July 07, 2003

E-Misunderstanding, Identit...

E-Misunderstanding, Identity Politics, and Glenn Reynolds: Three weeks ago, Glenn Reynolds wrote a nice little Tech Central Station column about what, to him, makes good weblogs good. Right off the bat, he threw off this reasonable disclaimer, aimed at his audience of political and media junkies:

First the inevitable, though sincere, dodge: it depends. Blogs come in many different flavors and styles - though political and tech blogs get the most attention, there are many other varieties (including the huge but largely ignored mass of gay blogs) and what makes one good or bad naturally varies accordingly. What's more, there's a way in which blogging, like jazz, always succeeds: if it's reflecting the feelings of the blogger, it's a success at some level, regardless of whether anyone else likes it.
What's he telling his readers? That there are vast other blogging worlds out there they might not have ever even heard about, and styles there probably vary to such a degree that the only thing one can say for sure is that the root of most compelling sites is an authentically expressed personality. What's he not saying? That he is somehow superior to these other categories.

Yet that's how Jonno, a well-regarded blogger who is gay, took it.

Yeah, well, we don't know who you are, either.

Seriously, for all his smarts, it seems Mr. Reynolds still doesn't get what makes blogging such a fascinating and truly revolutionary medium: it's as much about a plurality of audiences as it is one of voices. Warbloggin' ain't the only game in town, cupcake.

Well, yes ... that is, after all, exactly the same point Reynolds was making. It's easy to see where Jonno got sidetracked -- the phrase "the huge but largely ignored mass of gay blogs." This was in a sentence that discussed "attention," by which Reynolds surely meant "media attention," and I have zero doubt that the basic InstaMeaning was: The media pays attention mostly to political and tech blogs, but there are plenty of other categories, including gay blogs, which they largely ignore. Not a very controversial statement, and in fact one that I can imagine (though I could not know) Jonno agreeing with. Still, the misunderstanding took root, leading to this almost gruesome IM exchange between Jonno and Toronto writer Joe Clark. A few excerpts:
jonno
cf. the post i just re-edited for the fortieth time
i cut it down to its essence
arrogant twit
joeclark
Well, the reality, which I and a very few others have expressed, is that there are now a series of mutually incommunicado blog islands. factions, even.
jonno
which i completely recognize
however
joeclark
We were always one of them.
[...]
jonno
he's inferring one monolithic "weblog readership" who reads Instapundit and whatever and "largely ignores" gay blogs
i.e., for all his punditry
he
does
not
get
IT
It's been maybe three years since my ears have been pierced with that awful little self-congratulatory phrase "get it" ... and it still doesn't wear well. Especially when it seems evident, to me at least, that this whole complaint is based on not "getting" what one person was trying to say in one sentence.

The exchange then devolves into a rant against that famously monolithic community known as "the warbloggers."

joeclark
SO:
The warbloggers consider that all other blogs are irrelevant except inasmuch as they gave them the idea to write their own blogs, which, at that point, immediately become the true, immutable, and archetypal variety.
jumped-up arrivistes.
jonno
that is EXACTLY what i was thinking
you are a source of great comfort sometimes
joeclark
often, yes.
Curmudgeons are idealistic, etc.
I have an idea.
jonno
i want to take on these self-important twits at some point
joeclark
We need to get the facts out there.
it is subtly different from "We were doing it first." It's also different from "Yeah, but we came along later after you worked all the bugs out."
jonno
well, you're so much better at this kind of thing
it was somehow tying their blogging identity/mission/mandate to 9/11
which gave it this spurious gravitas + authority
not all spurious
i mean, some of them are smart
or at least not stupid
joeclark
forgetting how many hits Metafilter got that week.
jonno
but the self-importance! ay!
EXACTLY
jonno
i mean, who WERE any of these people before 9/11?
i don't want to fall into the "we were here first" trap
b/c that is not the point either
it's not about establishing supremacy
it's about recognizing that this medium entails a multiplicity of voices
which is what makes is TRULY inventive and radical and very, very different from anything else
they just
don't
get
that
Why is this interesting? Well, it probably isn't, but there are some juicy ironies: 1) People complaining about condescension, then acting with almost breathtaking condescension ("I mean, some of them are smart, or at least not stupid"). 2) People complaining about self-importance, then insisting, petulantly, on their own ("i mean, who WERE any of these people before 9/11?") 3) People complaining that the newbies don't understand the "multiplicity of voices," and then turning around and lumping absolutely every perceived "warblogger" into a totally monochrome (and, to me, unrecognizable) category of cretins who sneer at the techies and fail to understand the revolutionary potency of the Internet.

