Thursday, August 14, 2003

While some bloggers, like Calpundit were quite happy to cite and applaud this Maureen Dowd piece about politicians blogging, I find myself disagreeing. Here's Dowd:

The most telling sign that the Internet is no longer the cool American frontier? Blogs, which sprang up to sass the establishment, have been overrun by the establishment.

In a lame attempt to be hip, pols are posting soggy, foggy, bloggy musings on the Internet. Inspired by Howard Dean's success in fund-raising and mobilizing on the Web, candidates are crowding into the blogosphere — spewing out canned meanderings in a genre invented by unstructured exhibitionists.

It could be amusing if the pols posted unblushing, unedited diaries of what they were really thinking, as real bloggers do. John Kerry would mutter about that hot-dog Dean stealing his New England base, and Dr. Dean would growl about that wimp Kerry aping all his Internet gimmicks. But no such luck.
I doubt most bloggers post their ideas completely unchecked, but that kind of misses the point, as does Ms. Dowd and, for that matter, a lot of blog cheerleaders. A weblog is just a format. It's a way of organizing a website such that the material is placed in reverse chronological order on the same page. That's it. Nothing more.

There's absolutely nothing in the concept of the weblog that they or their owners should do what Ms. Down says they do. They don't have to "sass the establishment"... many don't, and many are actually quite approving of the establishment in different ways. Yes, anti-authoritarianism is common online, but there is zero reason why a blogger should adopt that attitude. Ditto with her complaints about the various politicos weblogs, which reveal not that they're lousy bloggers, but that they simply tend towards the kind of logging of personal events that caused many famous and not-so-famous people to take to weblogs or other online diary systems. The people who use Diaryland pages are generally apolitical, and often far from "sassy", but that doesn't make the material any less compelling. Indeed, it's often a welcome change.

Neil Gaiman's weblog isn't "sassy", either, but does it really need to be? It's interesting, funny, and allows me to peek into the life of a man whose work I enjoy and whose talent and skill at wielding the language I sometimes envy and always admire. Isn't that enough? And if I were as interested in the life and times of, say, John Kerry, isn't that enough as well?

Weblogging is just a medium, and while McLuhan had a point about media and messages, I somehow doubt that there's any intrinsic connection between weblogging and "sass". It may feel understandably good to many bloggers; ultimately, however, it limits the form.

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