Arianna in Love

Dave Winer points out that Arianna Huffington, the high-affect, Greek-born, conservative-turned-realist, LA-based, political author and force of nature, has a crush on blogs and the people who write them:

A Mash Note to the Blogosphere

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve got a big-time crush. I’m talking weak-in-the-knees infatuation. But it’s not Brad or Orlando or Colin or any of the cinematic hunks du jour who have set my heart aflutter. No, it’s Atrios and Kos and Josh Micah Marshall and Kausfiles and Kevin Drum and Wonkette. Bloggers all. Yes, when it comes to the blogosphere, I’m a regular cyberslut. And I don’t care who knows it. Bring on the fines, Michael Powell!

Although I’ve only recently stuck my toe in the fast-moving blogstream, I’ve been a fan — and an advocate — ever since bloggers took the Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond story, ran with it, and helped turn the smug Senate majority leader into the penitent former Senate majority leader, a bit of bloody political chum floating in a tank of hungry sharks. Simply put, blogs are the greatest breakthrough in popular journalism since Tom Paine broke onto the scene. (emphasis added)

What Arianna loves about blogs is what societies loved about the press back when it spoke with a human voice. I’ve previously opined that our republic was the product of small printing presses, post roads, coffee shops and leisure time: bandwidth-powered conversations. The post roads, built between America’s major cities in the early 1700’s, were a disruptive bandwidth upgrade. It suddenly made more sense to converse with other colonists than to receive orders from Londoners, just as it now makes more sense to converse with each other in “print” than to passively absorb the media’s titillation du jour:

And then, in the New World, came a bandwidth revolution. Each of the colonies had started as settlements, divided from each other by an impassable barrier of wilderness. Their communications architecture was hub and spoke, a hierarchical command economy driven by old world masters who were the only source of the manufactured goods they needed to hack out a living from the forest. With time came expansion and roads and inter-colony trade and local foundries and mills and a slow realization that a very nice living could be had without reference to the masters now so far away. Physical distance was a metaphor for the attenuation of hierarchical control, and a clue that this newly flat society was giving more than it was getting.

The metaphors with our age are stunning and inspire us to pick up that old thread the Founders started and Emerson continued and Thoreau and Whitman and Clemens and Steinbeck and Kerouac and all the rest. We’ve been so busy lately that we’ve quit talking about ways while focused on means. But that hasn’t dimmed our collective sense of how we’re meant to live. To paraphrase what the rustic said about art, we may not know freedom, but we know what we like.

Somehow the Dean campaign dropped a little of this latent genetic sensibility into the nutrient pool called the Internet. Contrasted to the bushies’ assault on freedom as we like it and a radical foray into preemptive war, we seem to sense an unprecedented disturbance in our collective force, as if a sister blue-green planet had been obliterated far, far away.

(The other day I suggested to Ethan Zuckerman that it’s perfect that he looks like Ben Franklin. We agreed that the American revolution was the work of techies like Franklin and Tom Jefferson who invented ways to do things better, and that the small scale printing press was the blogware of the Age of Enlightenment.)

And this is precisely why Arianna has stars in her eyes – the blogosphere’s ability to consider an issue substantively and persistently:

The vast majority of mainstream journalists head in the direction the assignment desk points them. This often means just following a candidate around, or sitting in the White House press room, and then rehashing the day’s schedule for their readers or viewers. Bloggers are armed with a far more effective piece of access than a White House press credential: passion.

When bloggers decide that something matters, they chomp down hard and refuse to let go. They’re the true pit bulls of reporting. The only way to get them off a story is to cut off their heads (and even then you’ll need to pry their jaws open). They almost all work alone, but, ironically, it’s their collective effort that makes them so effective. They share their work freely, feed off one another’s work, argue with each other, and add to the story dialectically.

And because blogs are ongoing and daily, indeed sometimes hourly, bloggers will often start with a small story, or a piece of one — a contradictory quote, an unearthed document, a detail that doesn’t add up — that the big outlets would deem too minor. But it’s only minor until, well, it’s not. Big media can’t see the forest for the trees. Until it’s assembled for them by the bloggers.

Our blogalogue resonates with the founding brothers’ dialogue through our shared emphasis:

Hold the great ideas in your head; ignore fads.

These guys had all mastered the great books (well, through volume 36, Adam Smith). Their classical education was based on the notion of the classics, that some ideas are more important than others – that educated people have been conducting a great conversation for three millennia and we’re obligated to attend to them and hold fast that which is good. That you’re not educated until you learn the core body of thought and discourse that has stood the test of time.

Arianna was steeped in this body of work at Cambridge University. She bemoans the fact that the media doesn’t cover the important stories in a way that treats them as important:

Reporters for the big media outlets are obsessed with novelty
, always moving all-too-quickly on to the next big score or the next hot get.

That’s when it dawned on me: The problem isn’t that the stories I care about aren’t being covered; it’s that they aren’t being covered in the obsessive way that breaks through the din of our 500-channel universe. Because those 500 channels don’t mean we get 500 times the examination and investigation of worthy news stories. It means we get the same narrow conventional-wisdom wrap-ups repeated 500 times. As in “Dean is angry.”

It’s enough to make a girl swoon when legions of passionate writers come on line, almost overnight, to do the heavy lifting that the lightweight press refuses to:

All of which has made the blogosphere such a vital news source in our country — and has made me besotted with blogs. It’s a crush that I’m betting will quickly progress to going steady.

I only have one question: Does the blogosphere have an ID bracelet? I sure hope so.

Good News

Well, Arianna, a sizable fraction of the blogosphere thinks you’re a hottie and we’re ready to take this relationship to the next level. Your ID bracelet is being engraved as I write this. If you come to BloggerCon a week from Saturday, I’ll ask Dave Winer to present it to you. After all, he’s the father of the form you adore.

1:06:24 PM    

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