Michael Kinsley: Advantage blogosphere!
Summary: Kinsley wrote a column on privatizing social security. An army of bloggers responded. So Kinlsey writes:
A few days later, most of the big shots haven’t replied. But overnight, I had dozens of responses from the blogosphere. They’re still pouring in. And that’s just direct e-mail to me. Within hours, there were discussions going on in a dozen blogs, all hyperlinking to one another like rabbits.
Just so I don’t sound too naive: I am familiar with the blog phenomenon, and I worked at a website for eight years. Some of my best friends are bloggers. Still, it’s different when you purposely drop an idea into this bubbling caldron and watch the reaction. What floored me was not just the volume and speed of the feedback, but its seriousness and sophistication. Sure, there were some simpletons and some name-calling nasties echoing rote-learned propaganda. But we get those in letters to The Times editorial page. What we don’t get, nearly as much, is smart and sincere intellectual engagement — mostly from people who are not intellectuals by profession — with obscure and tedious, but important, issues.
Why the difference? Lots of space, for one. I’ll be hard-put, next week, even to summarize my own argument, let alone discuss those of others, in the space available to a columnist. Letters get even less space, if they are published at all. Certainty that what you write will get posted is surely another factor. It’s nice to know you’re not wasting your time. Ease is important, too. You can send your views electronically to a blog in less time than it takes to find a stamp, let alone type a letter.
Only idiots dismiss blogs as drivel produced by pajama-clad eccentric egoists. Smart people recognize that while there are many blogs produced by just such hacks, there are quite enough being produced by writers of experience, education and intelligence who more often than not know what they’re talking about, or only stick to topics of some expertise. These blogs are resources, even for journalists and professional pundits, and smart people in the media have known this for a long time.
Of course, Kinsley couldn’t close out a column without some smugness. In counter, I think there is always some talking past each other in all communities, but the best bloggers and blog readers rarely do that. And hence, the tone is civil discourse is elevated. I think.