As the new year begins, I want to start by giving thanks for
something that happened last year: blogs. Blog is short for web log, a kind
of diary or running journal that people post on the Internet. Although most
are purely personal and of no special interest, a few have become must
My favorite is one written by Andrew Sullivan
(andrewsullivan.com), a gay British conservative with a Ph.D. from Harvard.
As with so many of the most perceptive conservatives in the postwar era,
Sullivan started out on the left. He was at one time editor of The New
Republic magazine, an important voice of American liberalism for more than
Because he understand the left so well, Sullivan is particularly
penetrating in his analysis of it, especially when it comes out of academia
or The New York Times. In fact, his criticism of the latter on his website
cost him a job writing for the New York Times Magazine on direct orders of
its executive editor, the extremely liberal and partisan Howell Raines.
Fortunately, Sullivan survived the loss of income by getting
voluntary contributions from his readers. A recent fund-raising drive netted
him almost $100,000 in $20 increments -- a remarkable achievement and
testament to his popularity.
Another site I check almost daily is written by Mickey Kaus and
appears at slate.com. He is another former liberal who has drifted
rightward, although not as much as Sullivan. Kaus sees himself as more of a
New Democrat who is trying to save liberalism from its own excesses.
Nevertheless, his insights are often penetrating.
One of the things I like most about blogs is that they provide
links to articles, information and commentary that would not otherwise come
to my attention. All one has to do is click and you are instantly taken to
the original source. I have found many valuable websites and documents this
way that I use in my own writing.
As far as links are concerned, one of the most useful blogs is
RealClearPolitics. Every day it goes through a huge number of online
publications and picks out those most interesting that deal with politics.
It is really a one-stop shopping source that includes the latest commentary,
poll data and news. During the weeks leading up to the midterm elections, I
found this site to be invaluable.
Another valuable blog is Matt Drudge's venerable site
(drudgereport.com). Not technically a blogger, since he really predates the
blog concept, Drudge views himself as a serious journalist who happens to
write for himself, instead of a newspaper or magazine. In fact, he breaks a
tremendous amount of news on his website, and I find it worth checking
several times a day.
Lately, some actual magazines like National Review, Reason,
American Prospect and The New Republic have started blogs in order to post
time-sensitive material by their writers between issues of the dead tree
variety (i.e., paper). They vary a great deal in terms of both quantity and
quality, but can be indispensable when you are looking for a take on
One doesn't even need to have a blog oneself to take advantage
of them. Many allow anyone to post a comment and almost all make it easy to
communicate via e-mail with their hosts. Indeed, that is one of their great
strengths because it means that blogs are not dependent solely on the
knowledge and information one person has. Rather, the blogger becomes a sort
of editor, sifting through the knowledge and information of perhaps
thousands of readers.
One of the criticisms of blogs is that they tend to shoot from
the hip -- posting information that is sometimes unreliable. But that is
true of any medium that deals in time-sensitive information, including
newspapers and broadcast news programs. However, where blogs excel is in
almost instantaneously correcting themselves. By contrast, papers like The
New York Times often take weeks to publish corrections of factual errors,
and television news programs almost never admit error, ever.
I think blogging is one of the most interesting ways in which
the Internet empowers people. They cost almost nothing to put up and they
allow anyone with an opinion the ability reach millions of people instantly
and simultaneously. Blogs have become a kind of early warning system for me,
alerting me about things like Trent Lott's political problems days before it
appeared in the conventional press.
Blogs are here to stay, and their power will only grow. I think
they are going to revolutionize politics and news gathering permanently.