Monday, June 02, 2014

If It's a Wake, Shouldn't We Be Drinking?

I was going to write the Greatest David Brooks Post ever.

I still might.  After all, I have it all outlined and everything.

But first, a word from Not Our Sponsors on the Death of Blogging ™.

From Politico:
The Andrew Sullivan era of journalism is over. Blogs — defined as "an eclectic, scattered" reverse-chronological journal, "covering everything from foreign policy to TV to religion," often in the first-person — are all but dead. Sullivan is the last of the Mohicans, which is a testament to his success. He was there in the beginning, and he'll probably be there to turn the lights out after everyone has left.

It's a shame, because I'm actually quite fond of Sullivan and what he does. The idea of ditching a beat and just weighing in on whatever you fancy is highly appealing to a writer. But readers couldn't care less -- unless they like you and your worldview so much they're willing to go along for the ride. Sullivan cultivated such a following and turned it into a sustainable business, albeit with apparently diminishing returns. His last moment in the sun was a Newsweek cover story on Obama's gay marriage evolution, and you don't need a blog for that.

Still, Sullivan seems content: "I have enough money," he says. "To earn a living with total freedom as a writer [is] the greatest possible thing to have." Indeed, that's a great privilege. And occassionally something he writes -- on the Republican Party, papal politics, or the gay rights movement -- may break into the mainstream. Alternatively, he may find himself getting in pissing matches over the relative strengths and weaknesses of New York City and Washington, D.C. Fun for him.

For better of worse, the people formerly known as bloggers need to have specialties in order to command a following. Ezra Klein needs to cover domestic policy, Nate Silver needs to make predictions, Ta-Nehisi Coates needs to write about race, and so on and so forth. You can switch beats, but you have to have one.
If I had a nickle for every time someone put pennies on the eyes of poor, dead blogging...well, I wouldn't have Andrew Sullivan Money, but I could stop worrying about groceries.

On the other hand, looking back from the distance of a decade, it's clear that a lot of what we dreamed blogging could be back in the Steve Gilliard days turned out to be eternally true --
...Bloggers act as if their treatment in the press and by the press is something new and unique. It isn't.

[Hunter] Thompson had been a newspaperman, had worked for Time and hated it. He didn't fit into the neat box that people wanted to place journalists in. Was it really any wonder that David Halberstam didn't wind up running the Times or that Sy Hersh still has to deal with people who call him a traitor. Journalism wasn't embracing the outcasts, not then, and not now. Thgompson didn't wind up in Rolling Stone because he was in high demand as a political commentator. Just like people aren't falling over themselves to read Bill Grieder finance stories today. He was a refugee from American journalism, just like many bloggers are today. Remember, the people we scorn today were the people who fit the idea of the ideal journalist. Judy Miller is what every editor, secretly dreams about, the sexy, tempestous man-crazy reporter. The fact that she's a tool for those in power doesn't discomfort them.

Bloggers are not some new creation, but the newest set of the barbarians at the gates. They are the people who don't trust the system and it's artifacts. It is to writing, what rap is to music, the coming of democracy to a trade. What Thompson and his peers did in the 60's and 70's, we do today. But free of the constraints of editors and publishers and the need to hustle up work.
-- and a lot of it turned out to be bunkum. For example, blogging was supposed to liberate us from the constraints of geography: after all, if great writers could access much of the same information as our Elite Beltway media and digest and comment brightly about it from Topeka or Ames or Chicago, that would mean that a blogger would not have to live and work in L.A. or the New York/D.C. Sprawl, right?  Schmoozing with Tina Brown or Arianna Huffington would not be mandatory, right?

And once the Elite Media Cartel was broken, the truth would seep in through a 1,000 cracks and bring it all down. After all, how could clowns like David Brooks, David Gregory or Mark Halperin survive being righteously and publicly pantsed every day of their professional lives? How could Fox News survive being fact-checked to shreds in nearly-real time, on a platform that only requires 1-2 click of a mouse to access?   Sure we'd starve early, but once we had been at it for years that would start to change, right?  Especially once online advertising came online, and Wealthy Liberals started underwriting the insurgent Liberal media infrastructure as lavishly as the Right built out its bloggers and think tanks and radio stations and newspapers and teevee empire and publishing houses and Fake Grassroots organizations. 


Yeah, turned out, not so much.

So somebody buy another round for the pixel-stained wretches in the back who are too busy to notice they are extinct.

And wake me the next time blogging dies.

Meanwhile and apropos of nothing...
David Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic.

