First Drones of History


Six Degrees of Recrimination
If your boss were to find a link to pornography on your page, would he fire you? What about a link to someone else's page with a link to pornography? What about a link to Yahoo, and the universe it opens up? Is porn the only taboo? What about anarchism? Satanism? Simple, "non-company" business?
Five years ago today in Suck.

By comparison, Mickey Kaus, whose Kaus Files appears daily and gets favored placement at Slate, has just about refined himself out of existence. The End of Equality author — though he also fills his daily updates with more references to Good Friends than a Jerry Lewis Telethon — generally eschews detailed biography. But he appreciates it in others: One recent KausFiles entry, which we're genuinely sorry we didn't see in time, detailed how Harvard professor Lawrence Tribe's "delightful and revealing personal web page" included a confession that the Ivy'd windbag loves Simon & Garfunkel and unagi (Tribe's page has since been changed).

On the other hand, Kaus's "friend" Joshua Micah Marshall permits an occasional lift from the old personal diary: "Well, for what it's worth, 32 doesn't feel much different from 31. At least not during the first few hours." Except for an occasional back atcha, however, (Kaus, it turns out, is not only a personal friend but "Yoda to my Skywalker"), Marshall only occasionally lets loose with a personal anecdote. "Okay, tonight we're reporting directly from the official Talking Points sickbed," the Washington editor of The American Prospect reported at 8:21 PM on February 10. And while we're pleased that he appears to have gotten through whatever ailed him, it's a little disappointing that Marshall didn't treat us to a full illness diary.

Because really, if we just wanted their opinions, we'd be reading the many magazines, newspapers and web sites that hire these folks as contributors. As T.S. Eliot (a poet to whom we always tip our borrowed yarmulkes) noted in his discussion of John Donne, for a poet a thought is an experience; an idea modifies sensibility. It doesn't really matter what the idea is; we just want to share in the excitement of that lightbulb moment. Where exactly was Marshall when he just knew the Bush tax cut was headed for trouble. Was he eating a banana? Reading the Kaus-Sullivan dialogue on Slate? Sitting on the hopper? (Come on, we're all friends here!) In the old days, memorabilia hunting was limited to true luminaries — the contents of Bob Dylan's trash, a bartender's IOU in the hand of William Faulkner. But the information age offers all of us the power to bore people with the details of our own existences. As the formats of celeblogs grow ever more inward-looking, they approach the ideal of all journalism: the fabled one-copy newspaper that supposedly is printed up each morning for the sole readership of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (a paper whose Letters and Kids' Korner sections we look forward to reading if we ever get to Heaven).

If a newspaper is the first draft of history, then the journalistic celeblog is something new: the blue-pencil editorial notes, maybe, or the pile of receipts awaiting reimbursement from the paper, or the post-deadline barroom chitchat that is steadily vanishing in the age of no free time. How much personal detail readers can take is of course a debatable point — we're not talking about Ernie Pyle-level reporters here. Instant position-taking on the day's news predates the web by at least a few decades. (On a related note, we should point out that though Suck has flung poo at Slate Chatterbox Timothy Noah on several occasions, he has always had a good word for us and remains a good friend). As more professional journalists follow the trail blazed by Jim Romanesko (or more accurately, Matt Drudge), the only value-add left is in the realm of the personal.

Sadly, even that will probably come too late. No less a personage than the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, citing several of the above as his sources, has pronounced web content dead again. That may be a relief for journalistic celeblogs, which have cost bases (and values) that are extremely low. But with dwindling readerships and vanishing opportunities to make money (pathetically, Sullivan's site constantly flags plans to get by on reader donations), it can only be hoped that the bloggers will start spilling more personal information — and maybe start dotting their i's with smiley faces — on the double. Sure, we never really cared what they had to say; but soon we won't even have to pretend.

Bore people in today's Plastic discussion
Speak your mind about today's Suck

MOD SQUAD: Gamers are doin' it for themselves, featuring
  • Suck founder Carl Steadman on the rebirth of 2-D gaming;
  • Justin Hall on the most successful online mod, and others

    Also: Steven Johnson on game storytelling and ONI, and an exclusive interview with Deus Ex creator Warren Spector

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    courtesy of Magua


    pictures Terry Colon