Saturday, December 23, 2006

The blogging landscape of 2006

Bloggers were the targets of many verbal floggings this year. The view towards the act of blogging became more hostile and more mocking, hostile towards those who would deign themselves worthy enough to express opinions on that which they are not experts, mocking of those who feel the need to publish the mundane events of their daily lives to make them available to the world.

As political bloggers on the center-left became more influential this election year, they were derided by professional columnists like David Broder and David Brooks. Broder accused them of vituperation and general ineffectiveness back in June when the YearlyKos convention was taking place. "Thus, we have blogger Jerome Armstrong, a Kos partner, arguing for mounting campaigns everywhere, no matter the odds," he chided then. And yet, some of the most unlikely success stories of the Democratic upset were those supported by the bloggers, and some of the most stunning defeats were those picked by the establishment. Thus emerged Senators-elect Jon Tester and Jim Webb. Thus languished Tammy Duckworth and Harold Ford, Jr.

Still, bloggers did not catch a break in 2006. Instead, establishment writers took it upon themselves to drown out the cacophony. Bloggers became representative of an advent of "narcissim," as another professional columnist, George Will put it. "So much of what is done on the web is people getting on there and writing their diaries as though everyone ought to care about everyone’s inner turmoils. I mean, it’s extraordinary," Will lamented earlier this month. Why all of this fulminating over the massification of writing? Broder, Brooks, and Will imply that writing is for an elite, and when the masses do it, it becomes incendiary, uncivil, and artless. Expressing one's opinion through blog channels is an act of narcissim (never mind that Will does it every week in his column for the Washington Post).

Little-acknowledged in all of the commentary about blogs and bloggers is what to make of the phenomenon it evidences: that millions of people across the world are driven to write in their free time. Writing, which we feared a dying skill, mauled by the allure of cognitive disengagement encouraged by visual media, particularly the television, and the laziness of the current vernacular, is enjoyable to millions. Sure, the instantaneousness of blogging does not promote revision, but it does not hinder it either. Though Time's person of the year might have been lame, I find it amazing and gratifying that those without access to the establishment channels of communication--television, newspapers--are embracing the Internet and yes, writing, and it is worth celebrating, not excoriating.

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