Instead of galvanizing the apolitical truth squads of my fantasy world, weblogs became marvelous organizing tools for the most partisan citizens and groups. [...] So what’s wrong with a bunch of human beings using technology to organize themselves into political groupings? Absolutely nothing. The purpose of enhanced freedom is to enhance people’s ability act freely in the ways of their choosing, and we shouldn’t be surprised when they choose to do the same stuff they were doing before, only more efficiently. [...] But as I look back at December 2001, and prepare to hang up the blogging fun of Reason’s Hit & Run for the stodgier print pages of the L.A. Times, I can’t shake the feeling of nostalgia for a promising cross-partisan moment that just fizzled away. Americans are always much more interesting than their political parties or ideological labels, and for a few months there it was possible for readers and writers alike to feel the unfamiliar slap of collisions with worlds they’d previously sealed off from themselves. You couldn’t predict what anyone would say, especially yourself.
Well, he's wrong about that part I put in boldface up there. Well before the advent of blogs, conservatives could find liberal ideas, liberal attitudes, liberal policy initiatives by the joblots, from the national news media monoculture. Reading a DNC statement on a liberal blog wasn’t a revelation to conservatives, not when DNC statements had been run on the front pages as breaking news years before that. It was the *conservative* blogs and websites, following the trail blazed by conservative talk radio, that did the un-cloistering of the liberal mind. William Buckley once said that liberals are always calling for the airing of other views, but are then amazed when they discover that there are other views. Ann Coulter, if you'll forgive me for bringing her up to make this one teensy point, once called attention to how the reviewers at liberal newspapers would routinely call her new books and books by other conservatives a "surprise bestseller". A surprise to who? And how many holes must be poked in their bubble before it isn't a surprise anymore?
But, if the thrill is gone for Matt, then it's gone.
He makes a couple of other points which deserve some amplification:
...even if I was wrong about the transformative political nature of the post-9/11 blog explosion, the ensuing growth of the form has made it exponentially easier to seek out truth, however you define it.
Eason Jordan and Dan Rather can attest to that.
The changes brought by the digital age are real. Not utopian, but far-ranging, and profoundly democratizing. Here's hoping Matt will sidle over to the Times' blogs desk from time to time, and give in to temptation.
Trivia: I first blogged this on my other blog, Sorry For Not Blogging.