The fabulous Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune passed along to me this alt-weekly broadside on James Lileks, as Eric knows I’m a pal of James from a while back. So I read it and I have to say it’s got me terribly confused.
It’s clear that the writer, Dennis Perrin, doesn’t share James’ politics, which I understand, since I don’t share many of his politics, either. But the article seems to be about the fact James has gone and expressed his personal opinion on his personal Web site on his personal time, on subjects which appeal to him personally (in particular, about the war). Perrin seems additionally shocked that James’ observations are off-the-cuff sorts of things, without footnote or journalistic kow-tows to impartiality — indeed, it’s almost as if they were written, you know, late at night or something. In short, Perrin’s huge news flash seems to be that James Lileks is writing like a blogger. On his blog, no less!
And I’m thinking, what does this Perrin fellow want? A cookie? I don’t think that at this late point that anyone’s shocked, shocked to discover personal online sites, whether one calls them journals, blogs or whatever, are vast repositories of half-masticated thoughts spewed out on the screen during the stolen moments between putting one’s kids to bed and going to bed one’s self. Perrin appears to see something ominous in this, but the questions is: Why? What possible harm comes from James, or anyone, ranting and raving on their own personal site? I mean, it’s better than him (or anyone) going out to a bar to rant and rave at his fellow bar patrons, which would have been his realistic avenue of rantiness ten years ago. This way no one has to hear him who doesn’t want to, and James doesn’t drive home a little tipsy. And at the very least James has the presence of mind to warn people when he’s going to go off on a screed, which I think is right polite.
What it comes down to is that Perrin appears not to like James’ politics, so he’s using blogging as a framing device to say Look! He’s ranting ill-considered conservative crap from the safety of his own blinkered worldview! On the Web! Well, Mr. Perrin, I don’t know how to break this you, but conservatives aren’t the only ones spewing ill-considered crap from the safety of their own blinkered worldview, on the Web. People from all political tribes, personal proclivities, ethnic background and religious views are spewing their ill-considered crap. It’s everywhere! That’s what you get with an unmediated connection between someone’s brain and their personal Web site. To this end, James is not special, other than that he writes far better than most.
Perrin seems to want to shout that Emperor James has no clothes. Problem is, he’s shouting this momentous discovery in the middle of a nudist colony. We’re quite aware James has no clothes and is spouting off from the top of his head, thanks. As are we all. If you don’t like it, you are of course perfectly free to go away and leave us nudists alone.
If Perrin wants to attack James’ politics, then by all means he should do so. But doing so by vaguely implying there’s something sinister about the fact James does it on his Web site — thus showing what he’s really thinking! — is pretty stupid. Perrin has made the attempt to make James look bad, but he ends up making himself look ignorant. So you tell me who comes out ahead from this article.
Addendum: Just for fun, I mailed a link to Perrin’s article to Glenn over at InstaPundit, on the rationale that if Perrin wants to get frisky with the blogosphere, it’s only fair that the blogosphere is allowed to get frisky right back. Hopefully, the end result will be a learning experience for all. And isn’t that what writing online is about? Sharing?
Update: ThoughtViper thinks it is I who is missing the point, and suggests that my comment “What possible harm comes from James, or anyone, ranting and raving on their own personal site?” is “the fucking most moronic thing I’ve ever heard from someone who’s already proven that he has an actual, functioning brain.” Heh. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I’ve said much worse. (Go to the 1/14 entry if that link has since been updated.)