A "cozy" world -- of ad hominem attacks?

I am more than a day late with this, and other bloggers have beaten me to it, but here I go anyway.

Jennifer Howard asks whether the Blogosphere has gotten a little too cozy:

What began as the ultimate outsider activity -- a way to break the newspaper and TV stranglehold on the gathering and dissemination of information -- is turning into the same insider's game played by the old establishment media the bloggerati love to critique. The more blogs you read and the more often you read them, the more obvious it is: They've fallen in love with themselves, each other and the beauty of what they're creating. The cult of media celebrity hasn't been broken by the Internet's democratic tendencies; it's just found new enabling technology.
Not quite. If this is a cult of media celebrity, then where is my stretch limo? Where are all the people who follow me around? How will I be able to tell when I have I fallen in love with myself?

I've been blogging for six months. Am I already "cozy"? When will I know? I didn't know that was my goal.

A few days ago, I did a post which I found dreary and depressing. Much to my surprise, it got me an Instalanche. Now, I am very happy to see people reading my blog, as well as very grateful that Glenn Reynolds saw something worthwhile in it. But where is this falling in love with myself I am supposed to be doing? When do I get to fall in love with other bloggers -- not one of whom I have so much as met? Surely this cannot be the kind of love she means?

As to the "beauty" of what I'm creating, it feels more on the level of an onerous daily obligation, if not quite a monster. Reminds me of a Burmese python I raised and finally sold when it became too large to handle; the more it grows, the more I have to feed it. "Beauty" may be in the eye of the beholder, but it is not a word I would use to describe this process.

Nor is "coziness!" I have been blogging for six months, and in that time I have seen bloggers do all of the following (links have been mostly omitted in the interests of either laziness or coziness; you decide which!):

  • slander each other with numerous accusations of assorted atrocious and criminal behavior

  • threaten to sue each other

  • report each other to the authorities

  • forge numerous conflicting alliances, some liberal, some conservative, and some with a stated goal of waging war against other alliances

  • call each other communists, fascists, pussies, and every name imaginable

  • a favorite blogger recently gave up blogging, citing this ill will in the blogosphere as one of his reasons
  • Hardly a cozy arrangement! Definitely not "falling in love with each other!" I find it depressing myself sometimes, and as a former City of Berkeley Police Review Commissioner, I am pretty thick-skinned.

    Ms. Howard has more:

    If the ad hominem tactics made for a better read, I might not mind so much. Sure, it can be fun in a sick sort of way, like watching a bar fight while you nurse a beer in the corner. But more and more it gets in the way of what makes blogs useful to someone like me, and that's information. After making my daily e-rounds, I feel more plugged into what's going on -- and ever more burned out on cronyism and negativity. Even if you rely on blogs for idiosyncratic takes on the news, even if you enjoy seeing sacred cows slaughtered, even if you believe, as I do, that the world needs the kind of Zorro-like cultural commentary they're so good at, you start to wonder: Is this getting a little too personal?
    She has a point there, and despite the post about Ted Rall, I try my damnedest to avoid personal attacks and stick to logical (if sometimes provocative) analysis. The character of Ted Rall however, was a notable exception, because he put it at issue himself by maligning grieving families, urging on those killing U.S. soldiers, and suggesting imprisonment for his critics. These are not ideas in the normal sense, but rather, rhetorical poison arising out of a disordered, malignant character, and striking at the heart of democracy. And anyone who wants me in prison crosses a line which relieves me from any obligation to be "civil."

    But, wait a minute! I thought that the author's theme involved the overly "cozy" blogosphere. What's cozy about ill-will and ad hominem attacks? Why the about-face? Do you think Ms. Howard had a deadline and combined two pieces? The way I would have done this would have been to make two different posts at least a week apart and hope no one would call me on it. But this way she just invites paranoid nit-picking by hypersensitive bloggers like me who are quick to spot deliberate, big-media, anti blogging agitation.

    So while I am at it, why the hell does the piece avoid the right-wing / left-wing division which is becoming a major issue in the blogosphere -- to the point where TTLB has had to redesign things in the interests of fairness? Not a word about any of this.

    Instead, she goes after... book reviewers! (Who are you kidding, lady?)

    Is this a diversion, perhaps?

    What's up?

    Is George Soros planning to buy Technorati, and engineer a gigantic power grab of the Blogosphere by the League of Liberals?

    Just kidding, folks.... JUST KIDDING!

    An article like this could not end without a powerful and earthshaking conclusion:

    In the blogosphere, everybody gets to be a critic.

    Whoa! How awful! Why, that's even worse than talk radio!

    Once again, the Washington Post has failed utterly to win me over. In the big media, only certain people -- paid professional journalists like Jennifer Howard -- get to be the critics.

    (Of course, at the Post it's critical to be cozy.)

    posted by Eric on 11.17.03 at 03:19 PM


    She made a good point about some blogs but, like every other traditional media article that I've read about blogging, it's a perfect example of the old "Blind Men and the Elephant" story. She briefly examines only one small part of the blogosphere and concludes that the dozen or so blogs she has read is representative of the other half-million.

    Lynn S   ·  November 17, 2003 9:53 PM

    I expect a review of Federalist pamphleteers or Chartist manifesto scribblers would show at least as much name calling and ill temper as the blogosphere. In that sense, I think the new medium is much of a muchness.

    I have not come to think of the Flea as a burden as I move into the second year of writing the thing. It serves as a kind of touchstone in an otherwise erratic schedule and a source of intellectual, even at times spiritual, stimulation. But then I think I am blessed with great readers.

    Nicholas Packwood   ·  November 17, 2003 10:19 PM

    While ad hominem arguments do not persuade me of anything, they do reflect a robust freedom -- the Federalist Papers being an apt analogy.

    I don't see blogging as a burden that I would want to give up, and I try to make it fun. I engaged in hyperbole to attack the idea that I am in love with the "beauty" of what I'm "creating."

    My python ("Gumbo") was beautiful too -- but not in the way Ms. Howard had in mind.

    Eric Scheie   ·  November 17, 2003 10:57 PM

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