Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (George F. Will/Washington Post Edition)

I don't know about you, but I cannot help but smell George F. Will's fear. Here he reveals his total ignorance of Benjamin Franklin, and of other matters:

Franklin did write an autobiography: George Will, who seems to be quite troubled lately with the blogging medium, devoted his column today to comparing us -- that is, literally people like you and me -- to 18th century pamphleteers. Apparently, we don't measure up well.

Richard Stengel, Time's managing editor, says, "Thomas Paine was in effect the first blogger" and "Ben Franklin was essentially loading his persona into the MySpace of the 18th century, 'Poor Richard's Almanack.'" Not exactly. Franklin's extraordinary persona informed what he wrote but was not the subject of what he wrote. Paine was perhaps history's most consequential pamphleteer. There are expected to be 100 million bloggers worldwide by the middle of 2007... none will be like Franklin or Paine. Both were geniuses; genius is scarce.... Most bloggers have the private purpose of expressing themselves for their own satisfaction. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is nothing demanding or especially admirable about it, either.... George III would have preferred dealing with 100 million bloggers rather than one Paine.

There are a great number of things wrong with this analysis, not the least of which is Will apparently having no real familiarity with the political blogs having the kind of impact that bothers him so much. (Honestly, can anyone name an influential political blogger who uses his or her site to share their life and personal experiences? And if not, why is Will troubled by the phenomenon?)

For that matter, why on earth would the number of bloggers have any relevance to the quality of individual writers?... [T]he light of blogging geniuses is no less bright because of their colleagues.

And as for Franklin's persona not having been "the subject of what he wrote," Will is aware that Franklin wrote one of the most celebrated autobiographies in American history, is he not?

No, I honestly don't think Will is aware of the existence of Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. If he ever read it, he's forgotten all about it.

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