As always, give this one a pass if you don’t care about the navel-gazing stuff about blogging (and a bit of politics, but not directly), but I find it fascinating, so whatever. And yes, this rambles a bit, but I think I get to a point that is useful for our purposes.
This quote came from Andrew Sullivan today:
A blogger who is not prepared to make a total fool out of himself is not a real blogger.
It’s a satisfying quote in and of itself, but it’s made more fascinating in context and I want to unpack that a bit.
For those who don’t know him, Sullivan is a political blogger. One of the first political bloggers, actually, and one of the most widely read ones at that. And he’s terribly controversial too for any number of reasons. Some of the controversy is rooted in his personal life, career path and history. In more recent years it’s because he’s kind of an odd duck, politically speaking: he’s a long-time conservative who, since the middle of the past decade or so, has more or less gone to war with the conservative/Republican establishment (and they with him).
Part of this is philosophy and a big disagreement between he and his peers regarding what conservatism truly is. Part of it is Sullivan’s repudiation of the Iraq War, of which he was originally a staunch supporter. Part of it is that he is a huge fan of Obama and sharp critic of the current GOP. Part of it is that he’s just unique: you don’t find too many dudes who are Oxford-educated, devoutly Catholic, openly-gay (and HIV-positive), pro-gay marriage with a long string of conservative bona fides, jobs and positions who suddenly becomes a champion of a ton of lefty causes while still claiming to be a conservative. We love labels in this country and Sullivan doesn’t wear many of them well.
The context of that quote: Sullivan has taken some hits recently for claiming to be highly critical of Obama while really being a fanboy. I actually see both sides of this. He is critical of Obama on a lot of things. Torture, civil liberties, some cowardly foreign policy positions and some other things. But it’s also the case that it seems like nothing short of Obama killing someone in cold blood with a Glock on national television will cause him to change his view of the man. Kind of a tough position to be in when you claim — as Sullivan’s personal motto does — that he’s “of no party or clique.” Fact is, he’s emotional. People try to slam him (with some homophobia implied, I believe) by calling him “excitable”, but he’s basically an emotional writer.
Today Sullivan copped to a lot of that, but offered this defense (and here is where this starts to be relevant for us):
A blog updated every 20 minutes or so can only reveal a blogger’s human gyrations in the kind of granular detail a weekly columnist or less frenzied blogger can avoid. It is not always pretty; but I always try to keep it honest and open. Maybe I should be ashamed. I certainly feel exposed. And I wish I were omniscient and prescient and never had emotional responses to events … but that wouldn’t be much fun would it?
I agree with Sullivan on some things and disagree with him on others. But it is an absolute fact that, as a blogger, I model myself after him. This was a conscious decision back when I started out in 2007. Originally in terms of blog frequency — I think Sullivan’s popularity has a lot to do with the fact that he posts A LOT — but eventually in terms of temperament too.
No, I’m not as emotional as he is, but I really do believe in the idea that a blog is an organic, reactive medium that should best be read as a whole over time. That the blogger, if he wants to create and speak to a community, has to be willing to react quickly and from the heart even if it means being wrong sometimes. To not try to be omniscient or pretend that he didn’t totally whiff on something once when writing about that topic again. To believe what you believe and to state it strongly, but to be prepared to change your position when the facts change on the ground and to not spend too much time trying to tortuously bend old positions into new ones as if they were always consistent. Human reasoning and learning doesn’t work that way.
I don’t always do that, of course. I have blind and stubborn spots. And of course this is a baseball blog not a political blog like Sullivan’s, so the stakes aren’t exactly as high, meaning that one need not look as fearless or foolish when those inevitable “human gyrations” occur. But that is the goal and it is the thinking.
And it’s why I usually criticize writers who approach baseball from a position of authority, as if they know it all and you readers don’t. It’s why I laugh at people who slam me in the comments because I’m changing my position on something. What, we can’t learn too? It’s just baseball. Sure, I thought Bryce Harper was a punk when I first encountered him, but that was a kneejerk reaction. I feel differently now. So what? You never change your mind?
OK, enough of that navel gazing. I just like to throw this kind of stuff out there from time to time in order to make sure people know where I’m coming from.