Wolcott annoints blogs

Wolcott annoints blogs

: The April Vanity Fair has a great column from the great columnist James Wolcott coming to praise blogs.

Says the head: “Don’t dismiss blogs as the online rantings of B-list writers. Interlinked and meritocratic, seething with fierce debate and rivalries, they’re the best thing to hit journalism since the rise of the political pamphlet.” All kinds of people at the keyboards are blushing now.

The column isn’t online and because I will accept some second-hand blame for that, I’ll do penance by typing in just a few highlights and links to give Wolcott a little link love. As he moves along, Wolcott uses all this as a means of arguing that the left is hot and the right is not; that’s the raison de column.

He begins by talking about the state of the online art only a few years ago…

…bloggers tended to be lumped in the amateur division and relegated to the draft basement. Most were considered harmless hobbyists, like ham-radio operators and model-train enthusiasts, or personal diarists doodling on the laptop, hoping someday to get laid…

Far from being a refuge for nose-picking narcissists, blogs have speedily matured into the most vivifying, talent-swapping, socializing breakthrough in popular journalism since the burst of coffeehouse periodicals and political pamphleteering in the 18th century, when The Spectator, The Tatler, and sundry other sheets liberated writing from literary patronage. If Adison and Steele, the editors of The Spectator and The Tatler, were alive and holding court at Starbucks, they’d be WiFi-ing into a joint blog….

Internet space may appear to be an expanding universe of uncharted dimensions with no fixed center or hitching post, but a brain scan of the blogosphere would reveal the same hemispheric divide between left and right that prevails in the flesh realm. Not that there isn’t some friendly fraternization… But mostly liberals and conservatives congregate at their own tables in the cafeteria and shoot straw wrappers at each other, dirty looks….

After doing a very good job explaining blogs — I’ll spare you since I assume you attended that class — Wolcott tells the story of the Blogging of the Presidency site (“featuring one of the most cerebral, provocative, history-enriched ongoing symposia to be found on the Web. Its mainstays include Jay Rosen, Stirling Newberry, and Christopher Lydon, who are to political blogdom what Samuel Johnson and his fellow members of the Club were to London, only without the port and cold mutton) and its radio show (aw, shucks, I get mentioned), on which Andrew Sullivan and Atrios bitchslapped each other of anonymity.

It wasn’t exactly a rematch of the Norman Mailer-versus-Gore Vidal clash of titans on The Dick Cavett Show, but the issue percolated, coming to a boil with an article on Salon a week later. The author, Christopher Farah, lit into the whole pirate crew of “anonybloggers”…

Wolcott does an on-the-one-hand-on-the-other about anonymous and pseudonymous blogging and the cloak for attack it can provide and then says:

And I would add, based on my own subjective impressions, the reason Andrew Sullivan attracts so many personal attacks isn’t that he’s recognizable and his attackers aren’t, but that he makes it so easy and fun. He’s like a bad tenor begging to be pelted with fresh product.

On the surface, the battle between Andy and Atrios is a minor spat between a drama queen and a shrinking violet, but it has deeper rippes. That Sullivan, a well-known byliner, television pundit, and former Gap model, felt impelled to pick a fight with a lesser-known blogger was a sign of insecurity — shaky status. It signifies the shift of influence and punch-power in the blogosphere from the right to the left. It is Atrios, not Andrew Sullivan, who is in ascendance in the blogosphere. Only a few years ago, the energy and passion were largely the property of the right hemisphere, where Sullivan, Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds, and N.R.O.’s Victor Davis Hanson fired up the neurons against defeatism, anti-Americanism, and death’s-head specter of Islamic terrorism billowing from the ruins of Ground Zero….

When I stray into these sites now, it’s like entering the visitor’s center of a historical landmark. The rhododentrons need dusting, and the tour guide isn’t listening to himself, having done his spiel endless times before.

Liberal blogs are now where the bonfires blaze.

OK, my fingers are tired and you’ll need to go buy the magazine — on newsstands now! — to read the rest, as you should. Wolcott, having set himself in the anti-Iraq-war side of the aisle, goes on to give huge praise to Kos and Josh Marshall. He takes his readers through the discussion of the Adopt A Journalist meme. And he ends:

Patti Smith’s war cry about rock ‘n’ roll was “We created it — let’s take it over.” Journalism can’t and shouldn’t be taken over by bloggers, but they can take away some of the toys, and pull down the thrones.

Among the many, many bloggers plugged by Wolcott, in addition to those already mentioned: Mickey Kaus, Virginia Postrel, Matthew Yglesias, SullyWatch, Greg Easterbrook, Lew Rockwell, Media Whores Online, MFML, Jonah Goldberg, TBogg, Calpundit‘s Kevin Drum, Juan Cole, Brad DeLong, Daily Howler, Al Giordano, Steve Gilliard (and I’m sure I missed a few).