Monday, June 18, 2012

The Subversive Act of Blogging

I try not to take my blogging too seriously as that is a disease that infects far too many bloggers. When I see people blog that they have a really important post coming up the next day I always chuckle. Blogging is in a lot of way the electronic equivalent of graffiti. Just as there are a lot of self-important graffiti artists, there are a lot of self-important bloggers and a lot of what shows up on the blogosphere is just junk. Many people, including me, would lump most of my writing in that category. So why blog? For me it is not just a creative outlet, although it certainly is, but it is also a subversive act.

I blog in two distinct but often parallel worlds and in both of them I see blogging serving as a subversive force that undercuts self-declared authority figures: politics and religion. In both worlds there has long been, even in this country, a cabal of self-appointed arbiters of what is or is not information that is approved for public consumption. When people form opinion and think through issues but only have a very limited and controlled perspective, they are not going to come up with conclusions outside of the predesigned positions.

In the world of American politics we have long been at the mercy of the media, to the point that the oblivious New York Times declared itself as the “newspaper of record” that provides “all the news that’s fit to print”. The breathtaking and undeserved arrogance of that is lost on those who blithely perpetuate this myth. For a very long time the American public was spoon-fed news and information from one ideological viewpoint and distributed by the three major networks (NBC, ABC and CBS for those who don’t realize that at one time we only had three networks) as well as a few large newspaper outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post and other big city newspapers. Only the news they saw fit to disseminate made it to the public and what news did make it to the public was spun in a particular way, down to the pompous statement that closed out “Uncle Walter” Kronkite’s evening news report, “And that's the way it is” as if Kronkite, “the most trusted man in America” was the only credible judge for how things really were. For many years the priesthood of media declared from on high what the unwashed masses should hear. With the advent of cable news, first CNN which perpetuates the leftist slant on the news and then Fox News which is just the opposite, along with talk radio, the stranglehold on information was starting to break. With blogging the control once held by the media elite was shattered. Blog outlets like Breitbart, the Daily Kos and the Drudge Report often are way ahead of the “mainstream” media and offer an unfiltered view of the news, for good or for ill. The genie is out of the bottle and no matter how much it is decried by the former overlords of information, that is never going to change if the staff reductions across the world of newspapers are any indication.

In the world of religious discourse we have had an eerily similar caste of experts and professionals in the form of clergy and academics that decided what could or should be discussed. For nearly a thousand years that arbiter was the Roman Catholic Church and dissenting opinion was not only not permitted, it was met with violence in the form of persecution, torture and even church sanctioned murder. With the advent of the printing press and the Protestant Reformation the shackles came off to an extent but still the church was divided up into competing factions with each faction sponsoring their own subclass that dictated the discussion. With the advent of the internet and the ability to communicate instantly and search out an almost limitless pantheon of ideas, the common guy now has access to material that previously was only accessible in the library of a seminary or a rare book collector. When I first started to question the institutional church I searched some sort of phrase regarding paid clergy and stumbled across Alan Knox. From there a whole new world opened up. I have read so many different opinions and points of view. Many I have read, considered and discarded. Others I have thought through and adopted or modified. Few of these perspectives would have been available to me 10-15 years ago.

In both cases many of those who are most entrenched in the system and have the most at stake in terms of money, power and prestige are also the most vitriolic in their contempt for the common medium of blogging or other forms of subversive communication outside of the accepted streams.

Many detractors of blogging sneer that blogging is a lowest common denominator form of communication where any Tom, Dick or Harry with a computer is free to spew ignorance, hatred and outright lies at will. In part that is a valid opinion. There are plenty of crackpots and kooks on the internet. There are also plenty of tyrants, heretics and liars in the world of big media and big religion. We are faced with a choice between a Wild West of information where the heretic and orthodox have equal time and an authoritarian system where a central authority decides what information should be disseminated and which ideas are worth discussion.

As for me, I will always come down on the side of a free and open marketplace of ideas over an authoritarian system of thought police where only certain officially approved ideas are permitted. I would rather be able to pick and choose from a wide range of voices and to test ideas on my own than to allow a small group to determine what is or is not permitted. That is a messier way to be sure but a far more honest one. Blogging is what it is, warts and all, but it certainly is no less than a subversive means of communication that strikes at the heart of thought control, political correctness and elitism. Don’t make blogging more than it is but certainly don’t discount the importance of that particular voice in keeping the more mainstream voices honest and exposing people to a wide variety of opinions and information.

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