I was checking out Ta-Nehisi Coates blog tonight, I came across the above piece on Andrew Sullivan. (Coates and Sullivan both used to blog for The Atlantic. Coates still blogs for them.) The piece is not only interesting for its views on Sullivan, but because it is also about how error is an essential part of intellectual pursuit. This is a good read, especially for those of you interested in writing.
Andrew Sullivan, soon to be retired blogger and creator of The Dish, posted some of his earliest words about blogging itself. I think he is someone that understands the best of what blogging can be. I think that it is a valid form of writing, but it is a new form of writing. It operates with a different set of rules than other forms of writing. It is more about capturing the honesty of the moment, and through a cataloging of moments, capturing the larger arc of the world around us. Here are some words on blogging from Sullivan’s piece:
[T]he speed with which an idea in your head reaches thousands of other people’s eyes has another deflating effect, this time in reverse: It ensures that you will occasionally blurt out things that are offensive, dumb, brilliant, or in tune with the way people actually think and speak in private. That means bloggers put themselves out there in far more ballsy fashion than many officially sanctioned pundits do, and they make fools of themselves more often, too. The only way to correct your mistakes or foolishness is in public, on the blog, in front of your readers. You are far more naked than when clothed in the protective garments of a media entity.
But, somehow, you’re liberated as well as nude: blogging as a media form of streaking. I notice this when I write my blog, as opposed to when I write for the old media. I take less time, worry less about polish, and care less about the consequences on my blog. That makes for more honest writing. It may not be “serious” in the way, say, a 12-page review of 14th-century Bulgarian poetry in the New Republic is serious. But it’s serious inasmuch as it conveys real ideas and feelings in as unvarnished and honest a form as possible. I think journalism could do with more of that kind of seriousness. It’s democratic in the best sense of the word. It helps expose the wizard behind the media curtain.
I am finding out late, as keeping up with my own blog has not allowed me the time to read his like I once did, that Andrew Sullivan is retiring from blogging. I am deeply saddened at this. I think Sullivan’s The Dish is the best blog going, a blog which greatly influenced this one. Sullivan is someone whose interests seem to know no bounds. You can go there any day and find discussions on politics, religion, art, and any number of topics. Although his blog skewed slightly to political issues, I would say only slightly. Some days you will pull up his blog and find a poem at the top of his page. Sullivan is Catholic, gay, and moderately conservative on some issues. (If you use the word conservative in the way that it used to be before the anti-science, corporatist, religious right completely took over.) I am none of those things. However, I knew that anytime I went to his page I would be opened up to new ideas, and most importantly, made to think.
There are several minor stylistic things that I stole from Sullivan, like not allowing the typical internet comments to play a part in the discussion. (As they usually just end up consisting of endless tirades and insults.) If Sullivan had a reader write a thoughtful dissent to what he wrote he would post it. He allowed the best of his critics a voice.
But more importantly was the idea that a blog didn’t have to be something narrowly defined. That in its own way it could be a kind of art form and window into the world. Political ideas, poetry, videos, and all manner of things could exist on a blog in the same way they do in our real lives. His blog created a community that was hungry for ideas and that wanted to think and be challenged. His blog inspired critical thinking and how many things in our media saturated world can you say that about? It was the first blog that I remember that was outward looking and not just a diary of the self. Although you felt like you got to know Sullivan through his writing, he was much more concerned in trying to shed light on the world.
I am hoping that this is a premature retirement, that like many musical acts he will return after a brief interlude of rest. If not, his blog was extremely important to my life and I know to many others. Although there is still talk of The Dish continuing in some form, I advise you to check it out while he is still at the helm:
While over at The Dish reading their best of for yesterday, I was quite happy to read about how Benjamin Netanyahu, the GOP, and the Israeli right, have overplayed their hand concerning the political talks going on with Iran. I have long seen the Israeli right as being an immoral force in politics. The only difference between Netanyahu and a thug is that he has some political power behind him. If we are ever going to navigate the murky political waters of the Middle East, we need to isolate him and what he represents.
Andrew Sullivan has an interesting article about Pope Francis, the Pope’s encyclical on climate change, and the far right’s anger over the Pope’s stance on climate change. It should be mentioned that Sullivan is a Catholic. A sample:
The theocons created an abstract fusion of GOP policy and an unrecognizable form of Christianity that saw money as a virtue, the earth as disposable, and the poor as invisible. It couldn’t last, given the weight of Christian theology and tradition marshaled against it. And it hasn’t. Francis is, moreover, indistinguishable on this issue from Benedict XVI and even John Paul II. As in so many areas, it’s the American far right whose bluff is finally being called.
