I saw Arianna Huffington on The Daily Show last night and learned that I have been going about this blogging business all wrong. Apparently, I am supposed to treat the blog less like a set of finished thoughts and more like a rough draft. If only I had taken this advice sooner, I might have produced more volume for the website. So, Ms. Huffington, I should thank you both for the opportunity to stand on a well regarded soapbox and for the advice on how to project from its heights.
Nevertheless, I would like to gently bite the hand that feeds me. I cannot dispute the soundness of Ms. Huffigton's advice, but I can find it disheartening. The blogging phenomena has been instrumental to the rough drafting of politics. That brings me no joy. In my opinion, blogs have done for political thinking in the first part of the Twenty First Century what McDonald's did for hamburgers in the last one. They have made everything cheap, fast, uniform and consistently mediocre.
The problem, however, is not with the blog itself, which is just a medium. No, the issue is the rough draft culture that it promotes, along with the disdain for the concept of a finished draft. Why finish anything when we can simply move on to the next story or idea? Thinking something through, after all, is such hard work. And what's the point of trying to be original when we can all feed off another's work? The rough draft culture, in essence, encourages us to avoid the kind of mental heavy lifting that was necessary.
Ironically, this miasma has not produced a great consensus or increased understanding amongst people of varying viewpoints. True, enough bloggers can moderate almost any original thought into numbing sameness, but there are the exceptions. Over the middling chorus or conformity, the shrillest political voices come through the clearest. Rush, Ann & Keith, that means you. Your prominence is the product of your stridency, which depends not on the power of blogging but of much older media. You get television shows, radio broadcasts, book deals and speaking fees. In media parlance, you are really still final draft people.
Unfortunately, the shrillest are not even radicals; they are merely entertainers. The true radicals are mute; they are being drowned in a sea of rough drafts. The sad fact is that blogging does not make us smarter, better informed or capable of demanding more from our leaders. Blogging has made us intellectual lemmings who have forgotten that it is the radical thinking -- e.g., giving women the franchise or ending slavery -- that has historically been the best of this country.
Our best hope, therefore, is in the old school. Once upon a time, we believed that a Washington or a Lincoln might be better than the rest of us. Their ideas, we hoped, might lead us to a better place, even if they were not derived directly from the people that they swore to serve. And so, I hope that Barack, Hillary, Tim (Geithner) and gang are not reading this: I hope that they are thinking bigger ideas -- better ideas -- and that they will use them to lead us well beyond the mess that we are in today.
(Note: The irony of blogging about the problem with blogging is not lost on me.)
Follow Michael B. Laskoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AbilTo