Monday, November 07, 2005

through a glass darkly

the window-TAGD-2R
still from Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly, 1961.

I am writing this, asking for some input, hopefully not from the crowd that leaves messages in which they try to sell you fancy watches of dubious authenticity and similar wares.

When I started blogging way back in 2002, I looked around at what other people did, and I tried to do the same thing, writing about politics and other related matters. Gradually I came to feel frustrated, as I saw so many lefty bloggers who essentially did this:

Monday: According to this New York Times article, Bush sucks!
and numerous commenters would applaud.

Tuesday: According to this Washington Post article....[drumroll, please]...Bush sucks!

and again, numerous commenters would chime in, applauding the daring blogger speaking truth to power, etc.

This always bothered me, not because I thought that George Bush, jr and company were unworthy of any criticism, but because I realized there were numerous problems with this approach, an approach which is still commonplace.

1st: if you clicked on the highlighted link and actually read the NYT or Wash Post article in question, it was often a little more nuanced than the blogger who approvingly mentioned it would have you believe.(imagine that.) It helps, sometimes, if you don't just take someone's word for it. And besides, the liberal bloggers who insisted in drawing these unrealistic bright lines between "our good" and "their evil" were essentially doing the same thing that so many pompous conservos did, applying a simple-mindedly ad hominem label to the Times and the Post, albeit from a different angle. But simple-mindedness is still simplemindedness.

2nd: I didn't want to preach to a choir. I wanted, and still want, to communicate to people out there who aren't necessarily politically predisposed one way or the other, rather than preach to an echo chamber of liberals who've already made up their minds anyway. Besides, people who've already made up their minds, whether on the left or the right, tend to be insufferable bores, and I'd rather write and post interesting stuff for interesting people.

3rd: Finally, the smugness of this approach always irritated me. A lot of people out there don't understand your point of view because they simply haven't had things explained to them, and when they've actually tried to seek out someone to explain politics or a specific issue to them, that person or article or tv show left them confused or frustrated or annoyed, and so they tuned out. But far too many liberals automatically assume that anyone who doesn't agree with them is either stupid or mean, when other explanations are also possible...

So: tell me-- is my approach too opaque? Not opaque enough? Do you need more specifics? I try to write about politics and related things, sometimes directly and sometimes in an evocative, impressionistic way-- as I really dig evocation and the power of the image. And I hope I avoid smugness and snottiness.

Should I change the "Hugo" at the bottom of each post to "Jonathan Versen", since I started blogging under my own name on 1 August 2005? Does my still signing my posts "Hugo" confuse people? The "about me" section with the profile link on the top right should be enough, I think. Yes? No? I specifically try to write for the top intellectual decile of the blogosphere, and to others who may not consider themselves in the top 10 per cent, but want to be intellectually challenged, and aren't intimidated by someone who does this, or at least tries to. How am I doing?

(the title comes from Paul, in 1 Cor 13:12, if you were wondering.)