(Samuel Pepys, of course.)
From dusty shops neglected authors come,
Martyrs of pies, and relics of the bum. (John Dryden, "Mac Flecknoe")
My dad and step-mom and I went to dinner at their favorite sushi place tonight. As we were sitting there snarfing down edamame and sipping tea from handleless earthenware mugs, we talked about blogging and its impact on traditional media and on political discourse as a whole. I was telling them about the kind of continual dull roar of anti-blogger rhetoric that we hear a lot from your more entrenched trad-media types about how Bloggers are Uncivil, Bloggers are Uninformed, Bloggers Have No Qualifications, They're Ugly, and They Smell Funny, Too. You know the drill.
People act like it's this sudden and inexplicable development that writers on opposite sides of the political line should be furiously self-publishing, hurling all manner of invective at each other in a no-holds-barred frenzy of ideological combat. I, on the other hand, feel that bloggers are merely taking up the same cudgels as all the great satirists and political writers in history, that political writing has always been fiercely ideological, often rude, and sometimes hilarious.
For instance, have a look at this description of the good people of "Eatanswill", the politically divided town from Chapter 13 of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens:
It appears, then, that the Eatanswill people, like the people of
many other small towns, considered themselves of the utmost
and most mighty importance, and that every man in Eatanswill,
conscious of the weight that attached to his example, felt himself
bound to unite, heart and soul, with one of the two great parties
that divided the town–the Blues and the Buffs. Now the Blues
lost no opportunity of opposing the Buffs, and the Buffs lost no
opportunity of opposing the Blues; and the consequence was,
that whenever the Buffs and Blues met together at public meeting,
town-hall, fair, or market, disputes and high words arose
Of course it was essentially and indispensably necessary that
each of these powerful parties should have its chosen organ and
representative: and, accordingly, there were two newspapers in
the town–the Eatanswill GAZETTE and the Eatanswill INDEPENDENT;
the former advocating Blue principles, and the latter conducted
on grounds decidedly Buff. Fine newspapers they were. Such
leading articles, and such spirited attacks!–'Our worthless
contemporary, the GAZETTE'–'That disgraceful and dastardly journal,
the INDEPENDENT'–'That false and scurrilous print, the INDEPENDENT'–
'That vile and slanderous calumniator, the GAZETTE;' these,
and other spirit-stirring denunciations, were strewn plentifully
over the columns of each, in every number, and excited feelings
of the most intense delight and indignation in the bosoms of the
And here we are, nearly a hundred and fifty years later, except instead of the Gutenberg press, now we have MacBooks.
So, bloggers, hold your heads high! You are the rightful descendents of Swift, Pope, Dryden, and Boswell! You are the children of Trollope, Dickens, and Twain! It's our job to excite feelings of the most intense delight and indignation in the bosoms of our fellows, huzzah!
Frankly, I think that in times of great political strife and unrest, people like ourselves are called by duty to wade in and articulate that which other like-minded souls are struggling to put into words. We comfort the distressed and distress the comfortable.
And I, for one, couldn't be happier. It's kind of marvellous to me that in our age of technological wonders and miracles that the written word is still one of the most powerful and provocative instruments of change. It seems that we've been hearing for years that the Internet would mean the death of reading and writing. We'll all end up talking in emoticons and video clips, right?
Well, no, obviously not. Reading and writing are alive and well. Long live the blogs!