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Tuesday, May 08, 2012


Blog Mysteries...

Why We Don't All
Want Nice Things


Erick Erickson, blogger extraordinaire.

THEY.9.1-12. I came across a blog post featured at Hotair.com a couple of days ago. Here's the lede.

Why We can't have Nice Things

Several media outlets have run stories about a rumored gathering of conservative bloggers, writers, and others last week. You can find pictures on Facebook. You can find a list of names. The words ďoff the recordĒ seemingly have little value. Much of the information came from invitees.

The author is Erick Erickson of RedState, who was also in the news last week because Mitch McConnell pettishly claimed he'd never heard of a guy who's apparently been on his case for quite a while. I've heard of RedState but never read it, have nothing against it except casual talk that the site's pretty quick on the banning button, and I know nothing whatever about the cryptic reference to a "rumored gathering of conservative bloggers, writers, and others last week," because I'm not a member of Facebook. I know. What a backward fellow am I. So this is no personal vendetta I'm starting here.

It's just that the post struck me oddly. Simultaneously defensive, almost gulltily so, and yet condescending in the extreme. By way of introducing himself he says:

I started blogging in October of 2003. In July of 2004, I started blogging at RedState. Along the way Iíve done some really stupid things Iím not proud of and some really cool things I am very proud of. Some of what Iíve done others have questioned, but I have never held myself out to be a reporter. Iím a conservative activist. Though I often report on what the conservative movement is doing, my primary goal is to affect what the conservative movement does.

It's a fairly clear mission statement (more about this later), but he also seems to be feeling some heat from somewhere. His response is to go on the offensive:

There is no rule book for blogging, but there are best practices and the individual ethics of bloggers. Those practices have evolved over time.

Here now nine years after I started blogging, let me tell you something I have noticed. The people who are the loudest haphazard voices and bitterest voices among the longest serving crop of bloggers on left and right are the ones who never grew up. They hold proudly to the standards and cavalier attitude many of us possessed when we first got started and are angry when they see their peers doing more and having more influence and impact than they are. They wonder why they donít get invited to meetings, conventions, and the like when others do and instead of realizing it is them, they conclude everyone else is selling out.

Peter Pan never grew up. Bloggers must.

Then he passes final judgment:

As Iíve grown up online, Iím one of the uncommon few who has moved on to both television and radio. I have been blessed. Along the way, I find others who are making the transition too, but still others who have been toiling away in the blogosphere for years who have refused to make the transition, or been unable to despite their hopes, and they may look at me and others like me and think weíve sold out or decided to go along to get along. But I look at them and think what a waste of talent and energy. Some donít want to transition, but have grown up and matured in their style and interpersonal relationships. They want to have an impact and they do. Hats off to them. But there are others who are dragging those folks down and the rest of us too.

Sadly for them and the rest of us who get invited to nice places to meet nice people off the record, as long as the rest of us keep humoring them and their antics, those invites wonít come for any of us.

Sadly for them and the rest of us who get invited to nice places to meet nice people off the record, as long as the rest of us keep humoring them and their antics, those invites wonít come for any of us.

It got me to thinking. Partly because Hotair featured it, which must mean they know something about the post's mysterious rationale, and also partly because I've been blogging as long as Erick Erickson. Needless to say, I'm not "one of the uncommon few who has moved on to both television and radio." Then he stoops to acknowledge those "who have refused to make the transition, or been unable to despite their hopes, and they may look at me and others like me and think weíve sold out or decided to go along to get along. But I look at them and think what a waste of talent and energy."

My intent here is not to trash Erick Erickson. I wish him well in his media career. I understand that there's some bad blood roiling I have no clue about, and it would be idiotic of me to leap in with guns ablazing over a fancied sleight from a guy who's never even heard of me.

It's just that his post seems an opportune time to talk about some of the verities. Which is what I will now proceed to do, with particular reference to his damning-with-faint-praise characterization of those who "donít want to transition, but have grown up and matured in their style and interpersonal relationships."

Politics is obviously an enormously important part of what the Internet can do. It's a good thing -- a very good thing -- that amateur bloggers can grow in reach and power and influence to become part of the mainstream media that works so diligently to shape our responses to political events. Erickson is admirably up-front about describing himself as a "conservative activist." Where I think he errs is in believing that that's the principal or best reason for being a conservative blogger in the first place.

