Thursday, May 30, 2013

Some observations about blogs

I was reading through the old Contra Crunchy blog last night, especially focusing on the light bulb post, and I was struck by a whole bunch of thoughts at once. Firstly, just the spontaneous awesomeness of the whole venture, secondly the pure irritation of the crunchies who, lacking arguments, hurled invectives, calling us rodents and nematodes, and lastly but not leastly, all the great friends I made over there many of whom comment on my own blog to this day.

I always seem to see something new over there whenever I check it out from time to time. I found a link to this blog entry which I don't think I'd read back in '06. Basically Daily Duck came to the same conclusions as we did. He included a damning passage from Caleb Stegall:

It was not until later, when I moved into the wider world of business, high-stakes law, and Evangelicalism, that I discovered that all conservatives were not like this. That instead, there existed a kind of upwardly mobile coldblooded rationalizing self-serving conservative mind that struck me, still strikes me, as sterile and not quite human.

In response, Duck concludes:

I find it hard to admire the moral compass of a man who can let his aesthetic values lead him to question the humanity of his fellows. This is what I meant by the dangers of moralizing aesthetics. Can he point to anything immoral that these one-time business acquaintances have engaged in, other than career ambitions? It is an extreme judgment of personal qualities that society as a whole finds admirable. If this is the face of crunchy conservatism, then it will be seen as no more than a scolding kind of snobbery and holier-than-thou elitism. . . .

Again, our thoughts exactly. I bring this all up because another observation I had was that all these links to small, local, particular blogs like ours are still good, whereas most of the links to big, global, abstract blogs like NRO Crunchy Con blog and the Beliefnet Crunchy Blog are pretty much dead. So we actually value The Permanent Things more, if by that term you mean "things that stay in one place", which is the obvious meaning.

I sort of wonder if this is not to some degree by design on the part of the big, global, abstract bloggers. Yes, Rod Dreher's famous Orthodoxy and Me post is still available via the Wayback Machine and Fisheaters post, but the original document which was widely read and reacted to has been crumpled up and tossed into the garbage, in a virtual sense. So when you read old posts commenting on it, the link to it doesn't point to the original Roman Catholic to Eastern Orthodox conversion story as penned by Rod Dreher. But like I say, this is a desirable feature if the piece as originally written has points that the the writer would rather bury than have people reading and continuing to comment on in the present. Another good example would be the aforementioned Caleb Stegall, who I think is on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's legal staff currently. He also might not want his comments questioning the humanity of rich, successful Republicans to be brought up again, even if he didn't mention the nose size of those whose humanity was in question. So it's good news to him that NRO deep-sixed the Crunchy Con Blog.

The excuse of the publishers for ditching links is probably that the format needs to be updated from time to time. Remember the old Haloscan commenting host which so many bloggers were in love with? I wished I'd have archived more of those threads, both from the Beliefnet Crunchy Conservative blog and from Mark Shea's old blogspot blog; they were some of the most amazing examples of silliness I'd ever read. But the publishers' main concern is always hits and page-views—i.e., ratings for advertisers—and once the initial burst of popularity wears off, they care less about residual pennies. Hence the scrapping of Haloscan by Beliefnet, bringing all the copy into one page and providing many more page updates which keeps content "fresh". In fact, my hypothesis is that the big, gobal, abstract publishers like Patheos and Beliefnet would much rather have these old posts "disappear", especially from writers who generate popularity from controversy rather than insight or writing skill. Even those friendly with Rod used to wonder aloud why Rod would post on things like "Hanna Montana's slutty new pictures" or items of a gross or scatological nature. The answer is obviously hits and ratings. Things advertisers care about.

Of course if this were true, it is about as ironic as it could possibly get. The hue and cry of Crunchy Conservatism and all the other boutique ideologies labeled "conservative" by the amconmaggers and their ilk has been "Don't trade your birthright for porridge! Don't compromise important social principles for filthy lucre promised by the so-called free market! Don't sacrifice culture and the Permanent Things for material wealth!" And on and on, usually concluding that the damage is already done, the mainstream has caved, Rush Limbaugh is on commercial radio stations therefore we've all sold out and become libertarians posing as conservatives. The fact that Amconmag regularly advertises for Purina and Kitchenaid isn't seen as noteworthy, I'm sure ("We've all got to eat, you know!!"), but because Rush moves more product and is more successful, he is seen as the epitome of commercial crassness. If you doubt me on this, please link to a positive remark about Limbaugh or Hannity or Fred Barnes any successful "mainstream conservative" person over there. Then I'll partially apologize, even as I regale you with 5 or 10 negative comments from their site about the same persons.

A smaller irony is that people doing this for free are more respectful of the free-market economy, big internet advertising models included. And our words stay around until the apocalypse or until Google goes under, which feels sort of like an approximation of the apocalypse at this point. True, we are hobbyists and not wordsmith intellectual careerists, but that seems to be the healthier choice both culturally and for the interests of economic stability.

