May 1, 2008


Thomas Fleming is the grey eminence of Chronicles, a paleocon site inhabited by a variety of fairly rare political fauna, united by a distaste for interventionism and the federal gummint. He likes to write about topics like Beowulf and the early fathers of the church, rather than today’s Rasmussen poll (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Today Fleming put up a post that had two themes, both worthy of comment. The first is the feckless idiocy of much bloggery:
Which came first in America, the narcissistic obsession with personal trivia or the blogosphere? In other words, did Internet blogging reduce the mentality of young Americans to the level of mind-numbing chatter about what they had for breakfast or what they think about Obama or did blogging only give an opportunity for the already brain-dead to talk about themselves?

I suppose I know, already, that the second answer is the correct one. I’ve spent the past 30 years, at parties, conferences, rides on the O’Hare shuttle bus, and coffee hour after church, listening to strangers tell me about the wonders of their RV, their vacations in Disney World, their opinions on pop music, and their political prejudices. Beware of the Republicans, who are plotting to enslave American workers; beware of the Clintons, who are plotting to make themselves dictators. What are most political blogs but cellphone conversations overheard on the runway before the plane takes off. The good thing about blogs–including this one–is that you don’t have to read them, but when the bloggers are shouting into their telephone or cornering you at coffee, they are impossible to escape.
Here Fleming is being a bit curmudgeonly, I think. Gossip about the misbehavior of the dog, the hats or scarves of the church-ladies, breakfast, and so on, are the sinews of social life. Live in isolation and you start to miss this stuff. Even I, a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, feel impelled to lighten up and enjoy the chatter I hear while on line at the post office or the market.

Reading the ramblings of the accredited commentariat, that is, those who get paid, I cannot say that they are wiser than those of the better bloggers. Indeed, because they must dance for their supper, they seem more inclined to effuse contrived ephemera.

Blogging, and especially commenting, combines the vices of spontaneity, isolation, and permanence. We write without thinking much, without the raised eyebrow or the "Ahem!" of our interlocutor to curtail our folly, and our drivel is preserved in pixels and bytes even when we think better of it. The catharsis of writing a really ripping letter to the editor and then crumpling it up and trying for a three-pointer in the trashbasket has been lost.

Bloggery is no worse than daily stuff-and-nonsense; it just doesn't disappear as chatter does when the sound waves dissipate. A word to the wise, or better, to the heedlessly garrulous.

More on TF's second point, later.

1 comment:

Hans Lundahl said...

"Which came first in America, the narcissistic obsession with personal trivia or the blogosphere?"

right answer: compulsory school