We don't all have to be, or even want to be, aspiring politicians. Let me define my use of the term. Politicians are those people who make money from participating in the political process as elected officials, paid government employees, campaign professionals, and opinionmakers, be they columnists, TV pundits, talk radio hosts, big-time bloggers, or Twitter-meisters.

Erikson is obviously aware of the problems inherent in being a politician. Why he's fearful that "they may look at me and others like me and think weíve sold out or decided to go along to get along." It's also clear that he has trouble comprehending the possibility that anyone would invest so much time without wanting a political career of some kind. Those who don't aspire to that are merely dabbling in ways that might improve their "interpersonal relationships."

All of which suggests to me that he is missing the greatest possible boon of the Internet and the "blogosphere," which is the role of amateur citizens who watch and listen and comment from the perspective of those outside the political circus. We don't all want to be performers in the circus. Actually, we're the most important participants in the show -- American citizens. So easy to forget...

I don't claim to speak for anyone but me, but I can assure you -- despite having blogged as long and prolifically as Erick Erickson -- that I have never once considered attending a conference or convention of like-minded bloggers (if there were any), and I can't think of anything worse than being a designated conservative in a CNN segment. Wild horses couldn't drag me there. I don't want people whose political philosophies I despise to regard me as reasonable or affable. Why? Because I despise them. I'm not an activist, conservative or otherwise. I'm an outspoken citizen, and my amateur status is the solid gold credential that underlies everything I write in my blog.

But being an amateur doesn't make me a dabbler or a dilettante. It means that I can always say exactly what I think, even if it pisses off the up-and-comers in the very cause I seek to support. To my knowledge, for example, there are no conservative politicians (MY definition, remember) who make any attempt to hold conservative websites accountable to basic copy-editing standards (spelling, grammar, usage, syntax), even though the liberal elite consistently succeeds in portraying the flyover right as semi-literate yokels from cow colleges. Which most of their Internet (and Fox News) record confirms.

Just one example of what I would call an anti-conservative bias in a lot of the New Media stars. There's the idea that joining the political establishment is more important than being the equivalent of a country store or a small-town newspaper: bigger is necessarily better. It isn't. There's the idea that big traffic justifies big-headed treatment of commenters: we'll moderate and ignore and ban your ass as we see fit. There's the set of Venn diagrams we all automatically construct about who is being nice or at least civil to whom based on the prospect of future interviews and other kinds of access. Hannity bantering amicably with Al Sharpton is an image you shouldn't explain away but learn from. There's a corresponding turn toward self and celebrity: see who's appearing on my podcast and where I'll be next week. Which is to say the rest of us can see your personal career a-blooming. Which is fine in capitalist terms but given that we're out here in the citizenship business of making government and political celebrity shrink, well, why wouldn't the folks be suspicious?

The bloggers left behind -- the one-timers and part-timers and apparent also-rans who seem to be long-timers -- aren't the losers in this picture, even if they sometimes seem bitter (or is it betrayed?). Above all others, conservatives should celebrate the underground voices, the ones who keep saying what they think without fear or favor. And the ones who "have been blessed" with celebrity should keep reading what they have to say, lest they lose themselves in the lights and makeup.

For the record, I'm not one of the bitter. I've been on TV, on the radio, and in organizations united by a mission that bore little or no relation to reality. Politics is always an issue when you stop being just you and your keyboard and become part of a marketing team. Why I raised these issues back in the original Romney campaign with Dean Barnett, whom I respected but who had ceased to be a private voice and become a Romney advocate instead. He never answered my questions about the inherent conflicts of interest associated with blogger success and progression to campaign responsibility.

Why I've been a bear on conservative "activists" and New Media "stars" ever since. All I know for sure is that they hate it when I tell them their writing is lacking.

Unfortunately, it is. The good thing is that I get to write what I want and I know how to do it. Which means that MY site is what I always most wanted it to be: What I envisioned long before the slender Internet experience of Mr. Erickson, an honest testament of MY life and thought. Which might not be a waste of talent and energy. It might just be a Nice Thing of its own.



Will we survive? Who knows? How many stars are ascending? How many Eeyores are sulking?

But we are still here, writing. Maybe it's true that "bloggers must" grow up. But punks never do.

Shammadamma.







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