10° 40' N, 61° 30' W

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Nicholas (my debating partner) has posted about the pettiness of right-wing bloggers, who he thinks resort to name calling and belittlement rather than fact and wit. (Wit?) I agree with a lot of what he says. I, personally, don't like fiskings all that much, as much as I may dislike the opinions of, say, Robert Fisk and George Monbiot. It is hard to do well--shouting (sic) that something is shit is inelegant, to put it mildly--and for the most part it's preaching to the converted. It's the converse of those doctored photos of George W. Bush making their way around by email. No points for orginality there.

That said, he can't bring himself to not read the warblogs--they're a fascination he "hasn't quite figured out yet". I, personally, read Instapundit several times a day, and I agree with much of what he writes; warblogs have gotten me even to reconsider my position on public ownership of guns. (I now say that I support a right to self-defence--which no longer exists in the UK, where I live--with arms if necessary; whether that implies a right to bear arms I have yet to figure out.) I read blogs less for that reason, though, than for what they link to. Critical or not, they link to a lot of stuff, and they can serve as useful news filters especially if they serve as infomration conduits, as Glenn Reynolds's blog does. I don't look for long expositions or reasoned arguments in the Blogosphere, except from essay-type bloggers like Megan McArdle (a personal favourite--she blogs a lot about economics) and Steven Den Beste (whose arguments I often vehemently disagree with, especially in tone, but he makes an argument). Most bloggers don't do this sort of thing. The links, though, allow you to form your own opinion. Read a fisking, and see the bias; follow the link the Fisk and make up your own mind.

Blogs are pretty much an echo chamber in my opinion; they're read mostly by people holding similar opinions, and a lot of linking to fellow bloggers consists of backslapping. Reading them also probably allows people to overestimate their effect. I think the United Nations statistic that 2 billion people have never made a phone call to be spurious at best, and that the notion that the "digital divide" is a problem to be exagerrated concern, but one has to remember that a lot of people are not online, and that a lot of those who are aren't reading warblogs. I am quite aware, for example, that no more than 10 people, if so much, will ever read this. Sometimes one wishes that this would enforce a little humility on bloggers, like the fairy-cake torture device in the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I hope the readers of blogs realise the same thing.