Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rago and Sutherland -- Compare and Contrast


One Joseph Rago of the Wall Street Journal cuts loose on blogs and bloggers this morning.

The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.

More success is met in purveying opinion and comment. Some critics reproach the blogs for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs, they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren't much rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful. Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.

Every conceivable belief is on the scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in pronouncement than persuasion . . .

There is more. Quite a delightful little pile of it. He must have had more milk of magnesia than anyone should have taken. No need for me to reply. I'm sure he is being drawn and quartered all over the internet more capably than anything I might say.

Next, take a look at what one John Sutherland of the Guardian said of our man Peter of YouTube, aka geriatric 1927. Seems to me he embodies some of the best qualities of the chattering classes to whom Mr. Rago so condescendingly refers.

When future historians look for the epithet to describe our times (as in "The Aspirin Age", "The Me Decade") the term that will fit best is "Banality". Peter of Leicester is the Napoleon Brandy of Banal. One unkind respondent (the millions-strong majority have been effusively kind) suggested that old farts like him should be locked up in a nursing home where they could quietly stink each other into euthanasia.

...He had a family, most of whom seem to have been a credit to their parents, without starring. He served as a health inspector in Leicester - a city happily unravaged by plague for 400 years. He is now widowed, lonely, grumpy and on the verge of Lear's fourscore years - but without Lear's ranting rage against the universe. His bulletins promise to "tell all" - but in fact he divulges tantalisingly little. The reticence adds to the addictively narcotic effect.

The Napoleon Brandy of Banal, said he. Great turn of phrase. Cute, no?

I regret that Peter has not given permission for his videos to be embedded into other sites, so you must go to the link to hear his reply. (Watch out for the volume. The opening music is too loud and Peter speaks very softly. It's better after the opening.) I can't possibly do justice to his eight minute response. Besides, reading the words isn't quite the same as hearing them from the man who said them.

Rago and Sutherland are two peas from the same pod. Each in his own way says the same thing and suffers from the same myopic lack of imagination. And both seem to be well-placed in their respective publications and pay their bills by being professionals. Such a waste of time and energy. I have nothing further to add to this little tempest. Peter said it better than anyone else.

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