Monday, December 18, 2006

Time: Person of the Year is You Because "You Is A Blogger" (warning - incivility in post)

Cross-Posted from Crablaw Maryland Weekly. Although this does not address Maryland politics, it does address the role of political bloggers.

From Time Magazine Online, December 13, 2006:
But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.


Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.
Great. We blog therefore we exist. If we don't blog, we are less important. Right, Time?

It's time to get uncivil with Time.

Just what bunch of self-satisfied, smug Baby Boomers did Time hire to emit this onanistic bleat?

I am middle-class, well-educated and can afford (pretty limited) time to blog about Maryland politics and a few other issues, and do so; therefore I am the most important person on earth for this year, or tied for the title?

I know a bunch of boomers did this. Boomers en masse did not do this; most boomers did not do this. But those what did this, be boomers. The so-called Me Generation thought this up. Everyone who is on the net matters. Those who aren't, don't. And because YOU are on the net and YOU matter, it's all about YOU. Thanks, boomers. Ride out on the mood ring you rode in on.

They could have given it to Muhammad Yunus, who used capitalism to defeat poverty and keep people's dignity in Bangladesh and beyond. They could have given it to Rahm Emanuel of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; though I am glad they did not do so, he is at least a person who did specific things this year. To the soldiers who died in Iraq, to the people of Iraq as a whole. Oh hell, to Al Gore for making a global warming movie and at least stirring the debate. They could have given it to every worker in a non-profit who is making more with less due to budget tightening to finance the war, the budget cuts and the federal tax cuts.

Even George W. Bush - horrors - deserved it more.

No, it's to all of us, meaning all of us who, well, do things online. Which means Time has to, well, pay attention to us for their business model, both as customers and as competition. So we who do things online - because we matter to Time's bottom line - are the most important person in the world. Thanks, Boomers. Go get self-actualized somewhere. Maybe they figure they will keep their market share through sheer pandering to the depths of which even Barack Obama or John McCain would hesitate to plumb.

Word to Time: while I blog heavily and believe in the Internet strongly as a great tool, medium or whatever, I am not tied for the most important person of 2006. I am not even tied for most important person in my house for 2006. Do not pander to me, boomers, and hallucinate that you will reap anything but scorn here.

Read the whole essay and ask yourself where on the blogs YOU (the Most Important Person In 2006, You Devil You!) read routinely - liberal, conservative, whatever - you would expect to find such facile drivel. Seriously, the people who wrote it got paid a big pile of money to sit at their desk and cogitate on this. But bloggers working mostly for free or for pennies outperform such drivel on a bad day. The fact that it is drivel expressly designed to stroke our egos makes it worse. Kind of like walking into a church or other house of worship with a big neon button with a swear word on it, but misspelled. Beyond bad, it is what University of Pennsylvania's Professor Paul Fussell called "BAD" meaning not only bad but in a breathtakingly tasteless and tacky way.

To any blogger reading this: consider the following. TIME magazine respects itself so little that it will pander to you knowing that it will be mocked and ridiculed for its laziness and, frankly, its patronizing style. So when you wonder when you will start outperforming the prominent writers at major publications like Time, remember, odds are on a good day you already outperform them.

How has citizen opinion journalism and commentary overtaken print media? It's not because "we" are "the most important people." We are not. The dead tree edition is simply inefficient. Readers enjoy the back-and-forth of commentary and linking of supporting material. It's not so much a "publication" as an ad hoc graduate seminar with everybody having half of the library in their backpack. Consider your own college education: what impressed you more, the discussions in your 300 and 400 level classes or the wit and wisdom of the school newspaper that might, or might not, print a letter to the editor? If anything, blogging has taken the some of the self-importance and smugness out of opinion journalism. A number of bloggers have daily readerships well in excess of the subscription bases of many print opinion magazines. But it's not about us being important or the "person of the year" for 2006. It's about economics and accountability.

The fact that conservatives, liberals, libertarians or anyone else can call me on my mistakes and get me to correct them - with credit - through commenting makes this medium better. But it's not about me being important; it's about my own sense of self-importance being extremely subject to ruthless puncture by the quick wits of commenters and other bloggers. Columnists in major newspapers and magazines will not tolerate that level of accountability; some have tried and the columnists have threatened to quit if the "graffiti" of comments don't get cancelled. Frankly, that's why I deliberately chose to associate with both largely liberal and largely conservative groups of bloggers at the same time; I wanted to learn twice as fast and be twice as accountable.

If Time wants to pay bloggers a compliment, it can improve its quality to blogger standards and compete rather than issuing a "Me Generation" faux Hollywood kiss to us. Or it can get back to job one and start providing some meaningful oversight over the White House and the new incoming Congress in ways that at least amateur bloggers cannot easily do. They could hold themselves to the standards of, say, Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo, who plays it very clean and responsibly. But that would be, well, hard.

As for me, I will try extra hard to kick Time in its Eddie Haskell-[rear] the next chance I get.

The incivility is now complete. Please make the most of it.


Blogger Terry in Silver Spring said...

Totally off the subject:

Did you all see this:

Van Hollen as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair for 2008?

12/19/2006 10:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that would be great for Van Hollen. He has run grassroots campaigns in the past, so he is a good choice imho.

12/19/2006 10:55:00 AM  

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