Ed Driscoll

The Medium Is The Message

Nick Stewart (found via Instapundit) has some thoughts on the Doonesbury cartoon that’s making the rounds today, which implies that bloggers subsist on a diet of cat food. (Man, I hope that’s not what the waiter at the Left Bank served me last night!):

What we have to realize is that people like Trudeau aren’t going to go away, and regardless of how large the readership of a blog gets, the naysayers will assume that it’s a fad waiting to die. This applies in a major way to those who fear the growth of blogs, because every dollar spent on advertising in the pages of blogs is another dollars taken away from traditional sources. Trudeau relies on the synidication of his strip in order to make money, as well as the small writing and television ventures he is pursuing. Advertising effects him in a direct way, although the rise of blogging seems to have hit him in more of a personal way than a fiscal way. He talks about how we’re “semi-employed losers” who are “too lazy” to get jobs in journalism, which is not only untrue, but completely misses the attributes associated with being a blogger. As bloggers, we retain the ability to have jobs, most of them being pretty good jobs, while divulging our opinions to as many readers we can. We have a form of income that allow us to life comfortably, while taking care of our families, and having some extra time to put together meaningful columns.

I’ll be the first to tell you that by my estimates, only 15 – 20% of bloggers look at blogging as a form of information distribution relevant to local, national, or international news, while the rest use their blogs to post pictures of their family, or talk about their day at school. Some, like myself, use blogs to distribute specialized information. Trudeau creates fiction that mocks reality, not in a funny way, but in a way that makes most turn away with a sour look on their face from the sheer lack of respect [for people of all walks of life] exuded by the comic itself. Trudeau is no better than the so-called artists who pay bums to beat each other within an inch of their lives and then claim it is for “artistic purposes.” I’m sure the argument can be waged for an endless number of years as to who holds the moral high ground, and I’m not sure if either medium does, but it’s safe to assume that most of us in the blogosphere are not lazy, lacking employment, or filled with enough anger that we can rival Saddam Hussein. The same cannot be said for Gary Trudeau, who seems to take out his anger on whoever he believes will not feel the need to fight back against a comic book character.

It’s fascinating to watch a communications platform attacked over and over during the last three years by people who don’t understand the medium, but I guess their definition is fixed by what their first exposure to it was. I’d like to think my understanding of the Blogosphere has changed pretty radically though. I first discovered Weblogs back in the late 1990s, when most of the blogs that I saw were online diaries. As I’ve written before, during that period (back when broadband finally arrived to my neighborhood), I was reading Virginia Postrel frequently via her link off the Reason site she was then editing, and somewhat less frequently, Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan, but I thought of them as e-zines (a term which undergoing a curious renaissance lately), rather than blogs. It was only right around the time of 9/11, when I started reading Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit blog, which at the time had a prominent Blogger logo, that I began to put two and two together, and it finally dawned on me that Weblogs could be more than just day in the life navel gazing.

Navel gazing was actually the preferred epithet used for many of the attacks on bloggers by academia and the press shortly after 9/11–because that’s what the Blogosphere was still primarily known for. But in the wake of fact checking Trent Lott, John Kerry, Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, the New York Times, Newsweek, Dick Durbin and Brian Williams within an inch of their lives, it’s fascinating to watch the still surprisingly clueless mainstream media view all bloggers as lone nut political junkies living in Travis Bickle-style apartments eating Friskies for dinner, rather that as but one subgroup of ten million or so computer users uploading all sorts of disparate stuff, using what is currently the easiest form of online publishing.

A few months ago, Hugh Hewitt told me that big media has never understood the long tail of the Blogosphere. “And now they’ve got the tail just eating them, all day, 24/7.”

Tastes better than Fancy Feast.