Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

Blogs: Welcome Signs of Life
by Arthur Silber

In a fascinating recent article in Slate, writer Jack Shafer discusses the phenomenon of "Right-Wing Envy." Shafer notes: "[I]t's not just money that makes right writing so much fun. While the right seeks converts, trying both to persuade and entertain, the left spends its journalistic energy policing the movement. . . . [C]onservative journalists are more likely to allow readers to enjoy a magazine article without strong-arming them into signing the ideology oath that seems to come packed with most lefty journalism." The increasing effects of this very real, and welcome occurrence, are perhaps most noticeable in a relatively new Internet development: the world of blogs.

"Blog" is an abbreviation for web log, an on-line diary or journal. Although a number of them existed over a year ago, the terrorist attacks of September eleventh catapulted blogs, and especially those that are politically oriented, into growing prominence. People experienced a tremendous need for communication: to find out about news developments, to read informative commentary, and to discover other people with views similar to their own. People wanted the sense of an on-line community, and the world of blogs exploded. Now, there are about half a million active blogs, and additional ones come on line every day. The majority of blogs deal with current events: the blogger (yes, it's a noun, and a verb -- if you blog on your own blog, you're a blogger, in the great, big blogosphere) posts a (usually) short item about a news article, with a hyperlink to the article in question. But there are specialty blogs, too: for lawyers, doctors, bands, and computer geeks.

The king of blogs is Instapundit (www.instapundit.com), which had over 660,000 unique visitors to its main page in August. A number of the second-tier blogs receive in the neighborhood of 10,000 unique visits per day, and even less well-known blogs receive several hundred visitors each day. And for Objectivists, the news from the blog world is very, very good: there are many libertarian/conservative blogs of various stripes, including one of the most successful blogs, Daily Pundit (www.dailypundit.com). Daily Pundit's writer, Bill Quick (who has published over 30 books, including many science fiction works -- and those co-authored with William Shatner) frequently mentions Ayn Rand with great approval.

But what is most striking about the "right-wing" blogs is how much more fun and provocative they are when compared to the comparatively fewer left-wing blogs. As Shafer notes in his Slate article, the libertarian/conservative bloggers seek "to persuade and entertain" -- which means that they want you to go the sources they cite, check them out, and determine for yourself if what the blogger says in his analysis is accurate. And he's confident that you will probably end up agreeing with him, and come back to his blog for more. And you usually do. (Some of the most interesting on-going discussions now occur among blogs themselves: one blog will refer, and link to, another blog talking about the same subject, and then several other blogs will get in on the discussion, and it grows like topsy.)

To put it another way: the right-wing bloggers focus outward -- on the facts, on what actually happened and what people are saying about it -- and analyze the reality of the event, relying on evidence and logic to make their argument. The lefty bloggers, by contrast, spend their time rehashing decades-old arguments, even if volumes of evidence in the meantime have disproved their contentions, and chide any of their previous acolytes who have dared to stray off the reservation. At the moment, the left-wing bloggers are particularly irked with Mickey Kaus, whose very successful blog is now folded into Slate's own site. Kaus used to be a straightforward liberal, and now sounds like a neo-conservative. Well, that's what focusing on the facts will do for you (or to you, depending on your point of view). (For a sense of what a typical left-wing blog sounds like, check out Media Whores Online (www.mediawhoresonline.com). Their "humor," and intellectual level, is typified by their referring to right-wing pundit Ann Coulter as Ann "Thrax" Coulter.)

Even more significantly, the influence of bloggers on the mainstream media is growing. For example, in the recent Georgia Congressional race in which incumbent Cynthia McKinney was defeated, it was a blogger who first researched the huge donations to McKinney from Arabs with terrorist ties (by going to public records available on the internet), and his posts about his findings were then picked up by major newspapers in the last week of the campaign. And the signs are that this issue was one of the reasons McKinney was defeated. (It was McKinney who said, among other things, that Bush probably knew about September eleventh in advance, but "let it happen" so that his oil and defense industry friends would get rich -- and later admitted that she didn't actually have any evidence to support that, but that, well, you know, it ought to be investigated anyway.)

So, if you want to have some fun and be encouraged about the sane -- and rational -- perspectives that are common in the blogosphere, go to Instapundit. Look around that site, and then check out the huge number of links on the left-hand side. But be warned: this can be extremely addictive. You'll read one item, with a link to another; you'll follow that, still be intrigued, then follow another link, and another . . . and before you know it, two, or three, or four hours have gone by. But you'll learn a great deal, and see that there are a lot of people out there who think the way you do about many issues -- and you don't even have to pay for it.

Here are a few additional blogs that might be of particular interest to SOLOists:

http://samizdata.net/blog/ Samizdata, formerly known as Libertarian Samizdata, is an excellent example of a group blog, with several regular posters (including several in England, where this blog is based). They have had several discussions about Rand and Objectivism, both strongly for and strongly against, with the various bloggers posting their views separately, and linking back and forth. (Most of the people denouncing Rand to varying degrees misunderstand and misrepresent her views; no big surprise there.)

http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/ Many of you may know Diana Hsieh's name: she is an Objectivist, and has spoken at several TOC conferences. (At the last one this past summer, she gave the introductory Objectivism course.) Her blog is a mix of posts about philosophy, ethics and more personal items. And she's had several posts taking ARI to task for various outrages.

http://www.proteinwisdom.com/ Protein Wisdom is one of the funniest blogs around. He's on vacation at the moment, so there aren't any new posts -- but you can look at his archives to get a sense of what he writes about -- again, largely from a libertarian perspective. (There's a link to his archives on the opening message page.)

http://www.denbeste.nu/ U.S.S. Clueless (which is the blog's official name) is an example of a different kind of blog: Steven Den Beste writes long essays about terrorism, politics and related issues. He's unusually intelligent, perceptive and knowledgeable, and I've learned a lot reading him. Once again, he writes from a point of view largely sympathetic to our own.

http://www.janegalt.net/ Yes, indeed: Jane Galt! (Not her real name, which is Megan McArdle.) She's not an Objectivist, however, but is largely libertarian in her views. If you scroll down, you'll see that she has some excellent posts about economics, often explaining economic/political issues in considerable depth. (She also has more "personal" posts, including some recently about why she's trying the Atkins diet, which some of you might actually find of interest.) In many of these blogs, be sure to read the comments sections -- often the comments are as interesting (and sometimes even more interesting) than the posts themselves. And Jane Galt even has a "Jane Galt Line" -- complete with train engine logo -- selling items like t-shirts with "Who Is Jane Galt?" on them.

And last, but hardly least:

http://www.sashacastel.blogspot.com/ Sasha writes a delightful blog; she covers politics (from a libertarian perspective), life in general -- and opera! And she even works at the Metropolitan Opera (where her father performed for a number of years; he's now a vocal teacher and coach, among other things). She's very funny and perceptive. FULL DISCLOSURE: Sasha is a friend, and she wrote a little post, with a link, about my first SOLO article. And she linked to Chris Sciabarra's piece in the NY Daily News about Howard Roark and The Fountainhead. Obviously a first-class, remarkably intelligent woman (and plenty attractive, too).

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