Blogs Are Useful News Tools Despite Pervasive Online Wankery
Following the highly-anticipated release of the first Wankery Report, a cavalcade of readers questioned the column’s tone.
“Wankery Report,” they said, “you are the height of sex appeal and the peak of high fashion, but why are you using phrases like ‘neoconservative luminary?’ And why are you now referring to me, a singular reader who only reads your column when forced to, as a ‘cavalcade?’”
The answer, of course, is that whenever The Wankery Report states something you disagree with or seems pompous in tone, it is merely lampooning the wankerism of its subjects (wankers). Self-reflexivity, dig?
Conversely, when you, dear reader, find yourself agreeing with The Wankery Report or lauding its down-to-earth prose, you can be assured that what you are reading comes straight from the heart, free of filter or spin.
You can also rest assured that this satirical “reflexivity” is not merely a pundit-y device to evade the need to express a clear opinion or the requisite evidence for it, both of which would take up vital column space.
And now that that’s cleared up, it is time to confront the comments of one Matt Goldberg, who used his space in these pages last week to denigrate an entire religion, one with a growing number of adherents, a global reach, and numerous perspectives and interpretations of the creed therein.
I am speaking, of course, of blogging, a practice that your prodigious columnist has himself been known to admit to in some social contexts, particularly those involving waterboarding and electrocution of the nether regions. My feeling that such discretion is necessary emerged as a direct result of the ill-informed prejudices of Mr. Goldberg and his ilk.
But The Wankery Report has no intention of resorting to ad hominem or playing the victim, and so will now confront the central claim leveled by this gentleman and other anti-bloggers, more often than not from behind fancy desks at effete newspapers like The Oberlin Review. Their argument goes something like this:
“Blogs, in allowing anyone to participate, allow plenty of wankers to do so as well (there are a lot of wankers out there). Rather than merely being a democratic, community-based complement to preexisting media, then, they end up a slip-shod collection of broken sentences and unsupported arguments reminiscent of bodily fluids, which aren’t much of a compliment to any media at all.”
First of all, there are indeed plenty of wankers out there, and they are clearly well-represented in blogs, wherein the wankery really can get quite potent. The author of the very popular “Little Green Footballs,” for instance, noticed in September that a planned memorial for the passengers of Flight 93 incorporated a crescent-like shape, to be realized with red maple trees; knowing that he’s a wanker, you can probably guess what he had to say about that. At the award-winning “Power Line,” a lawyer/blogger going by the nickname Hindrocket managed to trigger the gag reflexes of even the most hardcore of Bush supporters by calling the President a “man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius...like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time.” And, on the left, many bloggers got so worked up when they found out that a right wing White House correspondent was a former male prostitute that they began to implicate him in the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity.
But those who see this sort of idiocy to be a failing of blogs are missing the point. A blog is merely what the name, pre-awkward abbreviation, suggests: a log of items or issues that a given person finds interesting, with added commentary. Sometimes this person happens to be an “expert,” in which case his or her assertions should be judged in the same manner that one would evaluate expert opinion presented through any other medium (very cautiously). And sometimes a person is very clearly a complete idiot, in which case all one has to do is ignore or, better yet, write a column about them.
There are indeed some who argue that blogs represent something more than a convenient venue for the exchange of ideas (or propaganda), that the format magically imbues an individual’s opinion with added validity and will eventually cause the death of the “MSM,” with its antiquated “editors” and “fact-checkers.” There’s a word for these people, and it appears 18 times in this column, in its various forms.
You don’t have to believe the hype in order to appreciate an individual’s running commentary on world issues and events, or the usefulness of having a large distributed network of people collectively sweep through the vast quantity of new information that becomes available each day in order to identify some of the items of greatest significance.
Let us also pause to remember that there was never a time when it was all that difficult to find idiots posing as experts; all that one has to do to find evidence of this is to look at this or most any other newspaper column:
-Several times a week, New York Times readers are subjected to the masturbatory ramblings of John Tierney, who has been known to justify his partial explanation for economic gender inequality by citing poor female performance in competitive Scrabble tournaments.
-The LA Times and other heavies regularly run Max Boot, whose pieces bear titles such as “Why Feel Guilty About Hiroshima?” and argue, potently, that Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib aren’t much of a big deal at all — if you contrast them with colonial Britain’s brutal anti-insurrection campaigns of the 1950s, which featured forced labor, sodomy, gang-rape and castration.
-In just the past few weeks, perennial Wankery Report favorite and repeat visitor to Oberlin David Brooks said the Paris riots were an attempt to emulate American “gangsta culture,” went out on a limb and argued that “extraordinary” teachers and schools are better at educating students than their more ordinary counterparts (conspicuously ignoring how exactly this extraordinariness comes about, although WR informants say that the solution likely doesn’t involve more equitable school funding), and analogized the idea that Iraq intelligence might have been manipulated to Illuminati mind control theories.
And this is to say nothing of Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, OC ’92, and the numerous other shady characters that make up the bulk of the commentariat.
But, perhaps most importantly, blogs are useful wankery-monitoring systems.
Even The Wankery Report will concede that no one person can keep track of
all the ridiculousness out there; a large group of people, however, can try (as
future, highly-derivative content in this space will attest). And, when it
comes to the wankery-generating bloggers themselves, where would you prefer to
see the sort of guy who spends all day searching for red crescents in photos: on
the street, burning things and mumbling cursewords in front of mosques, or
passed out in front of his computer with an empty bag of Cheetos?