The Business of Blogging

December 21, 2006

Lost in a medley of graduate school applications, the footwork of organizing a talk in DC by a visitig MP from Afghanistan, and playing out my fantasies of global domination through my new Civilizations-III PC game, I have missed a very exciting week of blogging on Afghanistan.

But then I also believe that all bloggers ought to occasionally wrest themselves away from the business of blogging, or they will risk quality and seriousness. Just as a casual attitude about blogging is often helpful in a world of real-time news and information, and helps to keep the ball rolling and the blog updated, too much of this attitude can also end up trivializing otherwise important issues.

At any rate, bloggers should remind themselves of the sanctity of the craft of writing at all times.

While, for instance, Karzai’s recent tirades against Pakistan definitely invited commentary, I frankly was not in a position to provide serious commentary, and I felt that commenting anyway would be disingenuous and somehow insulting to the imaginary audience of Safrang. Of course I could merely post a link to the news article itself, but then I respect myself more than to just relay information anyone can get anyways. So I had to let the whole thing incubate for a while, and yes, I had to play Civilizations-III for hours on end.

On an ending note, as far as blogging is concerned, I recommend reading a recent Op-Ed in the WSJ, titled “The Blog Mob.” The tagline reads: “written by fools to be read by imbeciles,” attributed to Joseph Conrad who was speaking many years before about newspapers! Here is an excerpt:

The way we write affects both style and substance… In this aspect, journalism as practiced via blog appears to be a change for the worse. That is, the inferiority of the medium is rooted in its new, distinctive literary form. Its closest analogue might be the (poorly kept) diary or commonplace book, or the note scrawled to oneself on the back of an envelope–though these things are not meant for public consumption. The reason for a blog’s being is: Here’s my opinion, right now.

The right now is partially a function of technology, which makes instantaneity possible, and also a function of a culture that valorizes the up-to-the-minute above all else. But there is no inherent virtue to instantaneity. Traditional daily reporting–the news–already rushes ahead at a pretty good clip, breakneck even, and suffers for it. On the Internet all this is accelerated.

The blogs must be timely if they are to influence politics. This element–here’s my opinion–is necessarily modified and partly determined by the right now. Instant response, with not even a day of delay, impairs rigor. It is also a coagulant for orthodoxies. We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought–instead, panics and manias; endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior.