Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fire-breathing bloggers

In my last post I suggested the blogosphere take a chill pill. Too much heat, not enough light right now. Does this mean I'm disillusioned with the blogosphere? Not a bit.

Blogs are a naturally "hot" medium, although each blog has its own signature temperature. Mine tends to be a bit cooler than most, by design; I try to reflect before I write, and not shoot from the hip. But for some bloggers and pundits, shooting from the hip is their stock in trade, their raison d-etre, and a good part of their considerable appeal.

One thing I never realized before I became a blogger was the extent to which the medium itself encourages outrageousness. How does one get attention in all the blooming buzzing confusion? One way is by being louder and tougher and more clever and hard-hitting than the rest. As one blogs more and more, there's also a tendency to become more confident about what one says--and a lot of bloggers don't start out too timid about their opinions to begin with, else why would they blog? So there's a sort of ever-escalating feedback loop that encourages more and more hyperventilation in the blogosphere.

When I think about it, the absence of editors--formal or informal--is a large part of the phenomenon. Please don't think that, by pointing this out, I'm calling for blog editors; I'm not. But the blogger is ordinarily alone with his/her thoughts--sometimes even in the wee hours of the morning, and usually in a hurry to get something finished and get on with "real life"--but almost always alone. Nothing between the blogger, the computer screen, and that "publish" button. And once the moving finger writes, it can't be undone--not without someone noticing and raising a stink, anyway.

For the other writing I do in my life, I ordinarily will take far longer to compose something, edit it, mull it over, edit it again, and finally decide it's more or less finished. Somewhere along the way I usually show it to at least one friend or family member. For years I've belonged to a wonderful writing group, at which I meet regularly with fellow-writers to offer and receive comments, criticisms, and suggestions on works-in-progress. Needless to say, I never bring my blog writing to those meetings--and not only because they are heartily sick of anything political, and mostly disagree with me on that score rather intensely--but because there's simply no time. The medium doesn't allow it.

"Taking a chill pill" requires standing back, reflecting, taking time. And taking time is something the blogosphere definitely does not encourage. But the blogosphere's strength lies in the aggregate: even without much time, corrections tend to happen, because some other blogger will object. In a way, other bloggers--and commenters--act as ex-post-facto editors.

You might say we're all members of a very large writing group.


At 4:23 PM, October 12, 2005, Blogger Bookworm said...

It is true that being outrageous elicits some attention. The negative attention from vigilant blogsurfers, however, can be just as big a deterrent to irresponsible conduct as would be an editor's blue pen. Indeed, more of a deterrent, since 'net surfers are our peers, and their views can be both broader and depper than a single editor's -- both of which are potent social controls.

A blogosphere without comments and trackbacks would, I think, be an infinitely more dangerous environment, with a million little demagogues fighting for air time.

At 5:07 PM, October 12, 2005, Anonymous thedragonfliest said...

I think everyone should take a "chill pill." Drudge is reporting that some of the top judicial candidates asked the White House to remove their names from consideration because they didn't want to go through the bitter hatred of the radicals who would oppose them and do all that they could to destroy them personally. We are losing top people because of the extremists' hatred poluting the political process.

At 7:27 PM, October 12, 2005, Blogger Thunderstixmil said...

Arrogance is the bane of our species. It is a two edged sword and cuts conservatives just as easily as it does liberals.
Arrogance is a character defect we all have and only with the passage of time can this dragon be slayed.
Choose your words carefully as they will return to haunt you.

At 10:00 PM, October 12, 2005, Blogger Bookworm said...

By the way, I know that there is no such word as "depper" (although Johnny Depp probably thinks there should be). I mean, of course, deep.

By the way, I'm feeling cool and comfortable, since I happen to believe that, with her qualifications (education, legal background, political background), Miers is an excellent choice.

At 10:18 PM, October 12, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Not so fast, bookworm!

At 11:10 PM, October 12, 2005, Blogger Promethea said...