The biggest irony of all, perhaps, is that Glenn Reynolds has probably done more than any heterosexual writer I know of to rail against sodomy laws, and make gay marriage seem like a totally normal right that should have been granted ages ago. And though he obviously leans toward linking to people whose ideas and interests are similar to his own (just like 100% of the rest of us do), he probably does more than any busy writer I know to consciously seek out and popularize new bloggers, and new categories of blogs, including people who shriek at him day after day.

No real point to all of this; just found it kind of interesting.

Posted by at July 7, 2003 09:35 PM
Comments

Yuck. I commend you for doing the sewage work there ... no, wait, I *worry* about you for even thinking about this idiot crap! Isn't sad how these little creeps sit around worrying about whether or not they're getting enough credit for typing Web diaries three years ago instead of two years ago?

I like to keep myself out of such things, but it is semi-interesting to note that the people who actually did interesting stuff on the innernut in the early/mid 1990s are not standing around on their little online stumps screaming about how they were really the shit back in the day. Why? Because they are still doing interesting stuff, and they embrace each and every new deal that looks halfway fun. (I'm specifically talking about Marc Brown and Tony Pierce here. Marc started the first professional Web publication ever -- Buzznet -- and Tony started the first DYI version, Lick. Gawd, I wish I had all the back issues of Lick.)

Did either of those guys look at the new bloggin' people in the late 90s and say, "Fuck all that, we're old skool and they suck and check out our 1994 web site"? Of course not. Tony & Marc have blogs, even as they continue to new & crazy shit.

Posted by: Ken Layne at July 7, 2003 10:41 PM

"DYI" = "DIY" (Do It Yerself)

Posted by: Ken Layne at July 7, 2003 10:42 PM

Nicely put...

Posted by: Martin at July 7, 2003 10:49 PM

Glenn Reynolds was nice enough to link to my (relatively new -- since May) blog one day -- I was DELUGED with traffic. About 7,800 visitors in one day. I called my boyfriend at 9am, and said, "There are 350 people on my site!" "So far today?" He asked. Me: "No, RIGHT NOW! 350 people on right now! I had no idea what Web traffic could be until Glenn Reynolds directed some of his Web traffic my way. As Treacher wrote to me, "You've been Insta-launched."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 7, 2003 11:03 PM

I've been thinking for a long time now that I need to go beyond the lowbrow and Aim High. The righteous indignation/sarcastic fisking routine gets old after awhile. So, not wanting to become like one of those comics who used to be funny 20 years ago but are lame-o now, I knew it was time for a shift. At first, I thought that I should strive to inform rather than convince. You know, drop all the sound and fury and other nonsense.

That link in this post has illuminated the path to Blogging Excellence. I'll just post IM messages all day long. It don't get much better than that.

Posted by: Paul at July 8, 2003 12:20 AM

Actually, Joe Clark was doing interesting stuff back in the 90s. I read his mostly-tech-blog regularly then, and it was always fascinating. His area of specialization is access for the disabled in various media, which is something I was interested in, and he wrote about the subject with great style and a certain amount of indignation.

He did spark a controversy similar to this one back then, in which he complained about the attention paid to the "A-list bloggers" (he might have invented the phrase) and mused about his own supposed inability to break into the in crowd. I think it was partly an understandable economic frustration: he wasn't getting many jobs as an accessibility consultant despite his obviously immense expertise and public presence, whereas the famous techbloggers tended to have dot-com-bubble jobs and frequently blogged about the expensive toys they had just bought. Once the bubble burst, the gulf wasn't so great any more.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at July 8, 2003 06:23 AM

I thought maybe "DYI" stood for "do yourself in". I know of some sites that have kind of a DYI groove goin'.

Posted by: Colby Cosh at July 8, 2003 07:58 AM

Who's Glenn Reynolds?

Posted by: Steve Smith at July 8, 2003 08:02 AM

It is interesting, especially now that I've had a few weeks to think about what Glenn was trying to say and have come to the realization that I probably misinterpreted his comment in a fit of self-righteous indignation. (It happens. Sorry.)

But, pace Ken Layne, none of this was about trying to establish supremacy or precedence, i.e., "we were here first". It's more about questioning why gay blogs (or Persian blogs, or art blogs, or sex blogs, or Live Journals for that matter) are "largely ignored" to begin with, and why the same dozen or so blogs - which, like it or not, generally get bandied about under the "warblog" umbrella - are consistently called out as examples of what blogging is all about.

Maybe the question is a dead horse by this point. But I still think it's worth remembering - and reminding people whenever the opportunity presents itself - that the blogging world is a lot more diverse than the mainstream media makes it out to be.

Posted by: jonno at July 8, 2003 10:47 AM

Jonno -- And I really think you would get no argument about that from 90% of the people considered to be "warbloggers," many of whom (like Glenn) have consistently made that exact same point. Media is attracted first of all to itself; probably the two most written-about bloggers in history are Matt Drudge and Jim Romenesko, even though Romenesko's traffic might pale in comparison to yours. Sullivan, Reynolds, Kaus -- they're always going on about the media, and its coverage of current events.

I would just point out that back in the "You've Got Blog" days, the pendulum was exactly in the opposite position, visa-vis media coverage of techie bloggers and current-events weirdos. It happens, and I don't think it's cause to start condemning this or that sub-group of humans.

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 8, 2003 10:55 AM

Jonno- As I'm sure you are aware, gays are sometimes accused by right wing philistines like myself of "recruiting" straights. Though I haven't had a chance to visit your blog, it seems that with your whining on being ignored as a "gay" blog, you are giving credence to these accusations.

Posted by: Lloyd at July 8, 2003 11:07 AM

Point(s) taken, and once again I'm sorry if my (doubly-edited) comments made it seem like I was condemning anyone - I made some gross and unfair generalizations, perhaps, but I honestly wasn't trying to condemn anyone.

Thanks for the dialogue.

Posted by: jonno at July 8, 2003 11:08 AM

Lloyd, how exactly would trying to make people aware that gay blogs exist be construed as "recruiting"? Last I checked, our agenda didn't include subliminal mind control techniques in our weblogs designed to convert unsuspecting heterosexuals who happen upon them. But maybe I should look into that.

Posted by: jonno at July 8, 2003 11:12 AM

You're right. "Not much of a point to all this." Don't know how you "found it kind of interesting" nonetheless.

Posted by: Joe Clark at July 8, 2003 01:12 PM

FYI -- Over on Jonno's site, he has announced that he's going to choose five of my permalinks at random, and follow them for a month, just to see what they're up to; he has also encouraged readers here to do likewise at Queerfilter:
http://www.geocities.com/matthewkingston/

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 8, 2003 03:05 PM

Jonno- Technically, you are right. My point though, is that by self identifying your blog as "gay", you are pretty self consciously preaching to the choir or to someone who is curious about "gay" thought, lifestyles, politics, sexual practices, etc. As opposed to, say, Andrew Sullivan, who writes plenty on "gay" issues without being a "gay" blog. All of that is fine. But the idea that someone who is not gay or gay curious (90-98% of us) should have any interest is absurd.

