Monday, June 19, 2006

A valedictory of sadness... and a farewell to Reason

Matt Welch is leaving. He starts his valedictory -
On December 13, 2001, I posted an essay on my personal weblog titled “Two Ships Passing in the New Media Night,” in which I contrasted the energetic, proletariat-embracing exultations of rising blog superstar Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds with the dreary, public-distrusting defensiveness of then–Los Angeles Times columnist John Balzar.

I had launched my blog (or shall I say “warblog,” which is what I named it, apparently coining a term I’ve come to loathe) five days after the September 11 massacre and almost immediately found myself swept up in an exhilarating whirlwind of grassroots media creation. As a consumer, it was exponentially more edifying to me than the post-9/11 fumblings of the mainstream media’s binary, Crossfire-style opinion slinging.

“What do warbloggers have in common, that most pundits do not?” I enthused. “I’d say a yen for critical thinking, a sense of humor that actually translates into people laughing out loud, a willingness to engage (and encourage) readers, a hostility to the Culture War and other artifacts of the professionalized left-right split of the 1990s…a readiness to admit error [and] a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review.”

Man, was I wrong.

I am not going to gainsay what he says. It was apparent back in 2004 when I first put virtual pen to virtual paper. I had seen it, it continues still, in such fora as my old (and first) haunt of the "Trash Can", since metamorphosed into private ownership under the banner of Hangarflying's "SKeeter swamp". I think most of the old antagonists are still there - Galvin, Mr Republican (NoOne or whatever handle he uses now), the Erics, and others not heard of for yonks like P51DCP (Chris, I hope that the cancer didn't getya). Heading out from thence (this was 2000/1) even then the left/right divide was well established; the label, cliche and denigrate process common to so much of what passes for debate today had reached new levels of immaturity and idiocy (and is now mild compared with today).

But as I look back at December 2001, and prepare to hang up the blogging fun of Reason’s Hit & Run for the stodgier print pages of the L.A. Times, I can’t shake the feeling of nostalgia for a promising cross-partisan moment that just fizzled away. Americans are always much more interesting than their political parties or ideological labels, and for a few months there it was possible for readers and writers alike to feel the unfamiliar slap of collisions with worlds they’d previously sealed off from themselves. You couldn’t predict what anyone would say, especially yourself.

Good luck Matt. With luck in twenty years time there will be a bright young energetic blogger (or the future equivalent) who will write an essay contrasting the style of one of his contemporaries with the "stodgy defensiveness of long-time pundit Matt Welch". Hopefully he will see better times. Hopefully he will in his turn look to the future of national and international communication and understanding with optimism.

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