Friday, August 26, 2016

Looks Like I'm Dead Again

Which is always exhilarating. 

From Jeet Heer at The New Republic:
What Were Blogs?

The demise of also marks the end of the utopian promise of blogging. Here's what killed them.
By my reckoning, this is the 25th or 26th "Blogging is dead" article I have read in the last 10 years. Let's see where this one goes.
At the height of the blogging craze, there were even utopian claims made on its behalf: Blogging would give us (finally) the Republic of Letters that the Enlightenment promised, a world where everyone could be a writer and find an audience—an interconnected network where, in true McLuhanesque fashion, a divided world would become a unified global village.
For the record, I was never for believing "utopian claims", nor did I really doubt the media establishment's ability to smother and/or co-opt anything that threatens it. What I did underestimate was the Beltway media's capacity to simply deny the reality on a mass scale. To haul up the draw bridges, hunker down and play the "Both Sides" game indefinitely from behind an impenetrable wall of money and clout regardless of how massively the facts debunked their bullshit narrative.

In this case the obit was made funnier by this Tweet from the author, crowd-sources the existence of "bloggers" before he put the pennies on our eyes.  Sadly, I did not make the cut (Spoiler: I never make the cut.)

Mr. Heer continues:
To judge by Read’s account, both Gawker and blogging were victims of their own success, albeit in very different ways. Gawker got big enough to earn a frighteningly powerful enemy, a relentless and unforgiving man who deployed his vast resources and the legal system to crush the publication. Blogging got so popular that it caught the attention of the mainstream media, which bought up the best talent, and of Silicon Valley, which recast the writer’s medium from an intimate platform that was all about voice to a social network all about clicks and shares. Banks are lucky enough to be too big to fail; Gawker and blogging were too big to succeed.
Look, blogging is just writing and I write well.  Better than 90% of the hacks and clowns who get paid to push a pen around at any rate..  And my record demonstrated that I have been on the right side of (and way the fuck ahead of the curve on) more important issues in American politics and media than the aforementioned, 90% of the pundits who get paid to push a pen around.

I have worked media before.  Been on radio many, many times.  Been on teevee many times. Written for mass audiences.   I have a pleasant voice.  I think fast on my feet. I know the issues and how rto frame a cogent argument.  I know how to wear a tie and how not to say "fuck" when the little red light is on.  And yet after 11 years at this keyboard and six years podcasting, I cannot snag a gig putting words in a row anywhere.

I have also heard on good authority that Serious People actually do read what I write and like it, but that I am too "strident: for the medium of, say, television.

Which I mull over as I watch Lawrence O'Donnell handing a platform over to Glenn Fucking Beck.

Followed the next day by Chris Matthews putting Ann Coulter on television to promote her shitpile of a book.

Followed the next day by Chris Hayes putting the Southern Fucking Avenger on television who repented of his sins a few minutes ago which qualifies him to explain that the best way to deal with racism is to ignore it and also too, Both Sides!
I care about moving beyond groupthink where right and left stop dehumanizing people more than I care about a flag.
Followed by Lawrence O'Donnell, this time handing a platform over to Ben "Turd Tornado" Shapiro.

Followed by... followed by... followed by... (h/t Aaron Sorkin.)

So stridency is not the issue.  Neither is competence, or facility with language.  I would also point out that MSNBC (just to pick on them) also employs a whole contingent serial liars, barely-sentient has-beens, Obvious Merit Hires like Lil' Luke Russert (h/t Charlie Pierce) and various human-shaped algorithms whose sole purpose is to sit in chair and say "Both Sides" on cue. 

Anyway, these people and their conspiracies are so thoroughly protected from scrutiny and accountability as to make what I do here laughable -- so far above my pay-grade that I can't see their aglets from here.  And maybe putting these little words in a row was ultimately a waste of time and effort that could have been better spent write ad copy for boner pills and high-end vacation getaways. 

But here's the irony: while blogging itself may have been too big to succeed, as a blogger -- as a writer -- I remain too small to care :-) 


Andrew Johnston said...

I'm torn. On the one hand, Heer has a point. Blogs just haven't been the same since the rapid consolidation of the media and the internet in general. No one really explores or browses anymore, everyone's taking the guided tour, one which leads through news aggregators more and more. And your typical users are happy to give up the relative autonomy of controlling their own site for the convenience of having their limited space in the same place as everything else.