Posted by: Lloyd at July 8, 2003 03:50 PM

It is possible to run in more than one circle at once. The blogosphere is a HUGE place, huger than most people can comprehend. The fact is, most people tend to stay within their own circle, never venturing out to see the Venn Diagram that is blogging.

I'm considered a warblogger, but I've been reading Jonno since before I was writing about news and politics. I would much rather prefer to say "These are the blogs I read," rather than "these are the gay blogs I read, and these are the art blogs I read."

If someone actually took the time to record all the different factions of the blog world there are and made a Venn Diagram of it, a lot of people would be surprised at how many different circles they really are a part of.

Broaden your horizons, people. There's more out there than just you and your kind.

[And I did tell Jonno in an email that he probably read Glenn wrong and Jonno readily admitted to me that he was probably mistaken in his assumption. He's an incredibly honest and humble person - don't judge him by an IM recorded while he was ticked off about something]

Posted by: Michele at July 8, 2003 04:01 PM

It was Glenn who used the blanket term "gay blogs" Lloyd - not me. That's as much of an unfair generalization as my using the term "warbloggers" in such a broad fashion, which was part of the point I was trying to make in my response to Matt's post. But I still took offense because I'm gay, and I blog, and presumably was included in the term as he used it.

(Sullivan is the exception that proves the rule here, for whatever reason: he's gay and he blogs but somehow his isn't a "gay blog"! I've always wondered what conceptual slight-of-hand is responsible for that way of thinking. I don't suppose it has anything to do with his politics or anything, do you?)

And to say that it's "absurd" to be interested in anything that doesn't reflect your own thought, lifestyles, politics, and sexual practices 100% means you're exactly the kind of person who needs to get out more - or at least be reading other kinds of blogs every once in a while. It's a big world out there.

(And on posting ... yeah, what Michele said ;)

Posted by: jonno at July 8, 2003 04:48 PM

Uh, gee. I just put that remark in because I hoped it might encourage some journalist to branch out and cover other parts of the blogosphere, as the "hey, look at InstaPundit" stories are getting a bit stale, at least to my taste. Sorry if it pissed anyone off. I meant well.

Posted by: Glenn Reynolds at July 8, 2003 06:14 PM

Gee, it's good to know that their blogosphere is as self-absorbed, touchy and ready to jump from mild offense to Defcon 5 levels of invective as the political one.

Posted by: Mike G at July 8, 2003 06:16 PM

See? We DO have a lot in common!

:-)

Posted by: jonno at July 8, 2003 06:21 PM

Well I just want to jump in here and say that I am gay and that I share most of Mr. Reynold's (and Mr. Sullivan's) politics and yet NO ONE reads MY blog. So it's either a vast right wing conspiracy or a vast left wing conspiracy allied against me. I haven't decided which.

But good we all sort of kissed and made up here.

Posted by: Evan Izer at July 8, 2003 06:34 PM

I read the Dish, the Insta blog, the Vodka man, Volokh... and jump to as many links as my job will allow. There's a lot of useful thought out there. And as a gay man, I would like to find some intelligent gay feedback but not sure where to find the "gay" blogs. That is, the ones I want to remember.

So Jonno.... give me something to read.

Posted by: Bill at July 8, 2003 06:57 PM

This is a good example of why I no longer give a shit about gay rights. The gay community is almost uniformly wrapped up in the whole anti-American marxist insanity. Except for your occasional Andrew Sullivan type of course.

So what it now boils down to for me is, why should I support their cause if they won't support mine? The gay community is inexplicably the friend of my enemy.

Posted by: HA at July 8, 2003 07:00 PM

Bill: Well, since it seems like we've pretty much wrapped up here (I've owned up to my rant, Glenn's weighed in with his perspective, all is forgiven), I don't want to impose on Matt's hospitality by using his space to promote sites dealing with gay issues which I personally find helpful or illuminating. Check my blogroll if you want my opinions on what's worth reading.

