Before I go on, I want to clear up a misunderstanding about this series of communications you have been receiving. A number of people refer to them as blogs.
I have been remiss in not posting the following:
So far, I have the enormous self-satisfaction of joining Henry James, Willa Cather, Bernard Berenson, T.S. Eliot, J.D. Salinger, Henry Thoreau, among others, who had never sat down consciously to write a blog.
What I am doing here is rapping— in the Sixties sense, dudes— about the emergence of blogging as the second favorite national pastime. Next to looking at cell phones, IPods, IPads, and other mobile interactive devices that keep us all connected, the worse evils of the social media revolution, not counting texting and tweeting.
While in a confessional mode, I’d also like to say up front that I expect to leave this mortal coil having attained the achievement of never having tweeted or texted.
Having thus established my credentials for objectivity, I now carry on this most important work.
The story so far:
The previous two parts of these rap sessions have attempted to cast some light on that subtle form of sabotage of the creative writing process in the name of progress called blogging (See “Throw Another Blog on the Fire,” Parts II, III). The goal of these ruminations, hopefully, will lead to the resolution of my personal hang up about whether, as Shakespeare might have put it, To Blog or Not to Blog? And while I’m at it, clearing up some of the complexities of social networking that must seem like a foreign language to those of us who are out of it, whatever it is.
At the present time, millions of otherwise sane intelligent people are happy to be violating Samuel Johnson’s law:
“Sir, no man but a blockhead ever writes except for money. ”
(Footnote: It is this rapper’s opinion the same is true for woman.)
“Why do you think so many people are willing to write for nothing? “asks Aldo, a photographer from Westchester.
I am wondering the same thing, Brother Aldo, as I ponder whether to join the multitude of blockheads having all the fun of writing without compensation that is the hottest trend in avant garde writing circles. It’s not the greatest mystery in life; still I am curious what makes bloggers tick without renumeration, either as freelancers or indentured servants at the Massa’s plantation.
Maybe it has something to do with the B-rays coming off the Electromagnetic spectrum.
Everybody knows about the X-rays, once a cause of concern in the entertainment-marketing-establishment before the government finally compelled TV set manufacturers to reduce the X-rays emanating from our 80 million TV sets (this was in the 1970’s) to the point where they were no longer considered dangerous which alarmed the hell out of me as a TV critic. By reducing the X rays, there was scientific evidence our sets were now producing more Gamma-rays (which scientists describe as “very high energy X-rays”) that may have affected cumulatively the minds of TV viewers since the invention of TV by Vladimir Zworykin or Philo T. Farnsworth, whichever devil you swear by or at.
Gamma-rays, for example, may have made TV fans passively accept such abominations as reruns, game shows, reality TV and the evolution of a “brief pause for a word from sponsors” to allow us enough time to run out to buy a 6- foot sandwich from Subway. The same burst of negative energy from the spectrum, for all we know, prevents us from following Howard Beale’s plea to open the window and yell we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
When was the last time the government checked all those Iphones and other mobile apps for B-rays, I ask you? Decaying radioactive substances emits b-Rays, and The Internet has a high percentage of dead material. All of which may account for dodgy behavior in connection with The Internet.
I don’t want to alarm anybody, but in the early days of the Electronic Age, Fred Allen warned us that by watching television we would soon be having bigger eyeballs –the size of cantaloupes— to go with brains the size of peas. Who knows, the next mutation could be thumbs the size of ping-pong paddles.
I am always fascinated by how these bloggers operate. Let something happen in the news, and before you can say “Hello, sweetheart, get me rewrite”—they are in print with an opinion piece.
They want to prove they are on top of the news, sometimes ahead of it. As sometimes happens. In the rush to be the firstest with the mostest, from what I hear, posts are made up out of whole cloth or no cloth at all. The Internet, as we know, is like the FBI files. It is filled with facts, some of them true. Speed is the ticket to success as a prized news source. Blog reading community wants to be able to pass it on to friends, who only have time to read synopsis-the take away—on Twitter.
The ability to write a blog on any subject reminds me of what William Lamb said about his friend The Right Honorable Baron Macaulay, the historian. “I wish I was as cocksure of anything as Tom Macaulay is of everything.” (Tom later became the noted Prime Minister, Viscount Melbourne).
