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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More on the nature of blogging

This piece by Marty Kaplan I saw at the Huffington Post:

Pajamahadeen = Chattering Class + Broadband

Chris Matthews to Ned Lamont on MSNBC today: What do you think of the pajamahadeen?

Lamont: Huh?

Matthews: The bloggers. They roll out of bed in the morning, they read something in the paper, they blog about it, they talk to each other about it, people blog back, and pretty soon it becomes the buzz.

(Caveat lector: It's my paraphrase, not a transcript.)

It's funny: the entire District of Columbia is built on the exact same process that Chris Matthews describes, except that instead of people using keyboards, they use phones, and instead of blogging, they use their access to print and broadcast media, and to one another.

I lived and worked in politics and journalism in Washington for eight years, and every day, the inviolable morning ritual was that people read the papers, they watched television, and then all day long they called one another to ask, "What do you hear?" The biggest difference between the daily routine of the Beltway chattering class and the blogosphere is that the Gang of 500 (as The Note calls them) has been replaced by the dispersed and inherently more small-d democratic netroots.

The reason that there are just 500 or so in the elite is that the mandarins who belong to it, plus the MSM employers it's parasitic on, keep a de facto ceiling on its membership. But there's no max to the number of cyberchatterers; their impact depends not on a merit badge system, but on their ability to attract readers.

It's ludicrous to distinguish Beltway blowhards from bloggers by the quality of their thinking. No matter what you think about bloggers' smarts, anyone who's taken the trouble to compare credentialed pundits' pontifications with what actually transpires in the real world will be painfully aware of their lack of accountability. The conventional wisdom their groupthink constitutes (including the contrarians, whose act is just as predictable) is way more often wrong than right.

Nor is there a defensible distinction between bloggers and talking heads on the vitriol front; there's manifest parity between the haters online and the celebrity assassins on Fox.

No, the big differences are about branding (the blogosphere hasn't caught up to the household logos yet), and about access. There's nothing the pajamahadeen are up to today that hasn't already been done before, both badly and well, by the priesthood.

I wouldn't say all columnists in national newspapers over here write self-indulgent, ill-informed rubbish for lots of money, but there are enough. I mean, who looks forward to reading the tripe that "Editor-at-Large" Janet Street-Porter spews out at The Independent? (who looks forward to reading the Indie full stop? Furthermore, they expect you to pay to read online articles from it!) As this post at Bloggerheads suggests, various people at the Indie are not happy about bloggers and blogger culture (perhaps because most bloggers don't expect people to pay for their online outpourings?):

Independent newspaper lashes out at independent publishers

For some reason the Independent is having a go at bloggers...

The fragrantly-hyphenated Janet Street-Porter kicked things off yesterday with this charming piece:

Janet Street-Porter - Editor-At-Large: Blog off... You don't want to know what I weigh today (do you?)

The tastiest comments are hidden behind the subscription wall, but I dare to share:

"The web is fast becoming clogged with blogs; the verbal diarrhoea of the under-educated and banal."
"Blogs are for anoraks who couldn't get published any other way."

And the day after Janet Street-Porter assured her readers that blogs contained inconsequential information published by inconsequential people, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown put her hyphen to work to put forward another case; that blogs contained dangerous information published by dangerous people... before dismissing the whole thing as a fad. Of the inconsequential variety, obviously...

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - Hounded by assaults from cyberspace

Yasmin starts out by assuring us that "the internet has already become a coffee shop for paedophiles and violent fantasists," and follows this wonderful guilt-by-association opener with this charming passage. From her back-passage...

"Where do blog writers and surfers find the time? When do they do the washing, cooking, eating, talking, cuddling, story reading to kids? Do they never help with school homework, go to the theatre, make love, read books, talk to friends, entertain?"

Well, there you have it. I hang out with paedophiles *and* I neglect my kids. Further, I have failed to fulfill certain cultural obligations, and have thus proven myself to be under-educated and banal.

I think I can be excused for thinking there's something coordinated going on here.

Who exactly decided that our cages needed rattling? And why?


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