That said, the excellent new Queer Day news filter site (www.queerday.com) is a good place to start exploring issues pertinent to the GLBT community (and I'm not just saying that because my site happens to be listed in their sidebar this week ;). Its two editors have personal sites which are worth exploring as well. As much as I disagree with his politics sometimes, Andrew Sullivan (surely no link is required?) still manages to make me think about things. And Choire Sicha (www.choiresicha.com) is one of the most insightful and talented writers blogging today, gay or straight.

So go read, explore, argue, and discuss. Just don't get caught in a rut.

Posted by: jonno at July 8, 2003 07:26 PM

Specialty blogs aren't likely to draw ma to draw mass audiences: After all, most people aren't gay or Persian. I know, since I write a (mostly) education blog.

I read Sullivan because he's good, and he writes on a variety of issues. If his blog was all gay all the time, I wouldn't spend my time there. I don't read sports blogs either, though I have some interest in sports. Or economics blogs, though I have some interest in economics. Or . . . There's just too much out there.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs at July 8, 2003 07:29 PM

Jonno -- Feel free to post here as much as you like, any time.

Posted by: Matt Welch at July 8, 2003 07:42 PM

This jonno person seems determined to bring all the unaffected charm and grace of an AOL chatroom to the blogosphere; i.e., he really really makes me want to check out his blog. Oh, wait a minute....

Posted by: Rex-Pat at July 8, 2003 07:49 PM

did anyone see that "blogging for columbine" video that jonno, richard, et al did.. it was hilarious.

Posted by: Captain Scarlet at July 8, 2003 07:58 PM

I used to read Joe Clark quite a bit when web accessibility was my job and I had a tech blog. I don't recall knowing he was gay then. Not that I cared anymore then then I do now. I know Sullivan is gay because he writes about it from time to time. Again, it's something that's more important to him than it is to me. I know Jeff is gay because it says so on his masthead. Of course, Alphecca isn't a gay blog because Jeff is a war blogger linked on Instapundit. Glenn was just being typically generous with his fame. He was trying to point 'big media' to a wider world of blogs. The rest of us can find our own way around.

Posted by: Michael Wagner at July 8, 2003 08:33 PM

If you, Matt Welch, had bothered to read the Paglia/Drudge interview you would know that Matt D. very much does NOT want to be called a 'blogger'. He's much bigger than any of you. He makes $800,000 a year in radio and has to own a house in Florida for insurance against lawsuits. None of you here can match that.

(Matt Drudge, of course, came onto the internet scene touting the 'citizen reporter' potential of the internet which has now sort of come about with the blog phenomenon, yet now Matt Drudge doesn't want anything to do with the wine-that-comes-in-wicker-basket-thing phenomenon. He is Kendall-Jackson chardonnay...or something like that. He won't even condescend to link InstaPundit, not to mention Welch...I think...)

Paglia, by the way, seems to have lost her mind...

Posted by: ct at July 8, 2003 09:05 PM

and... The Angels... Well...

Posted by: ct at July 8, 2003 09:42 PM

Wow. That term "warblogger" sure has become an ugly troublemaking anvil on which bloggers are pounded into the same shape. I bet the person who came up with it rues the day....

Posted by: PhotoDude at July 9, 2003 04:36 AM

While there is obviously a lot of bull being talked by this pair, one phrase did ring a bell: blog islands.

I think that sums up the way that some areas of the blogosphere are ignored by the big bloggers such as the Pundit - although we should remember it is not his job to fairly distribute traffic around the blogosphere.

We British political bloggers certainly feel like we operate in an island far away from the main action, although I suspect most of us are quite happy with that.

I certainly am.

Posted by: Harry at July 9, 2003 07:06 AM

This all went downhill when people started posting IM transcripts.

