Monday, July 13, 2009

How to Blog?

I'd love to be asked that question, but instead they asked Felix Salmon of Reuters:
Blogs are a conversation. Remember that. They’re not a sermon, they’re not a news article, they’re much closer to a discussion in the pub, or sometimes a graduate seminar. They can be funny, or serious, or angry; they can be two words or 20,000 words long; they can be pretty much whatever you want them to be, including heavily reported. But they’re distinguished by having voice, which is one necessary part of a conversation.
Hmmm. I'm tempted to react to that, but then there's this:
Of course, having a good blog can get you hired, too: there are two sides to that coin, and right now the market in good bloggers is pretty hot, and the number of bloggers making six-figure incomes has never been higher.
Donald Douglas goes apeshit on that one:
I can't imagine anyone making $100,000 a year blogging . . . I want some names! Let's hear 'em: Who's making 100k?
What intrigues me more than the $100K number is Salmon's bland assertion that "having a good blog can get you hired" and that "the market in good bloggers is pretty hot," which I'm tempted to translate as: "Your blog sucks, otherwise somebody would be hiring you to do it."

Salmon, however, wrote his notes on blogging for the South Asian Journalists Association, and they are probably not perfectly applicable to the conservative blogosphere. I know conservatives who are getting paid to do political blogging of one form or another. But they aren't being paid for "voice." They're doing fee-for-service work, delivering an online product rather than personality.

'New Ideas' and Old Mistakes
Adding a personal perspective without becoming entirely personal, conservatives face a demand-side problem in the current blog market. The people who might have the wherewithal to provide $100K incomes for bloggers don't seem particularly interested in regular conservatism -- that is, conservatism of the sort that the average Republican voter wants.

Instead, the money people want "new ideas" from kids like The New Establismentarians or perhaps even, as Professor Douglas notes, Scott Payne's "Twenty-First Century Conservatism," which looks very much like a formula for re-making the GOP in the image of Susan Collins -- a conservatism that NARAL, AFSCME and the Sierra Club could love.

We see here a disconnect, a manifestation of the same problem that the Culture 11 disaster exemplified. Steve Forbes (and other investors whose identity we do not know) correctly believed that conservatism needed "something new," but they didn't have the slightest clue what that something should be. So they hired David Kuo and got Conor Friedersdorf and "The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage."

Mercifully, the investors had the good sense to pull the plug before Culture 11 could give us "The Conservative Case for Cap-and-Trade," "The Conservative Case for Keynesianism," "The Conservative Case for Infanticide" . . .

Steve Forbes has been a free-marketeer his entire life, and yet where was the free-market voice at Culture 11? Where was there anything remotely like the cheerful Reaganesque sensibility -- "Hope, Growth and Opportunity," to borrow Forbes' 1996 presidential campaign slogan?

Why is it that whenever someone like Steve Forbes gets the urge to give somebody a wad of money to generate "new conservative ideas," the money never ends up in the hands of actual conservatives? It's like watching a cable channel whose programming consists entirely of reruns of the David Brooks biopic: The Republicans Who Really Matter.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Immediately after the election, I warned against exactly the problems that are now affecting the conservative movement. Defeat inevitably induces doubt, and when the GOP gets its ass kicked, the experience characteristically induces in some Republicans a desire to emulate the liberal victors -- ergo, "new ideas."

In "You Did Not Lose," I argued against the tendency to see election results as an ideological referendum, a rejection not only of conservatism as an idea, but of conservatives as people. In "Don't Overthink It," I argued against the tendency to make an electoral debacle an occasion for the sort of intellectual navel-gazing which predictably leads some to conclude that Republicans could win if only they were more like Democrats.

The reason I warned against these tendencies was because I'd seen them displayed after the Bob Dole debacle in 1996, when both David Brooks in The Weekly Standard and Christopher Caldwell in The Atlantic Monthly launched vicious attacks on the red-state conservative grassroots.

My warnings evidently went unnoticed by anyone important, for once again we see the same gormless quest for "new ideas" we saw 12 years ago, a quest that produced George W. Bush and "compassionate conservatism" and -- eventually -- brought us full circle, right back to Square One. Except that this Square One is not 1997 (when at least the GOP still held its congressional majority) but more like 1965, 1977 or 1993, when the liberal Colossus bestrode the world triumphant, scornful of any restraint.