I’ve put up some posts recently about the problems going on in NYC between the Police Union and civilian leadership, as I think this issue, in light of many other things in the news concerning our justice system, is part of a larger conversation. Above are some reactions that Andrew Sullivan has gathered at his blog The Dish, one of the best blogs around. A sample from Damon Linker:
It is absolutely essential, in New York City but also in communities around the country, that citizens and public officials make it at all times unambiguously clear that the police work for us. … When police officers engage in acts of insubordination against civilian leadership, they should expect to be punished. Just like insubordinate soldiers. The principle of civilian control of the military and police depends on it.
It also depends on cops who kill unarmed citizens being tried in a court of law. And on cops respecting the right of citizens to protest anything they wish, including the failure of the judicial system to hold police officers accountable for their use of deadly force in ambiguous situations. All of this should be a no-brainer. That it apparently isn’t for many police officers and their apologists in the media is a troubling sign of decay in our civic institutions.
The above is a link to Andrew Sullivan’s take on the election, which is I think has a lot of merit to it. A sample:
So this is a victory in favor of more governing paralysis. Most voters don’t really want that; but their actions belie it. History twists and turns, of course, and any number of events or surprises could upend our expectations for the better. But yesterday, it seems to me, was the definitive moment when Obama’s promise to forge a pragmatic purple center ceded to the grim, polarized reality of a deeply and evenly divided country. This was the GOP’s strategy from the start; but it leaves them with a strangely ill-defined, if emphatic, victory.
World Peace is none of your business
Police will stun you with their stun guns
Or they’ll disable you with tasers
That’s what government’s for
World Peace is None of Your Business – Morrissey
Andrew Sullivan has been doing a really good job covering the events in Missouri. The police shot another unarmed black teenager. If that isn’t horrible enough the police reaction to justifiably angry black protestors has been disgusting. If you look at the picture above you have to ask if those are cops or soldiers in Afghanistan?
As many of you know I have been out on tour. Keeping up with the news is hard, because I basically have had no internet service in Colorado unless I am in a major city or actually back in my hotel. I don’t feel like I have read enough different views on what is going on in Iraq to form a solid opinion. The link above is to some different opposing opinions on Iraq. I always feel the only way to even try to understand anything is to read a bunch of different sources and try to piece the truth together between them. One should never only read sources that one is already inclined to agree with. Well if you are not sure of what is going on in Iraq hopefully the link above is a good place to start. Sullivan’s coverage on what is going on in Iraq has been excellent in general from what I have seen before. This is only one post out of many.
I got the following reply from a reader over my F@$% Fairness blog post. I will post a link to my original blog at the bottom. I actually encourage any of you that have intelligent arguments to make about what I have written to make them. One of the models for this blog is Andrew Sullivan’s. I like that he doesn’t have comments on his blog, which usually just lead to partisan bickering and name calling. But what he does do is post the most intelligent reader comments that are in disagreement with him as the “dissent of the day.” I do allow comments here
, but I must approve them before I post them, not to stifle debate, but to prevent the kind of ignorance that I believe actually is counterproductive to real debate. Anyway here is the readers comment:
Jeff, There’s something overlooked in your comments, at least what’s expressed here. Trust funds, stocks/bonds, bank accounts, etc, are different than ranches. The death tax has destroyed more natural resources than all the bulldozers ever built. Those who inherit farms and ranches are forced to sell because, unless they’ve won the lottery, the only way they can pay the death tax is to sell their farm/ranch to a developer. So open space, and all its benefits provided to society … aquifer infiltration, riparian areas, wetlands, wildlife habitat, carbon sinks, oxygen production, aesthetics, rainfall runoff reduction and its cleaning, food, fiber, shelter, recreation, etc, etc, etc … are soon eliminated by becoming covered by asphalt and rooftops. And those who say that “proper planning” can escape this tax are, under certain market timings, swings and changes, full of shit. So if you want to help the environment, help keep open spaces open. There are ways to accomplish this, via carefully constructed and regulated conservation easements, etc, etc, but our “leadership” in BOTH parties won’t listen and/or are too dumb to understand, or has not so far. Finally, always remember there are two kinds of landowners: those who take from the land, and those who give to the land. Penalize the former. But, the latter should be encouraged via more appropriate policies than exist today. There’s much more to this discussion that is too complicated for my email skills, but happy to discuss any time.
I think this is a completely valid point, and one that I overlooked. However, the only thing that I would like to add is that my original blog was more about the hypocrisy of people that are against the Estate Tax so that their children benefit from wealth, and also against social welfare of any kind for other children, and not necessarily a response to the Estate Tax itself. If this was not made clear, I apologize. One always realizes when one writes that, unless one would write till the end of time, given all the nuances and shades of gray of each subject, there are going to be small holes in every argument. Here is a link to my original blog: