I imagine my own experience with blogging isn’t unusual for someone of my age and background. I think I first heard the word “blog” around 2001 or 2002. I don’t think I started reading any blogs until a year or so after that — Josh Marshall, Billmon, and Sullivan are the first I remember looking at.
But I didn’t start reading them regularly until the fall of 2004 and the presidential campaign. Then I got hooked and the blog world became part of my regular routine.
One thing I don’t have a good sense of is what percentage of politically engaged people are now regular blog readers? Anecdotally it seems very high, but that’s just based on people I know. I suppose there’s lots of data on this, which I’m too lazy to look for before a second cup of coffee.
Anyway the point of this rambling, to the extent it has any, is to wonder what effect the blogosphere has had on the way people think about politics. Surely it has made them (us) better informed in certain ways — I barely looked at the internet for about the past 36 hours because of various commitments, and this morning I was struck by how much sheer information is reported, digested, critiqued, meta-analyzed etc. in that space of time — and maybe its biggest strength is that it has made people much more sophisticated consumers of media as media.
On the other hand Rob’s post below about Thucydides reminds me that one thing this little world of ours seems not to produce much of is the kind of analysis that isn’t driven by the political demands of the moment. This isn’t a Broderesque lament for faux-centerist “non-partisanship.” It’s just a bit of complaining about how too many things in the blog world are instantly transformed into the kind of argument that always seems to be happening between zealots on issues like abortion or Israel/Palestine, where one’s opponents are always a bunch of evil idiots, as opposed to people very much like oneself who just happen to be working from different (non-refutable needless to say) first principles.
Maybe this will change as the medium matures. Didn’t newspapers start out as mostly more or less scandal sheets and tools of libelous invective? (I don’t actually know, but I have a vague impression along those lines). Now a couple of hundred years later we have both the New York Post and the New York Times. For awhile more anyway.