Posted by: Nik at July 9, 2003 08:06 AM

I'm inclined to agree with that, Nik - especially ones that were over three weeks old.

Posted by: jonno at July 9, 2003 08:10 AM

Harry, you are happy about that because I linked you and you ended up with a bunch of grumpy conservative types leaving comments. ;)

I do try to link Brits and Aussies (another blogging island, even if it's a continent) and other non-American bloggers. Canadians seem to get plenty of links from US blogs; I think it's that "isn't Canada a US state?" mindset we have...

Posted by: Kathy K at July 9, 2003 08:10 AM

Canada's _not_ a US state?!?! There went another illusion... Will you Warbloggers™ leave me with NOTHING???!!!

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 9, 2003 08:45 AM

OK Jonno, my bad on labeling you a "gay" blog. Nonetheless, you're still in the trap of seeing yourself as one of a "multiplicity" of voices while getting steamed at Glenn and others for his well deserved popular appeal and the media attention, etc. You wanna complain about anyone then go after Drudge, like ct says. Talk about a case of "I've got mine now fuck you" to other bloggers. No having your cake and eating it too. Now... has this horse been flogged enough or what.

Posted by: Lloyd at July 9, 2003 09:06 AM

Yes, Lloyd, I think it has. Moving on ...

Posted by: jonno at July 9e of a stand-up conservative-libertarian gay guy like me, well fuck you too. Now go whimper in the corner where you belong. You ineffectual Jerks.

Posted by: Jeff at Alphecca at July 13, 2003 05:36 AM

Ghettoized by parentheses...no wonder Jonno got mad. But he really ought to reflect that gays, like bloggers, are a small minority, and when we write self-consciously as members of a minority, our comments are not likely to interest others. I believe GR's disclaimer, but the parentheses were a Bad Idea.

Posted by: Alan Sullivan at July 13, 2003 06:02 AM

Jeff, who exactly is taking you to task for being a "self-hating gay" "homocon"? Just curious.

Posted by: jonno at July 13, 2003 02:01 PM
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ation? Yes, I have some problems with Bush, but when it comes to defending this great country of ours, Bush has done the job and done it well. And frankly, I don't see one single Democrat who I would want to replace Bush.

Oh! The shock, the shock! I can't be gay because I don't buy into the anti-American, anti-free speech schtick of the average liberal fag. Sorry, I don't march in lines.

How sad that the asshole gays who live in our cities think that only THEY know what most gay folks want or what's best for them. How sad that they can't even begin to understand what good, decent gay folks living in rural areas -- who don't spend their time hopping from bed-to-bed and hanging on every sick, vicious word uttered on stereotypical garbage like Will & Grace -- think.

No, I don't consider myself a "war blogger." I'm a "pro-2A" blogger. Alphecca is mostly concerned with guns and the right to bear them. I believe in our great country's constitution. Of course, this is also a mystery to all the lisping, limping San Francisco gays who would rather lay in the gutter shouting, "I'm a victim" than take matters into their own hands and excerise their right to defend themselves.

A word to the wise -- don't EVER attempt to speak for me. I'll do it myself, thank you.

And for all the fags who don't approve of a stand-up conservative-libertarian gay guy like me, well fuck you too. Now go whimper in the corner where you belong. You ineffectual Jerks.

Posted by: Jeff at Alphecca at July 13, 2003 05:36 AM

Ghettoized by parentheses...no wonder Jonno got mad. But he really ought to reflect that gays, like bloggers, are a small minority, and when we write self-consciously as members of a minority, our comments are not likely to interest others. I believe GR's disclaimer, but the parentheses were a Bad Idea.

Posted by: Alan Sullivan at July 13, 2003 06:02 AM

Jeff, who exactly is taking you to task for being a "self-hating gay" "homocon"? Just curious.

Posted by: jonno at July 13, 2003 02:01 PM
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