As usually, the operative principle for the content provision of the know-it-all class isn't any eternal principle at all, but merely a content provision industry with an advertising model. And the operative principle for their attitude toward those with a more successful venture is the ol' green-eyed monster.


  1. Wonderful post! Agree 100%. But what the heck is Johnny Cash doing with that Cross and Crown, and why is he scowling?

  2. Interesting post, Pauli. I now see that the blog industry is a bit of a different kettle of fish from many.

    FYI, Power Line is one hugely successful and influential blog that still has all of its stuff posted. It was sad for me (but better for my work productivity) when their forum closed down.

    P.S. And why is Johnny Cash carrying that Cross and Crown in front of the Alamo?

    P.P.S. I think that is actually William Jennings Bryan with the Cross and Crown, given the tags.

    P.P.P.S. I forgot about the killer profile pic I used over on the Contra-Crunchy blog. Pauli's snowman was pretty good, too.

  3. You should try to get more of those CCC people back together.


  4. The founder of the project sort of lost interest. I don't know what happened to Casey. I've blogged about Rayne,--I don't know where she is either.

    Cubeland Mystic was an interesting guy. Dreher-friendly at first, but always saw our points. And when Dreher turned against Catholicism he completely turned against him. But Cube got sick of blogging, I think.

    Bubba, Kathleen, Diane, Pikkumatti, SiliconValleySteve -- they all stop in over here, some more than others.

    As for the detractors, Gassalasca Jape (G.J.) was a Caleb Stegall sock-puppet and James Rovoira was.... well, some other type of puppet, I guess.

  5. I say we ALL get together at the Walker Percy festival in St. Francisville next May.

    1. For my money, I'd rather go to a Flannery O'Connor festival.

      Or do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

    2. Yes, Tom, and you can do that stuff on your own time.

      But we need to go to St. Francisville to where it all started. I've been drawing a map with my food several times a day for the last few weeks.

      Yesterday morning I realize that THIS IS THE MAP I'VE BEEN COMPELLED TO DRAW. A perfect replica of Starhill, W. Feliciana.

  6. It annoys me to no end how some long-running sites not only render old links useless with their site updates, they make the old content impossible to find.

    National Review Online should provide a permanent and easy-to-navigate archive of its content; it's the conservative thing to do, and I honestly think one reason Jonah Goldberg's Tyranny of Cliches was a relative flop was that the "G-File" persona has all but disappeared online. You can't find his oldest articles easily on NRO, much less are any old articles featured as "Best Of" flashbacks, and his new G-File newsletter is only in email and not posted on the site.

    Some writers archive everything online. Say what you will about the race-essentialist anti-theist whose "conservatism" is at least as much a manifestation of personal tics as Dreher's (a largely different set of tics), I believe John Derbyshire archives his writing pretty thoroughly. Would that Mark Steyn still did so, even for a subscription!

    If I ever were to blog regularly for myself, I'd take the time to point out essays and articles online that I think have lasting value, "bookmarking" them for my kids. I think the polite thing to do would be to link to the original sites, and pages of copy-and-paste jobs strain the idea of fair use, but I just couldn't trust that the page would still be there.

    It's real, real easy to say that permanent archives are counter-productive for writers like Dreher. My position has been that he takes himself far more seriously than he should and he takes his writing far LESS seriously than he should, so why would he want people to see those previous campaigns of self-promotion when they're now no longer operable?

    One of the most annoying experiences online was with a Leftist who would say quite literally whatever was expedient. A halfway decent memory and a good grasp of how to use Google was all it took to demonstrate his hypocrisy, which he always dismissed as an irrelevant personal attack, as if consistency of thought is a ludicrous notion.

    I'd probably be embarassed to see everything I wrote online from 15 years ago, but having to account for how I've changed and what I would do differently would be worth it, just to have my earlier writing at-hand.

    But maybe Dreher's not deliberately trying to cover his tracks. It's not as if you can't skip through the AmConMag archives right now and see the disparity between the morose mono monologues and the giddy expectation of the next trip.

    Maybe he's just as thoughtless about his online persona as he thinks the rest of us are about our godless, materialistic lives.

  7. Pauli, thanks for pointing out that Colin's still writing. Looks like he's doing well for himself, which I'm glad to see.

  8. love the map! and in the center of it all..."Mam and Paw Dreher" [sic]. Pauli, I wonder what you use for "Mam" and "Paw" on your food maps.

  9. Hadn't heard about Stegall up and joining back up with Leviathan. Does that mean the gentleman farmer schtick is pretty much over? Was it Diane who wondered aloud what they must have said about him at the feed store when he wasn't there?

    - The Man From K Street