Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On My Rant

I was thinking more about my rant the other day against the blogosphere, which got a lot more attention than I ever expected. The Guardian asked if they could reprint it, and it should be there in a few days.

It's certainly not that I think Matthew Yglesias is vapid or unintelligent or Andrew Sullivan or any of them. They're obviously all very smart guys with things to say, though perhaps limited by the need to post 25 times a day.

I guess I am just disgusted with the superficiality in our society, which has now taken over much of the blogosphere, especially the political blogosphere, which seems to have rapidly sunk into that hole. Maybe you care if Obama's third-to-main advisor has a pastor who once had dinner with a former Black Panther who once quoted Nietzsche when he was a 19-year old sophomore wearing dredlocks -- maybe that's all campaigns revolve around now -- but if so it is an utter fucking waste and I have absolutely no interest in it and I mourn for the death of my country. Paying attention to it all gets me nowhere, and why else to tune in to Yglesias or Sullivan 5 times a day except to find out the latest gossip. Is that what the blogosphere is about now -- gossip? Maybe.

I just don't see that they have much original to say, and so why am I spending my time there and not reading great books by Robert Pirsig and Charles Dickens and Chellis Glendinning and Edward Abbey and Thomas Kuhn and Warren Siegel and Stanislaw Ulam and Updike and Rick Bass and John Irving and Henry Roth and people who are writing for the ages and not for the current 15 minutes?

Yes, there are gems in the blogosphere, issues not discussed anywhere else (and certainly not on cable TV or even mainstream newspapers). But they are farther and farther apart and I can't spend time trying to dig them out.

And Obama, who once seemed like he might be an answer for those ready to give up, is clearly not that at all, but just another one of them. A product of the system, spit out at the top.

Some responses to my rant said that blogging is a conversation, and maybe I'm just not a good conversationalist. I live too much in my head.

Anymore most blogs just feel like things that get in the way of me living my life, really living it, instead of sitting in front of the damn computer for 12 hours a day trying to stay abreast of it all. Fuck it. It's disturbing my life and, I suspect, the lives of lots of other people. All this crap is not life. Instead I'm going to go out for a walk or up to the library or meet a friend for lunch or go sleep in a tent up in the mountains for a few days and get rained on, and then I'm going to focus on what little I can understand and can write about and communicate, in a manner and depth that matters.

I gave up TV a year ago and maybe the blogosphere is next. Who knows, maybe I'm on my way to living off the grid in a small cabin in the Cascade Mountains, a heartbroken hermit, but I just hate wasting my time on gossip and trivialities and every stupid thing they try to divert you with.

There are so many huge issues in our society and it seems clear to me that we are on a precipice and our future really hangs in the balance. Our economy is taking, we are at Peak Oil, 1/6th of the fucking country has no serious access to the health care system except for pitiful clinics at Wal-Mart, we are clearly not going to even begin to address climate change, our youth are wasting their lives in the Middle East securing oil profits, politicians lie rampantly and the media are pussies and those with power are clearly bought and sold by international corporations. We spends hundreds of billions on war, enriching the oil companies and the defense companies, and can't even pay Medicare doctors the minimum of what they're worth. And... I don't know, Americans don't even seem to care. They just go to work and go out to eat afterward, and polls show them to be happier and happier. So why am I getting angrier and angrier?


Darko Svitek said...

I think that you have managed to accurately sum up the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in right now, but do have to disagree with one thing. I do think Obama is a splendid answer for those of us otherwise ready to give up.

After eight years of kleptocratic rule by conservative ideologues, there is part of me who would like to see a progressive avenger come in and exact revenge for what we have had to suffer under Bush 43. Obama is not that candidate. He is a centrist who aims to represent the whole country, not just a portion of it.

But at the same time, Obama has managed to present a very coherent and appealing vision for America, an America which actually attempts to tackle the problems that we as a country, and as a planet, face right now. He has done this much better than the last two Democratic presidential candidates, Kerry and Gore, and much better than Bush/McCain, who don't really need to give a shit, because they can always retire to their multi-million dollar mansions with their government-funded health care, which they don't want the rest of us to have, and ignore it all.

Obama's solutions may not always be the exact same ones I would want to see implemented, but he is at least focused on the right problems, and is proposing reasonable solutions. And that is a huge step in the right direction.

Dano said...

Excellent rant, David.

Aaaaa-men, bruddah.



Ken said...

Here's the thing: your rant and follow-up remind me of people who read a book, love it, go to a movie based on the book, and are enraged and heartbroken that the movie isn't like the book. It's completely unreasonable for them to expect a movie -- which is a completely different art form -- to be like the book. It's like getting mad that a painting doesn't include all the verses of the poem that inspired it, or that Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger" doesn't relate the entire plot of the film. (Nothing rhymes with Oddjob.) But because of a categorical confusion that's exactly what some people to expect.

You have the same categorical confusion about blogs. They're a completely different type of commentary -- or art form, if you like -- than books or newspaper columns. They're more personal, they're more up-to-the-moment-of-the-day rather than current-this-month, and by necessity most of the posts are not as deep. But in many ways they are more expressive and honest than less ephemeral media because they lack third-party editing and the self-doubt brought on by the passage of time.

So can blogs be more superficial? Yes. Could people only post things on blogs that are deep and SERIOUS (or, at least, self-serious) and painstakingly edited? Yes. But then they wouldn't be blogs any more. They'd be columns or articles, just posted online. They'd be an entirely different form of art/commentary.

And in reading both of your posts on this, I have to ask -- compared to what? Your baseline for comparison seems to be serious books. Here's the thing -- very few people in America read serious books. It would be nice if that changed, but it's probably not going to happen. Blogging, and commenting on blogs, encourages more people to get involved in thinking and writing and discussing issues of public policy. That's a good think, even if some of the thoughts and writings and discussions are superficial. The notion that dialogue is disappointing and unworthy unless it takes place in rarefied form is elitist and displays precisely the sort of attitude that deters many people from participating in self-serious debates on public policy.

Your other basis for comparison seems to be some mythical blogosphere or internet that existed before everything went to hell. I've been on the internet for a long time. I've searched for that reputed non-superficial, serious internet. I never found it. I don't think it existed except in people's minds. Even if you go back to the usenet, it was never exactly the Algonquin Round Table.

(blogger, www.popehat.com)

Russell said...

I suspect that you are getting angrier because you know that this is a losing battle. As other commenters have said comparing blogs to the printed word is futile. Blogs aren't art but if they were they would be ice sculptures; transient by their very nature.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the political bloggers on the left who petulantly DEMANDED we love OBAMA OR ELSE...and now they whine that he's moved to the right. As if...

Bernie said...

aren't you doing the same thing as Matt? or Andrew? A post dedicated to Einstein reciting his most famous equation? Really life changing.