Only connect! …Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.
Howard’s End, 1910
Way back in in 2009, this blog’s precursor started up with a built-in community of opinionated and talkative souls. I also happened to have at my disposal an under-/co-blogging platform at a major site, from which, ideally, and in part by generating controversy, I should have been able to attract new reader-participants. Further assistance in building traffic would have come from colleagues whom I’d also gotten started at that major site as co-bloggers or registered commenters – and from being noticed, positively and negatively, at The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and even on talk radio.
A different reality soon set in, of course, among other things in the form of certain personal and political developments and non-developments – developments and non-developments of a type that, perhaps unsurprisingly, play no role whatsoever in Tanni Haas’s new book Making it in the Political Blogosphere.
For Haas’s purposes, personal and political differences are quite secondary. That would go for the differences between, say, yours truly and HotAir, as well as between y.t. and Howard Portnoy and JE Dyer, as well as, to get to Haas’s actual subjects, between y.t. and Jane Hamsher of the further-left blog Firedoglake and Jim Hoft of hard right Gatewaypundit. Nor is capturing a moment in the history of the life of the mind among the main purpose of Haas’s book, though future researchers may someday use it to help describe the rough outlines of the transition from print to pixel.
For Haas and presumably for Haas’s target audience, it’s the shared secrets of success that matter – the how-to’s of making it, as seen from the heights. In the meantime, another impression, or possibility, also arises, though without being interrogated: That the success of these bloggers may have less to do with anything they did or didn’t uniquely do on or with the internet, than with who and where they were before or apart from the internet. Most of them were already successful or on the success-track at the time that internet opportunities opened up: Could be they just happen to be on the internet because that’s where graduates of elite universities, hardcore activist intellectuals, veteran journalists, wealthy publicists, and entertainment industry refugees end up these days.
I’m not saying that the advice that Haas gathers is of no value. It’s just nothing very likely to generate millions of hits or gather double-millions of eyeballs. The virtual-wordly wisdom mostly comes down to: “Identify some particular niche, be productive, write a lot of e-mails pimping your work, network, and play well with others.” Since “jump back to the year 1998 with $100 MM in the bank” isn’t practical for would-be emulators of Arianna Huffington, since “start a diary at Daily Kos during its major growth phase” is not an option even for would-be Digbys, and since the platforms and possibilities are still evolving, it’s not clear to me how much of an improvement the blogger advice is, if an improvement at all, on those famous words of EM Forster (or, to be more precise, of one of his fictional characters).
Assuming the foregoing reads as skeptical and perhaps a bit obscure, or worse, I’ll confess that, as I wrapped up my reading of Making it…, I found my urge to merge or at least to emerge briefly renewed. I therefore used this blog’s e-mail plug-in to send my post on THE REACTIONARY MIND to Corey Robin, who is also blogging these days. And I’ll bounce this post over to Tanni Hass, who ran across this site… I’m not sure how… but was kind enough to e-mail me a PDF of his book even after I assured him there wasn’t much here, here, for him to worry about.
Yet consider the dynamic as it presents itself to me, blogger for an audience of four contemplating the expansion of his reader circle by 50% or more through the involvement of two authors: I haven’t written nice, easily blurbable things about Haas’s book, so why should Haas pass this post on to anyone? Won’t he be a bit discouraged, presuming he’s even read this far? As for Robin, he may be harder to get. Would I have to write on his book repeatedly, and at greater length than in the e-mailed post, to hold his attention?
From an ideal intellectual perspective, these are crudely corrupting influences. Multiply and inter-exponentiate them, and you confront the double meaning in the words “political position”- a meeting of concept and vocation that will tend toward a transition from the former to the latter. As ever: Where you stand depends on where you sit. “In front of your computer screen” is only a partial description.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not adopting an absolute ascetic-hermetic stance against success. I wouldn’t mind at all if I “made it,” even just an iddy-biddy bit, within the commercialized political blogosphere. To say the least, it’s motivating to a writer to have an audience, not to mention a chance at some financial return. I’m not promising never to install a Facebook “like” button or to get active on Twitter or to e-mail future posts to whomever, whenever, and I’m not saying you should resist applying the insights and experiences of Haas’s bloggers to your own internet activity: Please do pimp me! Pimp yourselves! Pimp my posts and pimp this site and pimp your own author archives in regular e-mails, in comments, at Facebook or on Twitter or in any other venue, or at your own blogs…
It’s easy, and I’d be happy to show you how, any of it, if that’s what you want to do.
Just not too much, and not “only.” Monks and beasts got a point, too.