Mags versus blogs
Wednesday, June 28th, 2006
Josh Marshall has done ’em both.
I can understand someone from the world of small magazines being shocked by the responsiveness, rambuctiousness and even hair trigger hostility of the blogosphere. I haven’t done much magazine writing in the last couple years. But I come out of that world of small political magazines. And it is, in many more than just the obvious ways, a different world.
Write a piece for the New Republic or the American Prospect or even the far wider circulation New Yorker and you may get a few letters in the mail from readers. Not that many or that often, but sometimes. Friends and colleagues will tell you what they thought or argue with you about it. The publication will probably get a few letters to the editor. But that’s about it.
Your contact with the people who read what you’re writing is quite limited. On the other hand, TPM gets anywhere from 2-500 emails every day. Needless to say, many fly in within minutes of your finishing whatever is being responded to. And, believe or not, not all of them are nice.
Not long ago I got on the wrong side of the ridiculousness of the proprietor of one left-wing website. And his antics were so dishonorable and shameless that I don’t think I’d ever speak to the guy again. Still, I don’t think he was a fascist. I think he is, mundane a category as it may be, a dick. Or perhaps I’m the dick. To him, certainly. Still though, I don’t think fascism has anything to do with it.
More generally, I think the blogosphere, in contrast to more staid venues for writing, is something like the much more popular and participatory sort of theater culture you had in the 19th and well into the 20th century (you may remember seeing some hint of this funned up in old Bugs Bunny cartoons) where, if the audience didn’t like what they were hearing or seeing, they started booing. Or hooting. Or heck, maybe tossing raw vegetables.