Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Cheap Passion and Celebrity Worship

Back in the late-1980s, when I was publishing SLANT on a weekly basis in the Fan District, I didn’t know it then, but I was blogging.

Dig it: I wrote short blurbs about politics, sports, art and whatever popped into my mind. I did the writing on the fly, mostly in bars, and sold ads along the way. In that doing I fell in love with writing. However, in the beginning I created that semi-legendary little local ‘zine mostly so I could self-publish my political/social commentary cartoons.

Originally, I expected only other old hippies, then in their twenties and thirties would care to read it. When I discovered my readership was not confined to such a narrow audience, I was delighted and encouraged. Eventually my early spontaneous, blog-like writing matured/morphed into essay writing, OpEds, features, columns, for other periodicals.

That almost makes your narrator one of the inventors of blogging -- sort of like geek-kahuna Al Gore inventing the Internet. All kidding aside, to digress briefly, one of my big influences was a newsletter I read in the 1960s called, “I.F. Stone’s Weekly.” So, I’m suggesting that blogging follows in a proud tradition, going back to the pamphleteers of the pre-Revolutionary War Era.

Therefore, from my “high horse,” as one resentful blogger put it, here’s a point that I must underline at the onset: I am flat amazed at how much time bloggers, who fancy themselves as writers, are spending copying one another, instead of actually writing what they have learned from their own experience in life.

The vast bulk of political blogging, rightwing or lefty, is about as original as a Nigerian plea for help retrieving a lost fortune.

Recently I’ve had the temerity to challenge some of the silliest copycat propaganda being force-fed into the Internet’s streaming marketplace of ideas, chiefly emanating from the Harris Miller/Jim Webb race. Well, you’d think I said George Allen is an intellectual, or that George Bush is one of the great statesmen of all-time. When actually, what I did was question/criticize the style of some pushy bloggers wearing blinders.

The reaction reminded me of when I wrote an opinion piece for Richmond.com, in September of 2000, calling Dr. Laura the “The Queen of Claptrap.” Her steamed up supporters deluged me with hate emails from all over the country. The tone of those emails six years ago was worse, but similar to what some of the blogging zealots have used in the last couple of weeks to knock down my objection to their overwrought tactics.

This intense, focused reaction to my observations reminded me of another instance: In 1978 I tried to break up a fight between two groups of street-fighters. One group fled immediately when I told them the cops had been called, that they better run. The other group attacked me. Here’s my account of that little adventure, "Chasing Dignity," which was published in this week’s STYLE Weekly.

Perhaps the most bogus thing I’ve read repeatedly on political blogs is about their trump card, their “passion.” Oh yes, “passion” is dripping from their sleeves. “Passion” is their reason, and it’s their all-purpose monkey wrench of an excuse.

Many of the Democrats’ busiest bloggers this season haven’t really been dealing with ideas, so much as they have personalities. In this era they prefer seeing elected officials as celebrities. They want their favorite politicians, even their paid staffers, to be “rock stars.”

To that notion I say this: A pack of celebrity worshippers drunk on cheap passion, poured from a screw-top bottle, singing along with the radio, turned up way too loud, may have lots of fun at the party. Then comes the hangover ... the lost wallet... the trouble from what you said that you don’t remember.

Bloggers, if you really want to show your true passion about something, providing you have any, use your own words. And, if all you want to do is cut and paste, that’s fine. It’s a nice hobby, but please turn down the volume. Rudeness and sincerity aren't the same thing.


Vivian J. Paige said...

Once again, great post.

Alice said...

How do you know that political bloggers fancy themselves as writers? Some of us just think of ourselves as a amateur clip service. Instead of annoying our friends by sending articles around we just link them on our blog.

F.T. Rea said...

alice marshall,

You're right. Not all political bloggers claim to be writers. Some clearly are writers, some are maybe writers-in-training, others may see themselves as propagandists, still others are just playing, and so forth. Furthermore, I meant no offense to dedicated bloggers who primarily provide headlines and links to topics they care about. I’d say they are doing something akin to editing.

I wrote that piece quickly and didn't sharpen all the points. That’s the beauty of blogging. If you want to say something quickly, while it’s fresh, you can. Bloggers who don't focus solely on politics, of which I am one, probably tend to want to connect with their readers in a different way than the creators of many of the politics-only sites.

SLANTblog is a poor man’s online version of SLANT, which has always been about politics. It also has always covered aspects of popular culture, such as music, art, sports, etc. So, I have deliberately tried to make it a little different than most of the left-leaning blogs. A conformist I am not.

Craig said...

Great post. The bloggers caught up in the cult of personality of Webb vs. Miller really could use a bit more of this kind of cold shower of reality. Unfortunately once the kool aid gets consumed it is hard to go back...