The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 September 2002

Embracing the inner grey

John Powers' L.A. Weekly column contrasting the styles of The Nation and The Weekly Standard got some play in the Blogosphere™, and while Powers' conclusion seems inarguable — yes, the Standard is far sprightlier, but the instructions on a bottle of drain cleaner are sprightlier than The Nation most weeks — I have to wonder if this particular dichotomy is also reflected in other subcultures. Yesterday I took a peek at a new blog, posted what I thought was a reasonably wry gibe about it, and watched it soar many thousands of feet over the blogger's head. Are blogs on the left necessarily more drab, less perky, than their counterparts on the right? Has lack of humor become a prerequisite for 21st-century liberal ideology? How come Michael Moore's earlier works are a lot funnier than Stupid White Men?

Powers offers a hint down in the sixth paragraph: "Too much of the writing is muffled by low-word-rate padding and fear of offending the magazine's many constituencies." Well, you can't get much lower a word rate than what is offered in blogdom, which averages somewhere around zero or slightly below — this site costs me, excluding kickbacks, about $275 a year to run — but that "fear of offending" may be the key. Very few centrist blogs, and hardly any on the right, seem to worry about upsetting anyone's applecart. It's no accident that the most common term used for the evisceration of someone devoid of clues is "fisking", a treatment first visited upon Independent columnist Robert Fisk, who has a tendency to tiptoe gently away from anything that might disagree with what post-Cold War Europeans have come to accept as Revealed Truth. Perhaps needless to say, Fisk is regarded as an iconoclast by the bearers of said Truth, a stance which inevitably results in more fisking.

This is not to say, of course, that there are no sources of left-wing bile. But it's almost always monolithic; there's scarcely ever any sense that this stuff has been hashed out by individual minds. It's the Committee-Approved Version. This process would never work on the right, where individuals, however like-minded, count for far more than groups.

And there's one other thing, which I've actually seen mirrored in Real Life. Self-deprecating humor is evidently considered a Bad Thing among leftists, what with its seeming disregard for one's self-esteem, the single most important quality a person can possess. In response to this pervasive belief, Juan Gato bills his blog as "A Bunch of Crap From a Moron," and just to rub it in, tags his tip jar with "I'm better than you. Give me money." Somehow I can't imagine this kind of irreverence displacing the sanctimony of those who "watch" the warbloggers.

Posted at 10:37 AM to Blogorrhea


I have read at least three "liberal" blogs who took umbrage at the Powers article cite James Carville as an example of a leftist, or at least a Democrat, who "can so have fun!" Yeah, James Carville, I have his comedy tapes...

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 2:05 AM on 3 September 2002

Veins popping on Carville's forehead do not necessarily translate as "I'm having fun". Or so it seems to me.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:18 AM on 3 September 2002