gall and gumption

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Gabby Inglorious Miltons - I

So what am I not doing these days?

Writing about blogging for the Financial Times, for one thing.

Like a certain J-school classmate. Tom sent me the link.

I think Tom likes to hear me talk dirty, I really do. I don't know why else he sends me these things. It's just Kiabaiting. This is what I wrote back to him after my first, reluctant, glance at the article (I've slightly cleaned it up for polite company and added links):

Well, it is an impressive piece of Rolodexing, that
must certainly be said. It seems to me he totally
misses the point about bloggers and news. He doesn't
mention for instance that it was a Washington-based
blogger, John Aravosis, who found out that
Guckert/Gannon was a prostitute. That was original
reporting, not done by the mainstream media and using
all Internet technology and expertise.

Glenn Greenwald breaking the DeWine amendment to the
Patriot Act that would have freed up the FISA
wiretapping law, which the Bush administration
rejected before they went and wiretapped people
without any law...

He doesn't mention, for example, either, that Atrios
and firedoglake can put out a call and raise tens of
thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates in a couple of days.
Hamscher and The Left Coaster have done
incredible work on the Plame affair and the Niger
forgeries -- in-depth reporting, reference material
like timelines, providing actual PDFs of documents,
and very carefully reasoned explanations of the
meaning of the smallest details. This kind of work,
spread out over time, used to be done by reporters.
The Washington Post, during Watergate, did this. And
people ate it up. There was a guy at the New York
Review of Books, his name escapes me now, who should
have had a Pulitzer for his reporting on Iran-Contra,
on the legal issues. His articles were clear, they were
readable, they were hugely informative. When you
finished each installment you felt like you were three
weeks ahead of the daily or TV news cycle -- if they
were ever going to catch up at all, which they never
did.

If it hadn't been for blogging technology, there would
have been nowhere -- NOWHERE -- for this kind of
reporting and explanation of the issues. You look at
Hamscher's blog, and within minutes of a post on
Scooter Libby there are hundreds of comments, and
people also bringing new and salient bits of news,
which she promptly puts into context.

He doesn't talk about any of this. It's all about
celebrity and money.

As for the obsolescence of blogs -- newspapers are
written for posterity, are they? Time magazine is
written for posterity? Vanity Fair? All written in
marble, yup. And it is, we must assume,
technologically impossible to retrieve things from
blog archives. No doubt when Trevor gets among his
friends and talks about philosophy and ideas with
them, every word is automatically recorded on
indestructible platinum tablets for a posterity that
can't wait to be born to read it. Because he is
writing for the immortal Financial Times.

The giveaway is opening the piece about the Gawker
people getting ready to be on the cover of Vanity
Fair. TButt has got his hiking boots and his ropes and
his pitons and he's creeping up the mountain of
radioactive poo -- he thinks everybody is like him and
wants to be buried up to his neck in it up near the
top.

To call up Markos Moulitsas and ask him how much money
he makes, as if that is the most notable thing about
DailyKos, just shows what a grip he has on what one of
the biggest bloggers is in it for.

For a person with so much philosophy in his mouth he
really doesn't have a clue about democracy
either. I mean, a really elementary thing like people
need to communicate in a society, they need to
exchange views, they need to kick their shit around.
Anything that broadens the reach of conversation, that
gives more freedom in terms of what you can say, is
GOOD. Locke would understand this. Jefferson and
Franklin certainly would. Burke would.
Popper would.



The last time this classmate was heard from he announced that he had just got an assignment with the Financial Times to write about transatlantic differences in the use of the semi-colon. I swear to god. You know, one of those, "You Americans do xyz..." vs. "Well, you Brits do abc..." and everybody has a good laugh and much backslapping and another round of drinks and William F. Buckley Jr. rubs his hands happily kind of articles.

Now we see that he has worked his way up from punctuation, presumably through words, fragmentary ejaculations and complete sentences and paragraphs to the subject of blogs and their broader meaning.

And by broader meaning I mean really broad. The Goddess of Fame is not quoted as a source, but evidently our writer enjoys her whispered confidences, on background:

And that, in the end, is the dismal fate of blogging: it renders the word even more evanescent than journalism; yoked, as bloggers are, to the unending cycle of news and the need to post four or five times a day, five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant obsolescence. No Modern Library edition of the great polemicists of the blogosphere to yellow on the shelf; nothing but a virtual tomb for a billion posts - a choric song of the word-weary bloggers, forlorn mariners forever posting on the slumberless seas of news.


In support of this prediction the Goddess gives him a peek at the mouldering corpses of poor Cyril Connolly and George Orwell. Connolly, he tells us, "masticated away his talent." Is it the cheap facility of Cyril Connolly's literary criticism that makes him, now, so little read? Wow. Who knew?

Orwell, who unlike Connolly was rather thin, found presumably some low-calorie way of disposing of his talent. Coughing, probably. Our author notes also that Marx and Engels wrote a lot of journalism that nobody reads.

He doesn't mention John Milton or John Dryden.They both produced staggering amounts of journalism, biassed, self-indulgent, vituperative, mudslinging extremely perishable stuff, that nobody reads. So I will do him a favor and mention them.

So what? I have no idea. I suppose if they had all abstained from joining in the self-indulgent ephemeral vlugar fray of public discourse they would be famous. They would have made it onto the cover of Vanity Fair? Milton, wearing nothing but a fan and a coy expression? What?

Update: I think I fixed those pesky links.

Update:: I updated the title so it would be easier to get to the second installment of this. Also fixed a link.

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