I was alerted to this piece in n+1, a left-wing publication, on the decline of reading and writing in Western societies thanks to the newfound power of Twitter and the prominence this power gives to the op-ed (h/t John Holbo over at Crooked Timber).
There is one really good point in an otherwise predictable piece, but first I’d like to highlight why I continue to maintain that the Left is still the reactionary ideology of our times. The editorial’s complaints about technology (Twitter) giving a voice to radical factions (right-wingers like Andrew Sullivan and the Fox News brigade) are just the same ol’ excuses served up by the Leftists of yore to censor views they don’t like. It’s ho-hum all the way down.
At any rate, here is the part that really grabbed me:
Back then, we could not have imagined feeling nostalgic for the blogosphere, a term we mocked for years until we found it charming and utopian. Blogs felt like gatherings of the like-minded, or at least the not completely random. Even those who stridently disagreed shared some basic premises and context — why else would they be spending time in the comments section of a blog that looked like 1996? Today’s internet, by contrast, is arbitrary and charmless.
I find myself in aesthetic agreement with these reactionaries, again. I’ve always found myself more drawn to the tastes of leftists than conservatives, whose tastes are often too crass for me. (A dead animal’s head on your wall? Really?) And today, I find the internet arbitrary and charmless. Op-eds, and their charmless cousin, the jargon-laden academic paper, are everywhere.
This is part of the reason why I continue to blog. I know that blogging is becoming less and less popular. I understand that clicks and traffic and attention are more important to most people who take time out of their lives to write. I get it.
The intimacy that a blog affords, though, is too good to pass up, especially for someone like me. I like reading voices from Argentina like Federico’s. I enjoy Jacques’ posts on sex and politics. (A true Frenchman, that one, no matter how hard he tries to be otherwise.) Rick, the Canadian-turned-American living in New York, always manages to bring a smile to my face. I like being able to read Michelangelo, an authentic voice from Los Angeles, the crown jewel of the American Empire.
The conversational nature of the blog is not in vogue right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Indeed, if anything, it means that the conversations that continue to play out over what’s left of the blogosphere will be far more important to far more people in far more places than the latest Twitterstorm. Twitter is an incredibly useful place for mining knowledge, but it’s worthless for shaping that knowledge into something useful and precious for today and tomorrow. Only writing can do that.
Op-eds aren’t going anywhere. There’s no use trying to delegitimize them, or ban them. You can choose to ignore them. That’s what I do. Instead of reading an op-ed, I continue to browse the blogosphere, where conversation about ideas and events remains as boisterous, and relevant, and as ever.
PS: I hope you are enjoying my “nightcaps.” The Notewriters have all reached out to me to let me know they’ve got something in the pipeline. Life gets hectic. People get busy. But writing notes on liberty will never get old.