Then again, on the ground that's bullshit. The biggest blogging platforms remain among the most visited sites in the world, there are plenty of superstar bloggers (some of whom are even getting paid now) and the Wordpress platform is a bigger deal than it's ever been. Heer is making the same mistake as every other goober in politics and assuming "blog" means "political blog" and ignoring the fact that political blogs, though they got all the attention, have always been the slimmest slice of the overall blogosphere. Most Americans just don't think about politics all the time, and they've certainly never cared about political blogs or Twitter or any other journalistic obsession.

In closing: Shut up, Jeet.

Murfyn said...

The driftglass is on my go-to list, with Charlie Pierce, W'o'C, Slacktivist, Rude Pundit. and Bad Astronomy (I like some science!). I help when I can (when I read something here so awesome I just have to donate a little) but I don't like leaving comments. so I usually don't. Point being, I love that thing you do . . .

Pablo in the Gazebo said...

I would like to take a moment to point out that clicking on the yellow button at the bottom in the shape of a suppository with the word Donate printed on it gives one a mildly satisfying feeling, in case you should desire such a sensation.

bowtiejack said...

"What I did underestimate was the Beltway media's capacity to simply deny the reality on a mass scale. To haul up the draw bridges, hunker down and play the "Both Sides" game indefinitely from behind an impenetrable wall of money and clout regardless of how massively the facts debunked their bullshit narrative."

Nailed it.

My general rule of thumb is that everything makes sense, just a lot of the time (by design) we don't get to know the sense that it makes. An excellent example is the story The Blemmye's Strategy in Gardner Dozois 23rd Annual Year's Best SF.

It's not just the consolidation of media (alas, poor bloggers!), but the consolidation of health insurers, Big Pharma, TPP, NAFTA, the Trade in Services Agreement, and every other goddamn thing. Why, I declare, did you know we have both a Federal Trade Commission and a whole Antitrust Division in the Department of Justice? i don't know what they get paid to do because I don't see them doing it anymore. As more and more is steadily gathered into fewer and fewer hands . . . [Both Sides! Both Sides!]

Neo Tuxedo said...

so thoroughly protected from scrutiny and accountability as to make what I do here laughable -- so far above my pay-grade that I can't see their aglets from here.

Is that protection the sinister true purpose of aglets, then?

Patrick D said...

So they want non strident facts??That smells looks like both sides..Trump is a bigot that is a fact plus all of the others facts about Trump. Uh oh now Im the strident one..

dinthebeast said...

His diagnosis about the pathology supposedly killing blogging only pertains to trying to make money or fame from blogging, not blogging itself. As a platform for communication among human beings it is still wildly successful, popular, and effective. Hell, I'm using it right now...

-Doug in Oakland

Yastreblyansky said...

A small supplementary note of cheer: Gawker was always the least interesting of the Gawker Media properties, and the very interesting and bloggy ones, which are Deadspin and Jezebel and particularly Wonkette, are still alive and kicking as hard as they can, which as you know is pretty hard.

Also Jeet Heer seems to think that the fate of Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus is significant of something. This suggests some very fundamental misunderstanding.

trgahan said...

My main thought to yesterdays Journalism Now and Then post was that journalism has indeed degraded...but it degraded in a very specific and intentional direction. We haven't fallen back to some late 19th/early 20th century where every social/political view had one or more newspapers/magazines/radio shows in every state and/or city.

There is no liberal version of Anne Coulter getting even half the airtime and book deals she is getting. Since the high water mark in 2005-2006 there has been a active silencing/purge of liberal voices in media as primetime liberals make it outright embarrassing to be a Republican. Though Fox burned all its creditability delivering 2004, but now everyone else is adopting their business model.

So once again declaring blogging, both socially and political a lot more progressive but mainstream than current traditional media, "dead" could just be traditional media saying "We've be told to stop paying attention to you and to encourage our costumers to do the same."

bowtiejack said...


" As a platform for communication among human beings it is still wildly successful, . . ."

What I think has happened has been some disintermediation of the pundit class. And they don't like it.
On the blogs you frequently get people who really know what they're talking about - sometimes because of career or academic position, expertise gained through an avocational interest, personal familiarity with the matter, etc., - as opposed to (just to beat on them one more time) a Douthat or a Brooks with their sonorous vapidities.
Added to that you have troublemakers like drifty, Yastreblyansky and others with excellent bullshit flensing knife skills to use on said Douthat or Brooks.
The business model of newspapers was always as advertising broadsheets with news stories tucked in between the ads to get people to look at the things. The vital income stream though was the ads, not the nickel the reader paid.
That newspaper model now has a very uncertain future and nobody knows how it will turn out. Or what will happen to their pundits?

