Monday, March 22, 2010

"Favorite Books"

Ezra Klein linked to me while opining on books that influenced his thinking, since blogs feature as much as books in his thought.

Much of my emphasis on the institutions of American government and the processes by which they work (or don't) came from my relationship with Mark Schmitt, first through his blog and then through his editorship at the American Prospect. That was cemented, of course, by reporting deeply on health-care reform, which is an opportunity that TAP gave me but that few other outlets would've been even mildly interested in letting me pursue. I consider reading the blogger Demosthenes use the word "props" in relation to politics as something near to an epiphany; it was the first time I realized that I could speak about Washington in a language I recognized.
Before I say anything else, I'd like to point out the box to the right that describes where all this comes from. That "no further connection" is something that I take quite seriously; my opinions have almost nothing to do with any fictional characters or their authors, and I have never claimed otherwise. It's all about pseudonymity, and the importance of clear pseudonymity. The character of Demosthenes did affect my thinking in that respect, and still does, since said character predicted a lot of the strengths (and weaknesses) of pseudonymous opinion journalism.

In fact, if anything, my opinions have been reconfirmed. The conflict between public and private interest has become as much of an issue for bloggers as for other journalists. Perhaps even more so, since bloggers are often trusted as much as (or more than) journalists since they're writing as citizens, instead of elites. What's handy about an obvious pseudonym is that it's actually quite difficult to exploit it to benefit yourself. Sure, you could theoretically attack someone behind a wall of anonymity, but nobody has any reason to trust you, unless you can bring solid proof to bear. You can't hide behind your organization, nor your profession. You are no expert, and in fact cannot be an expert, since you can't prove your expertise. Even if you succeed, you can only benefit indirectly at best. You can't put a pseudonym on a resume, and you sure as hell can't leverage it into a spot at the Washington Post.

So that's why I still think pseudonymity is important. You'll never be inducted as a member of the "village" as a pseudonymous opinion writer. You remain forever an outsider. You won't go to the cocktail parties. You won't drink at the insider bars. You won't attend the events. You won't get the plum administration positions. All you can do is read, and write, and think, and try to communicate your thoughts and beliefs as best you can.

But maybe that's enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment