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October 29, 2003
Paglia Pans Blogging
Camille Paglia lets loose with a barrage of cultural criticism in a new interview on Salon.com
. She's got lots to say on politics, from Bush to Dean and inbetween. But if you didn't make it to the last page, you missed her diatribe on blogging.
The Web has also dealt a fatal blow to the culture of stardom because isolated types can now instantly express and exhibit their conflicts and find fellow sufferers around the world through the Web. But e-mail is evanescent. And the blog form is, in my view, the decadence of the Web. I don't see blogs as a new frontier but as a falling backwards into word-centric print journalism -- words, words, words!
Blog reading for me is like going down to the cellar amid shelves and shelves of musty books that you're condemned to turn the pages of. Bad prose, endless reams of bad prose! There's a lack of discipline, a feeling that anything that crosses one's mind is important or interesting to others. People say that the best part about writing a blog is that there's no editing -- it's free speech without institutional control. Well, sure, but writing isn't masturbation -- you've got to self-edit.
The line that set me most to thinking was this one: "No major figure has emerged yet from the blogs -- Andrew Sullivan was already an established writer before he started his."
Now, I seldom agree with Paglia's conclusions on anything, but I still find some of the points she raises to be worth thinking about. There's a tendency within the community of active bloggers to see blogging as an extraordinarily powerful medium. And, in fact, I would argue that it is--but only within that community. Are the lives of many bloggers significantly changed by their participation in the medium? Absolutely. But these are micro-level effects, not macro. Even when blog coverage has larger external impacts--as in the much-touted Trent Lott affair--it's true that no lasting visibility for blogs or bloggers has been sustained.
Will that change as more people write--and read--weblogs? I'm not so sure. Usenet certainly didn't become more influential through increased participation. It's easy for communication media to become victims of their own success.
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