up what is on the internet and regurgitating it (as I'm doing here! Metacomments! (no, sadly, that's now defunct, another problem with blogging). Views you can use! Views that abuse! Mostly, that looks like what blogging is going to become; and YearlyKos and Daily Kos and all the domination of blogs by politics and political junkies, just reinforce that picture for me.

DailyKos and Street Prophets (or drop in the name of your blog or your favorite blog here; and again, don't neglect your humble host) are mostly about people reacting to issues that concern them; and talking about those issues. And it almost sounds like a community; but it's community (at least) once removed. It's community motivated by stimulation, and seeking further stimulation. What blogging should do, and could do, is become an even less orderly version of Free Speech Radio. Riverbend points the way; and scout prime; and Harry Shearer. Sadly, no one seems to be following. There is no "YearlyKos" for bloggers actually reporting on what they see and hear and know first-hand. But there's plenty of self-congratulation for those who can regurgitate the new Conventional Wisdom and attract enough people who like what they have to say. Blogging, in other words, has officially become a movement. And that is what is so sad. It could have been somebody; it could have been a contender!

Wendell Berry has warned us about this:

People in movements too readily learn to deny to others the rights and privileges they demand for themselves. They too easily become unable to mean their own language, as when a 'peace movement' becomes violent. They often become too specialized, as if they cannot help taking refuge in the pinhole vision of industrial intellectuals. They almost always fail to be radical enough, dealing finally in effects rather than causes. Or they deal with single issues or single solutions, as if to assure themselves they they will not be radical enough.
(Wendell Berry, "In Distrust of Movements," Citizenship Papers (Shoemaker & Hoard, Washington, D.C., 2003. 44-45.)

But perhaps too late; perhaps blogging has already become a movement. Because now it holds conventions in Las Vegas, and has "keynote speakers;" and media consultants; and politicians visiting, anxious to be seen there; and media types, anxious to say they wrote about it and were there. And it's all very, very disappointing. It's the White House Correspondents Dinner. It's people of like mind getting to meet each other in a setting other than the one in which they know each other (how many attendees weren't bloggers?), and given a chance to rub elbows with public figures (some they love, some they hate, but hey, let's get Maureen Dowd to pose with us!). Ecclesiastes was right. There is indeed nothing new under the sun, and all is futile and striving after emptiness. Reinhold Niebuhr was right: selishness governs all decisions by groups. Individually we may be holier-than-thou in our morality: collectively, we act just like a group, hell-bent on protecting what it sees as its central interests, its vital imperatives.

Which is still the definition of a community; but let's not pretend it's something it isn't. At least, until we gather in Baghdad for YearlyRiverbend, or in New Orleans for FirstScoutPrime. Now that would be something to blog about.

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