Which is a long way round of saying we're in the middle of uncommon change and if the future with its blogs or without its blogs doesn't look the same as the past that's because it never does. The pundit class will be the last to know.

RUKidding said...

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Mark Twain and all the blogs.

As noted Jeet Heer's talking mostly about blogs that make money. I'm not convinced that Peter Thiel's squashing of Gawker applies across the board. Also as noted, blogs are very alive, well, kicking and used a lot.

I guess Heer only sees political/current events blogs as worthy of his vaunted notice or something. Well bully for him. There's a fuckton of blogs out there on a diverse range of topics. Depending on interest and need, one can access a wealth of info - good, bad, indifferent, and yes even harmful - by a little stroll down google lane.

Seems like Heer's desparately trying to make the case that political blogs, leftwing ones in particular, are kaput, outta gas and certainly beneath notice and contempt. Why how nice.

I'm no fan of the rightwingnut sphere, but there certainly seems to be plenty of strong blogs in that realm. And there's plenty in the leftwing sphere. Also Heer seems focused solely on the US of A, but how many of us find overseas blogs useful?? Like, let's be all xenophobic-y and pretend that vast great wealth of global blogland doesn't exist either.

Heer seems uncommonly eager to dismiss something out of hand that seems rather healthy and growing to me. Doesn't like what he reads or something? Wishes we'd all STFU and just go away?? Prefers ther rable to have no voice? Dream on.

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good evening, all.

1. Neo Tuxedo: Justice League reference. You win the Internet this week.

2. Mr. Glass: dude, you got a wife and kids out of blogging. I know you got this thing about one day having Rachel Maddow-or-whoever say the words, "Driftglass was right," or something like that. But face it, no accomplishment you'll ever have as a blogger is going to feel better than what you already got. It's all downhill from here. :)

Be seeing y'all.

jim said...

Each scale has its strengths & weaknesses, eh?

Folks can't seem to help but get a natural yen to have the Magick Faery-Virii make it rain on their blog to rocket it upscale. As to me & mine, I get the terrors & shudder to imagine the kind of world that it'd be that popular in.


Jim from MN said...

plural noun: aglets
a metal or plastic tube fixed tightly around each end of a shoelace.

Jimbo said...

You are a really good blogger and a really diligent one too, which is why I read and listen to you. Also, as as a sometime cartoonist, I really appreciate your blog post artwork. That is really important to me. But so is turning on spellcheck and grammar check. Unless you are deliberately doing it for some sort of style purpose, egregious spelling errors (that are usually just typos) and grammar glitches are distracting to the flow of the argument/rant. Just sayin'.

As for your main argument, I am not a media person in the (good) sense that you are but even I have heard about the demise of blogs for years. Problem is that, by now, they are so amazingly diverse. There are collective blogs like the wonderful Serious Eats. There are individual political blogs like yours and many others. There are purely personal, expressionist blogs about people's lives that probably only have a few followers. But if the demisers really bothered to look at the total blogiverse (as opposed to the political subset) they would quickly realize that blogs are not going away as long as the Internet is around.

As for Hemingway, I'm pretty sure he was abducted by aliens.

Meremark said...

ah-HA! A demiser denier.

Meremark said...

A demiser denier.

Susan of Texas said...

So what you're saying is that the people who want to hire a potato head like Russert won't hire you, and you can't force yourself to write centrist pap that sells out your fellow countrymen.

You did this to yourself. You could have become stupid and venal too but you refused. Instead, you gained a family and a largish group of admirers. You sure screwed up that climb to power over the bodies of Truth and Justice.

We can see that your inability to trade your soul for money and fame is bothering you a lot, but sometimes we just have to admit failure and be content with self-respect and freedom.

Ron Skurat said...

I don't know - I think what we're seeing from Heer is sampling bias. He's not very bright to start with, and it wouldn't ever occur to him that he's missed anything. Everything he writes is boilerplate, everything he reads is from the same dozen old-school "brands".

I don't really read anything except blogs, unless it's a link-out to a story where I can check on the details of what someone's writing about. Regular media is so insipid, so corporatized, that it's unreadable. Even AP articles sometimes have a right-wing slant now.

Columnists have all undergone blandification, too. No Lippmanns, no Menckens; I doubt Dave Barry or even Art Buchwald could get a columnist gig nowadays, way too controversial. Definitely limits the conversational options when you don't read the crap, but habitual crap-readers usually weren't really all that awake upstairs to start with.

Fran / Blue Gal said...

Susan of Texas your comment needs to be embroidered on a pillow on which Driftglass will lay his head each night. :D