A couple different posts caught my attention today precisely because they focus some inchoate thoughts I have been having on this whole exercise of writing a blog. Joel's offers a positive view of blogging, one with which I heartily agree. I would add that it really doesn't matter who reads and why. As the gentleman in the video states, it is the exercise, the thinking, that matters.
The Crooked Timber post, while concerning comment sections, seems to beg some questions about the place of political blogging in general. I ignore the comments at most places I visit (CT being the exception if for no other reason than the readers and commenters seem far more intelligent and focused), except for smaller, individual blogs that offer the opportunity for discussion. The "comment communities" at the older established sites - Eschaton, say, or Sadly,No! - tend to be cliquish, in-group mutual masturbation societies.
I have been reevaluating my own blogging habits of late, in particular in regard to our seriously broken national politics. Four years ago, it seemed that we were making a difference, and for a while at least there seemed to be real momentum, the possibility that they could be a platform for creating a network of liberal, left-libertarian, and progressive activists who would do more than just snipe and snark. That was co-opted, I think, by the Obama GOTV machine during the 2008 Presidential campaign, and then left to wither on the vine. The result, now at this moment, is that the older, established liberal blogs, even the well-written ones, are doing little more than recycling tired old themes, playing the victim card, and generally not engaging with what is actually going on. I have dropped all but one or two of the places I used to read, because in most cases I realized that the habits of outsiderism, and the heavy lifting of actually doing more than just writing a blog post or encouraging people to call or email a member of Congress was beyond them. That plus the way some, such as Jane Hamsher, who has quite simply gone off the rails of rationality, or Glenn Greenwald, who seems to take it as a point of honor that he evidently hates everything about our country except the Constitution as he understands it (and any disagreement on that point means one is some kind of fascist, totalitarian-in-waiting), leave me wondering how much, for some of them, blogging is a substitute for real action.
For me, these are just pebbles tossed out there. Sometimes, usually in fact, they make few ripples that aren't overwhelmed by the flood of crap that gets dumped by the sewers of the internet. That's OK, I suppose, because there is something a bit narcissistic about this whole project anyway. Denying that would be ridiculous.
I have managed, over time, to make a few connections with people, to produce some interesting (to me, at any rate) writing, and have some fun. I have certainly changed my mind on a whole host of issues, and part of that is the result of having to sit down and think about what I am thinking about, rather than leaving it formless and vague. At the end of the day, all any of us can do is the best of which we are capable, and leave the rest up to chance. That's all I have ever done, and since I understand that my own views are odd, or idiosyncratic perhaps being a better term, I figure I get about what I deserve in terms of readership.
I know many bloggers who have simply given up the fight, for one reason or another. Beyond all the initial hopes and ambitions I had, that I have a place and some time to sit and gather my wandering thoughts in one place is a good discipline. I am not changing the world. I am just making sure that the world doesn't change me too much.