Plumb Lines

October 19, 2009

Tear Down This Blog!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 10:57 am

Stefan McDaniel lodges some serious objections to sites like this one:

Reading Postman for the first time last month gave me clearer language to explain my rage against the rise of blogging. For what he says about media can be said about literary forms—they are biased toward certain kinds of content. The blogpost is biased toward speed, brevity, and cleverness. It thus hands the public square over to bullies, sophists, and clowns.

Blogging has broadened the public discussion, but being more “democratic” does not somehow make it a neutral or indifferent forum. The medium, unsurprisingly, has its biases, and certain people are better suited to blogospherics than others. While vicious habits of mind are often the best recipe for drawing traffic, good blogging — blogging that is likely to gain the approval of “young fogeys” like McDaniel — requires intellectual virtue. Daniel Larison‘s long, thoughtful posts are a good example of using the form to cultivate good mental habits. This model — call it anti-blogging — deserves more imitators.

Update: I should also say what our readers hopefully already know: the League has some of the best “anti-blogging” around.

-Matthew Schmitz



  1. Well thanks! That’s high praise! You guys have some pretty damn fine anti-blogging yourselves, you know…. (I really like that term by the way…)

    Comment by E.D. Kain — October 20, 2009 @ 11:36 am

  2. I didn’t mention Postman’s distinction between technology and media or press my distinction between media and literary forms hard enough.

    Postman wrote that “a technology is a physical apparatus . . . . an medium is a use to which a technology is put. A technology becomes a medium as it employs a particular symbolic code, as it finds its place in a particular social setting, as it insinuates itself into economic and political contexts. A technology . . . is merely a machine. A medium is the social and intellectual environment a machine creates.”

    All that could be clearer and is perhaps still debatable but I trust the point, and its relevance, is evident. I wasn’t writing against the internet as such.

    Nor (to slide into the vicinity of Matt’s actual point) was I writing against the use of the internet for discussion of serious things. I was writing against the prevalence of the 1-4 paragraph magisterial and conclusive, semi-aphoristic comment, which is the focal case of what we all call the “blogpost.” I think that, as a matter of cultural fact, the name “blog” gives prospective readers certain information about what to expect and what attitude to bring to reading. Does not “blog” suggest “string of entertaining short comments, heavy on snark and written with breezy confidence that I click through impatiently, looking for chuckles, attacks on my enemies, or provocation “?

    If someone wants to write a thoughtful, humble short article twice a week on blog technology he can, but I would consider him a “blogger” in a somewhat extended sense. I judge the best blogs, in the focal sense, those which approximate Richard John Neuhaus’s WHILE WE’RE AT IT section. Pithy, thoughtful, graceful, humane, funny but hardly ever cheap. I’m all for anti-blogging, but what I’m describing isn’t anti-blogging–just blogging done as well as possible. But of course the content of such blogs deserves preservation in a more permanent and easily browsed medium (how wearying it is to click back through archives!).

    True, FT is published once a month and blogs have the advantage (?) of being instantaneous, but I’m one of those unprogressive people who can think of plenty worse things than delayed gratification.

    But anyway, long live anti-blogging!

    Comment by Stefan McDaniel — October 23, 2009 @ 9:41 am

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