Neo, your posts are generally excellent and short--the key to successful blogging, as I view it.

True, editors can be useful, but they can also drag you down. So long as you write good English and review what you're writing, you're better off being natural.

Blog readers like myself pick and choose blogs according to their personal preferences. Since you're not trying to make money from your blog, you can write what you want and your audience will decide if they like what you say--or not.

The great freedom of blogs is that you can be yourself. You are not accountable to anyone except yourself. Don't try to be popular. If you try to be popular, you'll become inauthentic and ordinary.

Sorry for the lecture, but I view the internet as the triumph of the individual, whose voice can be heard. I'm piggy-backing on *your* blog to express my own views.

In my real life, it's almost impossible to carry on a real conversation because as soon as people find they disagree, someone quickly makes a joke and changes the subject. Blogs show real thoughts, and even if they can be outrageous, they're usually more authentic and informative.

Go blogs!

At 11:41 PM, October 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you were referring to McLuhan, the more interactive a medium, the "cooler" it is; the less interactive, the "hotter."


ps - This is a good read:

Jean Baudrillard, "The Spirit of Terrorism"

At 1:59 PM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous Will Franklin said...

I concur with the chill pill deal. A lot of people need to take one.

At 2:36 PM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

At the same time there is talk about shield laws for journalists(even proposed legislation being considered in Congress) there seems to be a rise in discussion about ways to control the internet. The news establishment wants the privilege of committing crime with impunity. They may be realizing they could end up in the same boat they want to put Karl Rove in. U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar(R.-Ind.) gave a speech about the proposed shield law to the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) this past Monday.

“I think, very frankly, you can make a case that this is a special boon for reporters, and certainly for their role in freedom of the press. At the end of the day what we will come out with says there is something privileged about being a reporter, and being able to report on something without being thrown into jail."

You & I could be arrested, tried & jailed but a reporter would not even be arrested for doing the same thing. It stinks of unfairness. Some bloggers are trying to be defined as journalists so they too can board the gravy train. Instead of begging for a free ride(which is unlikely to ever be given) bloggers should be working to derail the train altogether. If the MSM ever becomes a privileged class they will become even more detestable than at the present.

I think the internet, personified by the blogs, is very bothersome to the powers that be in the MSM & politics. They are both trying their best to figure out ways to squelch the blogosphere & anoint the establishment news sources. Beware the frightened politician & disturbed, vengeful media powerbroker. The UN would very much like to get in on the act & in a recent meeting made plans for control:

“The nations agreed Saturday to ask U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to set up a working group on Internet governance in an open and inclusive process that ensures a mechanism for the full participation of governments, the private sector and civil society ... to investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, by 2005."

In other words: Total control. Don’t think it can’t happen. Right now the internet is a free & open medium & it would be wonderful if it would be allowed to remain unregulated. But governments & powerbrokers are taking steps to end all this freedom we now enjoy.

At 4:12 PM, October 13, 2005, Blogger Don Radlauer said...

Neo wrote:

One thing I never realized before I became a blogger was the extent to which the medium itself encourages outrageousness. How does one get attention in all the blooming buzzing confusion? One way is by being louder and tougher and more clever and hard-hitting than the rest.

Shit. I thought I could do it just by getting my spelling and grammar right!

So if the way to get noticed is to be outrageous - and not to waste much time editing one's stuff - how is a ragingly mild-mannered centrist who is also an anal-retentive editor supposed to survive? I guess I'll just have to learn to like obscurity... :-)

At 10:07 PM, October 13, 2005, Blogger Mr. Hyde said...

Well said. At the same time, the ability to simply vent is an attractive part of the whole thing. My blogging simply a way to blow off politically incorrect steam. Whether it gets read or not isn't really part of the equiation. It's just the act itself. Kind of like a golf swing, where you don't try to watch the ball sail away. Keep your head down and follow through.


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