What the Official Conservative Movement really needs now, as in the wake of those previous electoral catastrophes, is not "new ideas," but rather courage and confidence in some very old ideas -- cf., "How to Think About Liberalism (If You Must)."

However, because my blog sucks, nobody's offering to pay me $100K to promote those ideas, so please hit the tip jar.


  1. OK, here are some old ideas. A bit long but no help for that, they are so old some background is required to lend them intelligibility.

    Driving most of the insanities hag-riding the nations today is the madness of taking science for the ultimate concern as well as the ultimate validator.

    For this madness as it formulates in the economic and political functions of life we have to thank scientists and theologians, the first for over-reaching their mission and the second for under-reaching theirs.

    Scientists are rampant and theologians supine. This is FUBAR. And that is the fundamental reason Die Welt ist aus den Fugen geraten.

    A fraction of the universe is available to sensory experience and therefore to science. Science is utterly incapable beyond sensory or mediated experience. It has no way to get there and never will. Without experience mediated by something not the observer, science is nothing going nowhere.

    Science is absolutely circumscribed by experience mediated by the five senses and their bionic enhancers. It cannot see or operate beyond these mediators. Science depends unconditionally on experience mediated by the five senses.

    Knowledge gained by mediated experience is the domain of science and science can do very well in this domain. It is highly capable, thankfully, especially after it was freed from superstition by a great Franciscan Theologian (Bacon), Scottish Physician (Lister) and German Physician (Hahnemann).

    However, beyond mediated, sensory experience lies the vast majority of experience. This is called direct or unmediated experience. Direct experience is the ability characteristic of life in the dimension of psyche (animals and humans) and preeminently the dimension of spirit (humans).

    For humans, the majority of experience is direct, not mediated by the senses. This includes scientists, many of whose “discoveries” are in fact prodigies of direct rather than indirect (sensory) experience.

    Theologians are responsible for learning and teaching knowledge gained from indirect (mediated) experience and knowledge gained from direct (unmediated) experience.

    Since the rise of Protestant Liberalism with the school of Albrecht Ritschl, who tried to put a cheerful face on wilting before the bumptious attacks of Christianity’s “cultured despisers” -- the very scientists theologians encouraged, reared and trained -- theologians have sought to ingratiate themselves to scientists in hopes scientists leave them some area they can call their own and live with in peace, no matter how constricted by the dictates of “science.”

    In other words, to remain respectable in the academic world, the world they created and allowed to be dominated by scientists, theologians sought to base theology on sensory experience. Scientists rightly laughed at them for doing that, but that deserved derision did not bring theologians to their senses.

    continued next post, sorry ...

  2. Continued from last post:

    Tom Driver was conducting literal touchy-feely sessions in his classes in Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York City, during the 1960s and 1970s. The “cultured despisers” were not impressed. Theologians rightly condemned the craven venality of Tom’s pretense of religion.

    For nearly two centuries now, scientists have been allowed to dictate the standard of validity and the object of ultimate concern -- namely, themselves -- with no less tyrannical intent and destruction of life than previously had some theologians and always have all Mohammedan scholars and clerics.

    Scientists have become madmen utterly bereft of the normal governors of self-and external scrutiny. They have to be stopped. The easiest way to do that is to attack first their assumptions and then their current obsessions.

    And theologians have to be shamed and kicked into standing up and doing their duty.

    Bumptious scientists and craven theologians are the reason the nations are hagridden by madness. The madness is scientists claiming more for themselves, their method, their work and their results than the facts merit and theologians claiming less for themselves, their method, their work and their results than their duty requires.

    Reform the academic faculties and the madness will subside. The pathogen is in the schools, in the liberal arts and science faculties. Cauterize it, kill it and restore the body it attacked by reforming those faculties to do their duties neither more nor less than reality requires.

    Life itself, not science and not theology, is the standard of validity and God, not religion, is the ultimate concern.

  3. Could it be that conservatives have lost touch with how to best communicate the message? That all this shouting, divisiveness, etc. is simply not the proper way to go about touting a conservative agenda? I mean, I'm all for Forbes hiring Jim Manzi and Reihan Salam and giving them a bunch of money because they're really great communicators. So was Reagan. Not so much the current crop of conservatives. Maybe the money is going to those who seem best able to communicate. Maybe some more staunch conservatives should take the lead with a more coherent message.