I saw how this all worked researching my Bill O’Reilly biography. The Great Opinionmeister could opine, as he used to say, on any subject, no matter how heavy the moral issue, by 8 PM. “Always wrong, but never in doubt,” as the adage went.
Fox News Channel itself was the hot center of a major trend in journalism where news flashes were replaced by flash opinions. It seemed to me they had all of their so-called experts cryogenically frozen in the basement of Fox News headquarters on Sixth Avenue. Whenever they needed a guest for O’Reilly or Hannity’s so-called news shows, they just thawed them out and threw them on the air. Whether they knew anything about the subject or not, they were able to sound like the Oracle of Delphi.
I am especially impressed by the way any one can weigh in so quickly on heavy moral issues. I have trouble deciding what kind of sandwich to eat at lunch. Always I want to find out more about a subject before rendering an opinion. The bloggers I hear about render opinions faster than my mother rendered chicken fat. There is an old Chinese proverb: think twice, say nothing. As a matter of fact, at Newsday my TV column was famous for being last with the story. After Kitman opined on the TV crisis du jour, the story was dead.
We live in an opinion-crazed era. Everybody is a critic. What to see in the movies, restaurants and foods to die for, new breakthroughs in martinis, what to think about latest celebrity who has had too many brewskis or forgot to wear panties when arrested is the chatter on cell phones and hand-held interactive devices. We are a nation of Woody Allens, delivering snarky or funny judgments on what is good or bad as we rush around interconnected.
TV news itself is asking our opinions on subjects most of us know nothing about. Every night I watch on CNN that graduate of The Space Cadet Academy School of Journalism, Erin Burnett, or Anderson Cooper, the Edward R. Murrow of today, urging me to tell them what I think about something laughingly called “news.” Email or Twitter addresses are appended on the screen so I can rush them my thoughts in 142 characters or less. CNN is especially trying to curry this kind of favor from the audience, now that it is fourth in the hearts of their countrymen .The impression is they really want to know.
I don’t know how to tell you this, but these TV icons couldn’t care less what we think. We are just numbers that can be shown to their bosses or advertisers.
Our opinion, of course, is not without value. It makes you think you are being heard, having influence in shaping policy or something, as well as increasing the number of commercials that will be interrupting the news on your favorite cable news network.
The blog is the Tell Us What You Think concept run amok. It allows people to express their opinions more widely through the airwaves, the chance to sound off on any subject whether they know anything or not. Spleens vented while you wait. Let it all hang out, whether you are saving the world or just trying to be a more famous nonentity than all the other nonentities. It is considered so important to be out there, wherever there is, the blockhead writers will go to any length. Even not getting paid.
Blogs are weapons of mass delusion.
That is my opinion, and I am sticking by it until I have another opinion.
“Your problem, Marvin,” explained Larry Arnstein, a writer from Santa Monica, “is that as an East Coast writer, trapped in old-fashioned ideas, you’ve failed to recognize that there actually is compensation for posting something on Huffington Post: self–esteem!
“Out here on the Left Coast, we know all about self –esteem. At one point we even named a Blue Ribbon Commission to look into it. I think they concluded that it was important. So posting something on Arianna’s luscious body adds tremendously to your self-esteem. I’m sure yours was enhanced when you posted on HuffPo. It’s just that now you’ve forgotten about how good it felt. But it gave you the confidence to move forward with your complaining!”
Arnstein is a Former High Commissioner of Self–Esteem, so he should know.
And, of course, there is always the chance that a blogger will strike it rich by blogging without pay. A fat book contract. A movie deal. It’s happened. Remember the “Julie/Julia Project Blog,” that bored government worker who went to the trouble every night of trying a different Julia Childs recipe from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking?”
You have a better chance of winning the lottery.
As a teleological explanation, Brother Aldo, all of this might satisfy Plato or Kant. But I am still open to speculation about the sweet spot that Web site masters manage to strike in their serfs.
Whatever the reason, the Huffington School of Economics sticks in my craw. Call me a hopeless incorrigible, an out-dated man whose shelf life has expired I still believe in the old school theory:
If there’s a market,
They get money
I always like to end a rap session saying something positive:
Think of all the trees being saved by Internet blogging.
I will have more to say on this sickness if I can get a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to pay for it.
To be continued