My first real attempt to write a long-form essay about the meaning of blogging as a medium and a message is now online. I’m curious as to what you think. Among other things, I try to put the form of blogging into some kind of historical perspective:
For centuries, writers have experimented with forms that suggest the imperfection of human thought, the inconstancy of human affairs, and the humbling, chastening passage of time. If you compare the meandering, questioning, unresolved dialogues of Plato with the definitive, logical treatises of Aristotle, you see the difference between a skeptic’s spirit translated into writing and a spirit that seeks to bring some finality to the argument. Perhaps the greatest single piece of Christian apologetics, Pascal’s Pensées, is a series of meandering, short, and incomplete stabs at arguments, observations, insights. Their lack of finish is what makes them so compelling—arguably more compelling than a polished treatise by Aquinas.
Or take the brilliant polemics of Karl Kraus, the publisher of and main writer for Die Fackel, who delighted in constantly twitting authority with slashing aphorisms and rapid-fire bursts of invective. Kraus had something rare in his day: the financial wherewithal to self-publish. It gave him a fearlessness that is now available to anyone who can afford a computer and an Internet connection.
If you feel me working up to another celebration of Montaigne, you’re not wrong.
One other thing. The essay is a defense and celebration of blogging – but not as a replacement for long-form writing or in-depth journalism. In fact, I think blogging makes the long, deep take more important in our ADD culture. With that in mind, and especially if you support the Dish, I urge you to get a subscription to the Atlantic on dead-tree. It’s the best general monthly magazine in the world – offered at less than half the price of the newstand. And it provides a chance to unplug from bloggy craziness and read stuff longer, deeper, more durable. I think of it, along with great newspaper reporting and magazine writing, as the essential complement to reading blogs. Our culture will suffer terribly if we don’t have both.
This month: a ground-breaking report by Hanna Rosin on the revolution in understanding kids who believe they are the opposite gender; a devastating and funny take-down of TSA insanity by Jeffrey Goldberg; an insight into China’s PR problem by James Fallows; the best piece you’ll read on the new super-intendent for DC’s schools, mentioned by both candidates in last night’s debate; and a penetrating essay on neuroscience and identity. In our back of the book: Hitchens on Naipaul; Ben Schwarz on David Thomson; a review of Dee-Dee Myers’ book that already has George Stephanopoulos steaming; all with columns by media genius Michael Hirschorn and libertarian glamor-puss Virginia Postrel.
The magazine is the ballast for the blogs you read. If you like Coates, Ambinder, Douthat, Fallows, Crook, McArdle, and Wallraff online, why not get the magazine that makes sense of all of us? It’s just $24.50 a year. Subscribe!