Blogging is said in many ways

George Will hates blogging. Today he writes:

>Richard Stengel, Time’s managing editor, says, “Thomas Paine was in effect the first blogger” and “Ben Franklin was essentially loading his persona into the MySpace of the 18th century, ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack.’ ” Not exactly.

>Franklin’s extraordinary persona informed what he wrote but was not the subject of what he wrote. Paine was perhaps history’s most consequential pamphleteer. There are expected to be 100 million bloggers worldwide by the middle of 2007, which is why none will be like Franklin or Paine. Both were geniuses; genius is scarce. Both had a revolutionary civic purpose, which they accomplished by amazing exertions. Most bloggers have the private purpose of expressing themselves for their own satisfaction. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is nothing demanding or especially admirable about it, either. They do it successfully because there is nothing singular about it, and each is the judge of his or her own success.

Perhaps Mr.Will does not know that Blogging, like being, is said in many ways. There’s the being of existence, the being of predication, the being of identity and so on. Just because you say something is x, does not mean that that something exists. And only a sophist would claim the meanings of being are fundamentally the same.

Now blogging. In one way, blogging refers to those who blog for themselves, their friends, neighbors, and strangers. It’s certainly a phenomenon worth analysis, but it’s fundamentally different from the other kind of blogging. The other kind of blogging–the one Stengel was talking about to–refers to those who blog with a civic purpose. So, just as you can’t confuse the various senses of “being”; you shouldn’t also confuse the various senses of blogging. You can’t critique “civic bloggers” who post about politics (or in our case, arguments about politics) because other bloggers post pictures of themselves naked, or worse. That would be like criticizing George Will because some other conservative op-ed writers publish uniformed or weakly reasoned opinions in newspapers. And we know that’s wrong.

4 thoughts on “Blogging is said in many ways”

  1. While I hate to jump on the anti-Will bandwagon, and I do question my ability to logically analyze an argument here at 2 a.m., on a second bottle of merlot, how in the world does this follow?

    “There are expected to be 100 million bloggers worldwide by the middle of 2007, which is why none will be like Franklin or Paine. Both were geniuses; genius is scarce.”

    If “genius is scarce,” then the more bloggers there are the more there are who will be “geniuses.” Will’s claim is so intuitively wrong that I can only assume he means to imply that genius would not be so crass as to participate in blogging, the medium of the masses. But if so, he’s failed to make the (ridiculous) point. And if not, he is quite simply, by virtue of basic statistics, wrong.

    However, I’m not sure if your analogy to the “senses of [the verb] being” holds to blogging. Blogging qua blogging is merely a particular use of technology, at its heart involving regular journal-like updates to a web site by a particular individual or collective of individuals. Thus, unlike “to be,” there is really only one “fundamental” sense of blogging. Whether you use the medium to disseminate a unique and influential political viewpoint, or to tell the world what you had for lunch (Ph?), blogging *itself* is, in fact, fundamentally the same.

    But the problem with any ensuing discussion here is that we have two levels of stupid to wade through: a) Time’s rationale for their Person of the Year selection (cf. CNN’s interview, rebroadcast recently on the Daily Show), and b) Will himself. If I offer to reimburse you the cover price of Policy Review, will the next post take on less of an underhanded pitch?

  2. Good one!

    You’re right also about the disanalogy between blogging and being. My point was that the different types of blogging are the same only in the minimal, baseline sense that you point out–a certain use of technology. As Will points out in his op-ed, there are some bloggers wholly unlike the others. But for some reason not even that admission can keep him from treating them all alike. So the analogy holds insofar as they have different senses–which is all I wanted to claim in the first place. As far as the different senses of being is concerned, however, some (Aristotle) argue in fact that there is a fundamental sense or a “focal” sense of being. But the other senses should still not be confused with each other. But maybe you’re right that I shouldn’t make these Will-inspired (Pennsylvania, like Caesar’s Gaul, est omnis divisa in tres partes–dude he said that once) erudite sounding ironies–they really only distract.

  3. ALL that franklin wrote about was himself. as will points out, he was a genius–such a genius, in fact, that 200+ years later, he has still managed to dupe one george f. will. bravo, george, for once again adding 2 and 2 and producing 3.

  4. And this is a blog whose existence a refutes Will\’s argument about the content of the blogosphere:

    let that stand for the numerous blogs of serious, qualified and credentialed intellectuals whom Will disregards in his reduction of all blogging to auto-blogging.

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