Magazine article The American Conservative

The Blog Ate My Life

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Blog Ate My Life

Article excerpt

Online scribes could be constructing a new medium-or they may be falling victim to the skewed perspectives of the virtual world.

I BEGAN A BLOG in February 2002. The ostensible cause was the terrible day of 9/11 and its subsequent events, but the real motive was opportunism. I was undergoing a series of personal crises, and I immediately recognized the medium's welcoming potential.

On 9/11, the Internet was my sole means of communication. My appetite for news jumped a hundredfold, and a deep relationship between survival and the web was forged that day. On Sept. 12, the metropolis nearly shut down, and most people stayed home-the deep shadows of midtown Manhattan's empty canyons bespoke the somberness-but I went to work to take advantage of the faster Internet connection. That day set a pattern for the next several months: I drank up information, reading dozens of websites and foreign news sources.

Blogs featured heavily in this netsurfing binge. The psychedelic tinge of science-fiction fandom and geekiness repelled me. But my standards adjusted to those uncertain days, marked by post-traumatic stress and fear stoked by the anthrax attacks. If I gleaned one nugget of interesting information from a blog, it passed, no matter how otherwise dodgy.

The sun and the moon of the warblogging community in those post-9/11 days were Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan. I had read Sullivan when he edited The New Republic and disliked the former Gap model. But I became a devoted reader of his blog. It was there that I got my introduction to Reynolds and his site, Instapundit.

Reynolds was cheerful, pithy, breezy yet serious. In the days following 9/11, he was an indefatigable clearinghouse of information, performing, in the words of antiwar blogger Jim Henley, a "public service." Compared to other sketchy characters populating the blogosphere, Reynolds seemed like Mr. Rock-Solid: a law professor who became famous by accident, married with a kid. He linked, in the early days, to an encouragingly eclectic group of people, Left and Right.

In addition to the sun and the moon were smaller planets and asteroids in the blogiverse: Matt Welch, Ken Layne, Henley, and others. They were all self-made, published writers but had an unassuming "just folks" quality so different from professional writers who, in my experience, were fearsomely moody and savagely competitive. We warbloggers sported the "Casablanca" attitude: we were in this together and petty differences "didn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

And the world had indeed turned upside down. Before 9/11, I used to amuse myself by performing back-of-the-envelope calculations of how much money I would retire with. Now the future seemed dark, murky, menacing.

After months of obsessive reading, I launched my own blog, marketing it with an aggression and flair that I had never mustered in my real life. Reynolds, Layne, Welch, and Henley astonished me by responding to my emails and by linking to my blog. Getting attention from people who were noticed by Big Media but who refused to respect it back mollified something inside me-the conflicted woman who pretended to be anti-authoritarian but craved attention and approval from credentialing authorities. In those early days of warblogging, Reynolds fondly called the female warblogging contingent "the Brigade of Bellicose Women." But my bellicosity was not only towards al-Qaeda. They had merely gotten in the way.

My blog was a C-lister, which is blogspeak for low-traffic. Very few people read my musings, but I was well-placed among more prestigious blogger buddies who linked to me, and I became ensconced firmly in the warblogosphere. Every mention of my blog was a cheap thrill that lifted me for days.

Nevertheless, I chafed at the groupthink of blogging and dared to test the limits of nonconformity. In August 2002, I referred to bloggers as a "herd of co-dependent minds" paraphrasing Harold Rosenberg. …

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