David Frum
CNN Contributor

David Frum is a contributing editor at The Daily Beast...

Both Sides Now
Both Sides Now exchanges ideas, not rants or monologues. The program highlights both sides, sharpening differences or even bridging them so that listeners decide for themselves. Hosted each week by Mark Green, the program has some of the best commentators anywhere on radio and TV. You'll hear from Ron Reagan, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Eliot Spitzer, Bob Shrum or Jonathan Alter lining up with Mary Matalin, Erick Erickson, David Frum, Rich Lowry or Torie Clarke. They debate, you decide.


D. said...

Yeah, where are all those wealthy liberal underwriters? B/a/b/y /n/e/e/d/s/ /a/ n/e/w/ p/a/i/r/ o/f/ /s/h/o/e/s/!/ My favorite incisive blogpeople are all short of money these days!

It's as though there's a force poisoning the well and throwing bacchanals to distract.

Monster from the Id said...

The people making such rosy predictions about blogging assumed--probably unconsciously--that everyone owned computers like they did, loved using them like they did, and could afford high-speed internet like they did.

Also, they assumed the Establishment Media were too stupid to adapt to the new reality.

In similar fashion, Marx assumed the capitalists were too stupid to accept some light restraints on their wealth and power (the "welfare state") in order to prevent the revolutions he thought were inevitable--restraints they have been gleefully throwing off, now that Lenin, and his successors and imitators in other countries, have ruined Marxism's reputation beyond salvage.

Anonymous said...

Yeah..I can remember having a conversation with someone in the mid to late 80's? about what I thought would be the amazing world we would all be living in once bandwidth reached a certain information carrying threshold.
Something like: Think of what the world will be like when the vast compendium of human knowledge is available to everyone at a moments notice!
I dismally failed to forecast that the ignorant would simply remain ignorant,refuse to avail themselves of any of that knowledge, and horrifyingly, would gain the ability to broadcast their ignorance to a much wider audience.
There was even a brief period of time when the right had yet to figure out what the internet was,(when blogging first appeared) focusing their stupidity with laser like intensity on hate radio.....a short golden age as it were.
Of course that was also before Fox News...
As Maxwell Smart used to say: Missed it by that much.

Redhand said...

Que "Old man Yells at Cloud". I can't think of a more oxygen-wasting fool on the American political landscape than this rage-engorged, vicious old windbag. It used to be that politicians who ran for President and lost had the good sense and common decency to realize they were a spent force, and to fade from the political scene to make way for fresh blood. Not this guy. The only way he'll disappear from public view is when he croaks.

Anonymous said...

First, a little back story: I have been, as they say “a lurker”, since you were a commenter on Steve Gilliard’s blog back in the late 90’s (I won’t start on how much I miss Steve, and how much he helped me survive in a world seemingly full of conservative batshit crazy). I now stop by everyday to read your excellent, incisive writing.

To Steve’s point: “Journalism wasn't embracing the outcasts, not then, and not now”. Writers like yourself and others will always find an outlet to write. If blogging dies it will be because the corporations want to own the internet, and in doing so, will again kick the outcasts out of the “blogging newsroom”. But outcasts with something to say will find a way, even if the world devolves to writing on a cave walls with charcoal.

The lickspittles of current mainstream so-called journalism like “I have journalism piles” DFB, will always try to ridicule the barbarians at the gate. They have to, it’s what they’re paid to do along with their job of being what Steve referred to as “Judy Miller is what every editor, secretly dreams about, the sexy, tempestuous man-crazy reporter. The fact that she's a tool for those in power doesn't discomfort them”. I would add the obvious that being a tool for those in power is a prerequisite and not a discomfiture to the editor these days. Also, how sexy and tempestuous DFB’s journalism piles are, well, we’ll leave that up to the dear reader.

As you’ve said many times “There is a club, and you’re not in it”. Besides, in this case the mainstream journalism club sucks, so fuck their club and the horse they rode in on, and fuck DFB and the piles he rode in on.

One more thing, I really don’t have a problem with this from the Politico word salad: “The Andrew Sullivan era of journalism is over”. Oh, please, let it be so. Think of a world with no more stupid shit from the Sullivan traveling fetch, grovel and pomposity act.

Monster from the Id said...

IIRC, Fetch, Grovel, and Pomposity were originally going to be the names of Donald Duck's nephews, but Walt Disney said, "Oh hell to the NO!".

Few people know Uncle Walt coined that phrase. ^_^