Blogging as Therapy (Updated)
Friday, April 21, 2006 :::
Dan Henninger devotes his Friday column to blogging and bloggers. He begins with an extreme blogging example (that of "Kevin Ray Underwood, the repressed Oklahoma cannibal, kept an Internet "blog" of his compulsions for years before kidnapping and killing a 10-year-old neighbor last week."), and proceeds to declare that while he does not believe blogging leads to cannibalism...which will come as a relief to Mrs. Leahy...it's not exactly leading us into a golden age of discourse, either:
But it looks to me as if the world of blogs may be filling up with people who for the previous 200 millennia of human existence kept their weird thoughts more or less to themselves. Now, they don't have to. They've got the Web. Now they can share.
Hyperbole aside, there is some truth to what he says. The overwhelming majority of blogs are, frankly, a waste of electrons. And even on blogs that are useful and informative, the level of discourse can sometimes reach levels that would make a sailor blush (right Blue Dog?).
It's somewhat regrettable, though, that Henninger focuses almost exclusively on the bad, the tawdry and the puerile. I suggest that among Virginia's political blogs -- for all our quirks -- there is a much higher level of discussion and insight and information than can be found in most other places. This is a personal conceit (one which Henninger would find par for the medium), but having been at this nearly four years, and watching the landscape change dramatically during that time, I still think it's largely true, even if Henninger disagrees:
At the risk of enabling, does the Internet mean that all the rest of us are being made unwitting participants in the personal and political life of, um, crazy people? As populist psychiatry, maybe this is a good thing; the Web allows large numbers of people to contribute to others' therapy. It takes a village.
Maybe we all are a little crazy. But no more and no less than those who assault their keyboards every day in newsrooms across the nation.
I've always believed that a more reasonable comparison for modern bloggers are the old hand-printed broadsheets that once were a staple of American political life. They were partisan, nasty, occasionally unhinged and definitely inflammatory. But they stripped bare the cossetted worlds of politicians and priestly presses alike. The broadsheets faded over time, becoming either extinct or mutating into more "professional" productions. Blogs may and probably will do the same. Until then, relax, Dan. The world is not coming to an end. But it is changing faster than you know.
Shaun has more...
Shaun Kenney has a somewhat related post, offering both a caution and a warning.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 4/21/2006