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Ask and ye shall receive

Hoo boy. I tossed out a challenge to point me towards some good liberal essayists (along with a few gratuitous cheap shots at some liberal bloggers I don't care for). I got responses, and I got them in spades.

First of all, I have to confess to a bit of a brain-fart. I referred to both "Atrios" and "Eschaton." I meant Atrios and Kos (spit). It was a careless mistake, and I oughta be more careful. My thanks to those who caught it, and called me on it. That's one of the more painful things about the blogosphere, and one of its most useful: there's a near-infinite supply of fact-checkers ready and eager to point out every single mistake you make and repeatedly rub your nose in it.

Secondly, several people took me to task for not knowing who Dave Neiwert or a few other people were. I'm going to defend my ignorance here.

There's an old crack about some people as feeling a false sense of achievement in their lofty positions -- usually phrased as "he was born on third base, and thought he hit a triple." I find myself especially sensitive to that sentiment, because in a blogging sense I was, indeed, "born on third base." I was invited to temporarily join a highly successful blog, and somewhere along the line the "temporary" part kind of fell by the wayside. I didn't work my way up through the ranks, mastering the art of linking and trackbacking and building up my own reputation. I piggybacked on Kevin's, and have ridden it to this day.

While others might see that as a tremendous advantage, it has its drawbacks, too. Other bloggers can point to moments where they knew they "made it," their moments of greatest glory, their proudest achievements, their finest scoops. I first came to prominence through Kevin's caption contests, which means that whenever I feel the need to be brutally honest, I have to confess that my blogging career is built on a foundation of fart jokes.

It also means I make a lot of "rookie mistakes." I've only been blogging for about a year and a half, and for the first couple of months I respected Kevin's request and limited myself to weekends. Then I started putting out stuff during the week because "it was too timely to hold off on," and pushing it further and further, until it reached the point where I try to put up at least three pieces a day now. I've also managed to "break" Wizbang numerous times (just ask Kevin and Paul how many -- I'm sure they've kept track) out of sheer blissful ignorance.

Thirdly, among all the crap, several people actually took my challenge seriously and steered me towards several liberals who actually do write longer, more thoughtful pieces. I'm working my way through them, and will post about the ones I think are worthwhile reads. I've already found a couple good ones, thanks to Dylan and his readers. I'd do it sooner, but The Day Job demands way, way too much of my time.


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Comments (10)

Well, Jay, to my view, the ... (Below threshold)

Well, Jay, to my view, the spirit and intent of a piece is far more worthy and valuable (or not), than how well it is written (or is not).

The counter argument of this is to dismiss, devalue some content because it contains typos or poor grammar (I'm startled today that anyone would even notice grammatical issues, much less use them as a basis to demean an author).

My point is that, finding well written works by liberals is like finding a big bank account with John Kerry. It doesn't mean anything more profound other than someone counts well, or spells well, or understands literary structure, to a degree, or, has great economic advisors and financial managers available because they have the means to pay them.

Sometimes expertise is just that: a function of skill in an area. But expertise does not inherently bestow credibility, morality, even common sense. It CAN correlate but the point is, these are not inherently mutual characteristics.

A reasonable example of this: excellent car mechanic who commits crimes otherwise. Or, skillful investment banker who steals. Or, who is otherwise morally corrupt.

Writing skillfully does not inherently bestow a grand opinion, and vice-versa.

Conclusion: don't sweat it.

I find Mike Thomas at <a hr... (Below threshold)

I find Mike Thomas at Rhetoric & Rhythm to be well reasoned, even though we habitually disagree. I even had him guest blog for me during a vacation.

Finding those on the opposite side that you can respect while you disagree with them is a treasure. Good luck on your search!

I think the most enlighteni... (Below threshold)

I think the most enlightening thing to me during this whole affair the past couple of weeks has been just how ignorant both "sides" of the blogosphere are of the other. It blew me away that you'd never heard of Neiwert, Yglesias, DeLong... These guys are the heavy hitters on our side. And I'd never heard of many of the people you mentioned, initially, as your examples of thoughtful, critical writing by righties.

I hope that you sincerely take a look at the people you've found on the left (and I have no reason to think you won't). Not only is there good analysis out there, but some people who are quite good at turning a phrase too.

For what it's worth Jay, I ... (Below threshold)

For what it's worth Jay, I did a little list and review of many notable liberal blogs. Might be a useful backgrounder on some worthwhile Lefty blogs.

It is, I think, much even-handed and objective than most such reviews.

[I'm startled today that an... (Below threshold)

[I'm startled today that anyone would even notice grammatical issues, much less use them as a basis to demean an author]

I wouldn't dismiss format and grammar too much, yet. The web is still growing and new people come by every day, people that aren't used to a more relaxed standard, they're used to spell checkers and editors and such correcting what they read. The see poor grammar and such as just plain sloppy and lazy, whether that is the correct impression to have of a particular writer or not. In this faceless medium it's the only 'appearance' that people have to go on, if you're conducting a job interview and a brilliant young person comes in that is unclean, unkempt, and proudly overly flatulant, well, it's hard to see through that. A well written post, a clever comment, whatever it may be, will be taken more seriously (and will probably be read more completely) than the same piece that appears to have been written with someone missing fingers and a third grade education.

Of course typos happen, grammar is mangled...but people still notice. Yes, I get embarrassed about my own typos and correct them where I can, I still think they spoil the only 'face' my writing can give. Attacking someone's thoughtful piece because of a typo, though, is pretty lame. No, I'm not an english teacher :)

Just for fun, see how many ... (Below threshold)

Just for fun, see how many typos there are in my above post :)

I've "heard of" (and even r... (Below threshold)

I've "heard of" (and even read) "Neiwert, Yglesias, DeLong" among others, but, again I write here, that great composition does not equate with great insight or even creativity. Craft is a great deal of what exceptional writing is all about but unless you offer ideas, original perspectives, solutions, you're just arranging building blocks. Or doing hack work.

Parades don't communicate, they showboat.

But my point is, is that there's nothing exceptional per se about liberalism, even when well expressed opinions about that are extensive. It's the perspective that is key here.

Perfect pixels don't make great art. Ideas do.

...great composition doe... (Below threshold)

...great composition does not equate with great insight or even creativity.

I've often argued that clarity of expression indicates clarity of thought, and I usually aim it at people whose expression is vague, or factually amiss in substantive ways, or whose exposition ends up proving a point far different from the conclusion they claim to have drawn from it.

But it can also apply to people who habitually produce novel-length compositions to express an idea that can be just as effectively expressed in three words. (or in the case of the -S- comment I excerpted, five: Parades don't communicate, they showboat.)

If the point of the expression is to explore the ramifications of the idea in detail, that's added value and the extra verbiage is justifiable -- but one disadvantage of the web as a medium for writing is that writers who never previously developed the habit of boiling even new thoughts down to the least necessary words, have no pressure on them ever to do so.

Just something else to stir into the pot that Suzy has already got simmering.

I've always liked Matthew Y... (Below threshold)

I've always liked Matthew Yglesias for some reason. He writes well, has a fair proportion of all types and, as always throw in a jackass or two and plenty of trolls.

He seems to be on hiatus for the time being, but he's worth checking out sometime.


Actually, if he took the 'reality-based' out of the title on his website to simply say "A weblog", then it would be slightly better. That 'reality' shit cracks me up.

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