Are Bloggers too Strident or too Tentative?

Mark Helprin, in Digital Barbarism, portrays bloggers as people who cut and paste instead of thinking, a furious, unreflective mob.

But maybe blogging is actually rather conducive to the expression of tentative opinions. Here's Johann Hari on Andrew Sullivan -- "He pioneered blogging as a form where a writer can 'think out loud.' He believes it suits an Oakeshottian temperament: like his favorite philosopher, it is radically provisional, always aware of its own limits in time and space, and always poised to have to correct itself in light of new evidence."

The writer of op-eds may feel obliged to finish on a note of resounding conviction, exuding certainty. A blog post is more like a newspaper column. As Manfred Wolf writes in the introduction to Almost a Foreign Country, a collection of his columns from the West Portal Monthly and elsewhere, “Far from the column being only a forum for opinions, it's actually a showcase for a certain presentation of self and outlook. At best, it allows writers to talk uninhibitedly on paper, allowing them to assume a persona, a voice of the author but not necessarily the only one. Thus opinions and attitudes are tested rather than proclaimed, offering the trial balloon of an idea, or the logical consequence of a thought the writer does not wholly endorse.”

That's what I think blog posts are like. Colby Buzzell is a writer who first became known as a blogger, and something I like in his work, both in his blog posts about his tour of duty in Iraq, and in his subsequent pieces for Esquire -- this one was a classic -- is his reluctance to go too far beyond his immediate experience. Buzzell lets you know what he sees, and what draws him to feel one way about it, and what draws him to feel the other way, and he stays entrenched in experience instead of bolting for the moral high ground.

Frederick Crews -- “... we do not have things to say. We acquire them in the process of working on definite problems that catch our attention.”

1 thought on “Are Bloggers too Strident or too Tentative?”

  1. Maybe if you had fewer definite problems to work on, you’d suddenly find you had more to say…

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