I am not now, nor have I ever been, a blogaholic. Sure, I visit a few blogs every day, and I check InstaPundit every few hours. I have been known to vanish into The Corner at National Review for long stretches, and I can’t understand why Virginia Postrel can’t spare even 10 minutes a day from her new manuscript to update the Dynamist. But I am not hooked. I can stop whenever I want.
I read Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan when they were both just ink-stained wretches, and I interviewed Eugene Volokh when he was wearing academic short-pants. Now that they have been absorbed into the Borg, er, Blog, they are just more available, not particularly different. But their collective power is growing. Growing rapidly, in fact.
Something very big is happening here, as was the case when radio gave print a big elbow, and then when television gave radio a huge body blow. The fourth generation has arrived, and it is wild out there. If you are a writer and not yet hit by the webscrum, wait until your work attracts the cybermob. You will never again be that lazy when it comes to fact-checking. This is the most obvious and most noted of the effects of the rise of the Blog.
Before long, however, the greybeards in the world of web-player-wannabes are going to figure out that the blogocracy matters a great deal in generating traffic to their sites, and the scramble to link to the big blogs will be on. I hope Glenn Reynolds, the force behind InstaPundit.com, turns aside offers from all but either the Washington Post or the New York Times. If a center-right blog marries a center-left paper, the offspring would be good for American politics and journalism.
Other changes have to be in the offing. The success of The Corner, wherein National Review’s online editors and contributors talk to each other in full public view, heralds similar spaces at all major sites (can WorldNetDaily be far behind, or the Washington Times and Weekly Standard?)
The key link will emerge between radio and blogdom. Even as print and television have increasingly found themselves allied on the cable networks, the decentralization of both radio and the bloggers allows them to serve each other in a very healthy symbiosis. As a host, I need guests with brains and sharp opinions. Bloggers covet traffic which a network radio show can provide. The bloggers, in turn, send their readers to my site and the circle is complete.
The most revolutionary effect of blogging is still a ways off. The first three generations of media are remarkably age-, race- and gender-driven. What had originally been a reserve of white males is now a region of tortuous balancing and hypersensitive massaging of unspoken quotas. The blogosphere has none of that. It is the real marketplace of ideas, where there is no barrier to entry and Ragged Dick doesn’t have to sell papers for very long if he’s got talent.
As a result, there will be no forced retirement from the web if the blogger is deemed “too old” to keep a viewer’s eye. In fact, looks and voice matter not at all. And neither do the political tastes of the editor-in-chief or the looney lefty on the city desk. Traffic is traffic and it can be measured and the market is the judge. If you can blog with effect until you are 95, more power to you.
And if you are 16, but brilliant, write this way, please.
Ultimately, the blogs force a choice upon you: If you join in and have the goods, you are opting out of elected life and any prayer of eventual judicial or other high-level governmental selection because candor is the first requirement of successful blogging … and there is no erasing your past work.
But if you can set aside those ambitions, the world of blogging is where the life of the mind has moved. Genuine argument is emerging from the stranglehold that the bigs of the first three generations have imposed upon it. “Cut and thrust” is back, and a web duel makes light sabers look tame. As a center-right conservative confident of the ideas on my side, this means very good things indeed.
Cheers to the revolution.