Sunday, July 04, 2004

Baptism by Fire

Last week I really stepped in it. I wrote a post about the limitations of the blogosphere as a result of being insulted by another blogger. The point of my post wasn't that bloggers shouldn't lob insults around, but that it is difficult for the insulted one to respond. Rules, laws, and norms that protect people in the real world don't exist in the blogosphere.

I left the whole thing rather vague. I didn't want to call attention to the other blogger's post or get into an internet brawl. Truthfully, I have been a little fearful of the intensity of the interblog debate of the bigger bloggers. I liked flying under the radar and saving myself from the vitriol of the angrier bloggers. But as I learned, smarter blog readers will fill in the blanks of your posts and leak info. And I got flamed.

One guy thought I was part of a new intellectual Wiemar Republic. Cool. I popped my blogging cherry. People hate me.

Over this holiday weekend, I've been thinking a bit more about the blogosphere as a public sphere. One big difference is that in a traditional political public sphere, like a townhall meeting, there are moments of private. You can pull your supporters and opponents to the corner and huddle. You can look your opponents in the eye and determine if they are truly wackos or just misled. There is some private wrangling before speeches are made. In the blogosphere, everything is in the open. Some private e-mails are exchanged, but there are far less opportunities than when you can run into your opponents in the bathroom and spontaneously take up an issue.

I guess this discussion is appropriate for July 4th. The founders would have approved.

Meanwhile, John Holbo posted one of my favorite de Tocqueville passages:

Americans, of all ages, of all stations in life, and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations. They are not only commercial or industrial associations in which they all take part but others of a thousand different types - religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very minute … Nothing, in my view, deserves more attention that the intellectual and moral associations in America.
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Holbo talks about the different subcommunities in the blogosphere and wonders whether blogroll numbers really determine importance.

Holbo's thoughts prompted me take down my heavily underlined copy of Democracy in America from the bookshelf. In his chapter on the New England township, de Tocqueville says that participation in local government educated citizens about the duties and rights of democratic government.

Here's a good quote from Alexis that seems appropriate for this holiday weekend:
In the United States the motherland's presence is felt everywhere. It is a subject of concern to the village and to the whole Union. The inhabitants care about each of the their country's interests as if it were their own. Each man take pride in the nation; the successes it gains seems his own work, and he becomes elated; he rejoices in the general prosperity from which he profits. He has much the same feeling for his country as one has for one's family, and a sort of selfishness makes him care for the state.
Now I must return to my less than cool Corona and enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend. I'll be back tomorrow night with a review of Anne Alstott's new book.

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