Thursday, December 21, 2006

"Coarsening Discourse"??? Well...You're a Big Fat Jerkface!

Puckface points us to a WSJ op-ed concerning the blogosphere's favorite subject - itself:

The Blog Mob
"Written by fools to be read by imbeciles."

Um. This isn't starting off well.

Blogs are very important these days. Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has one.

Yeah, but his blog SUCKS!

The invention of the Web log, we are told, is as transformative as Gutenberg's press, and has shoved journalism into a reformation, perhaps a revolution.

Revolution indeed. Why all those billions of blogs (and 2 Thunderjournals) are already reforming the landscape of political thought and fullfilling America's insatiable thirst for the knowledge of what some douchebag's cat barfed up last night...

The ascendancy of Internet technology did bring with it innovations. Information is more conveniently disseminated, and there's more of it, because anybody can chip in. There's more "choice"--and in a sense, more democracy. Folks on the WWW, conservatives especially, boast about how the alternative media corrodes the "MSM," for mainstream media, a term redolent with unfairness and elitism.

The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps

And then the sharks pick at the poopings of some of the crappier remora fish and call it "The Blog House". Thus the circle of inane bullshit is closed.

More success is met in purveying opinion and comment.

Don't forget poop humor!

Some critics reproach the blogs for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs, they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren't much rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.

And those are the ones that win a Wizbang Weblog Award.

Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . .

I hereby declare by virtue of my sophistcated wit, superior intellect, keen eye for detail, stunning expertise in the subject of solipsistic argument, and ubiquitous loquatiousness that there is no humor in that paragraph. Just like rain on your wedding day. Poop fart poop fart poop.

The way we write affects both style and substance. The loquacious formulations of late Henry James, for instance, owe in part to his arthritis, which made longhand impossible, and instead he dictated his writing to a secretary. In this aspect, journalism as practiced via blog appears to be a change for the worse. That is, the inferiority of the medium is rooted in its new, distinctive literary form. Its closest analogue might be the (poorly kept) diary or commonplace book, or the note scrawled to oneself on the back of an envelope--though these things are not meant for public consumption. The reason for a blog's being is: Here's my opinion, right now.


What the author fails to realize is that these affectations are an expession of cutting edginess. Like the vacuous hipster doofus who eschews capital letters. You just don't get it, man! I'm arty!
The right now is partially a function of technology, which makes instantaneity possible, and also a function of a culture that valorizes the up-to-the-minute above all else. But there is no inherent virtue to instantaneity. Traditional daily reporting--the news--already rushes ahead at a pretty good clip, breakneck even, and suffers for it. On the Internet all this is accelerated.

The blogs must be timely if they are to influence politics.

Or, conversely, if they don't wish to influence politics, they must have a talking monkey.

This element--here's my opinion--is necessarily modified and partly determined by the right now. Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor. It is also a coagulant for orthodoxies. We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought--instead, panics and manias;

Well, not to toot my own horn, but this ThunderJournal has been able to simultaneously maintain several running gags for several months at a time. In fact, near as I can tell, KAR is just one big running joke. Is that sustained and systemic enough?

endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior.

You leave Joe Tucci out of this! He's not here to defend himself.

This cross-referential and interactive arrangement, in theory, should allow for some resolution to divisive issues, with the market sorting out the vagaries of individual analysis. Not in practice. The Internet is very good at connecting and isolating people who are in agreement, not so good at engaging those who aren't. The petty interpolitical feuding mainly points out that someone is a liar or an idiot or both.

And here I finally have an opening to make my point:

So what?

I may be only speaking for myself - but I'm sure I'm not alone here - but, to paraphrase Iron Maiden Rush: it was for me not you that I came to write this ThunderJournal. The author of this piece seems not so much a consumer of blogs as he is consumed by them. So let me put it straight, yet again:

It's a friggin' hobby.

A release. A diversion. A forum to rant at and with the masses. The genius of the setup - if unlike the author of this piece you know how to use it - is that the really interesting or useful stuff gets proliferated by a thousand hyperlinks that will eventually filter down to everone who desires it, whereas the dross tends to languish in its home locality (and hence KAR enters its 3rd year yet to experience an instalanche).

But it's never a good idea to use only blogs to get "news". If you're a serious news consumer, you should triangulate - get your info from a number of sources. Blogs can play a role in this, but shouldn't be the only source. The author seems to think that this is the way it is: print is losing out to the internets. No. There will always be a place - nay a necessity - for the legacy media. They have the resources. The blogs, and to a lesser extent the ThunderJournals, act as an annotation service. Which is a good thing, because by its nature, the blogosphere has a million eyes on the ground everywhere can help develop the res gestae of a story, or in some cases, flip a story on its head.

This is not a bad thing. If you know how to use it.

As someone once said, we are all little pieces of fluff on the lint screen of opinions. And like lint screens, some lint will come from from a fine Egyptian cotton bath towel, while most of the rest is just some crappy thread that sloughed off a ratty old sweat sock.

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