Yup, this blog is still here, surprisingly!
There’s no special number to this post. It is post number 142. There’s no anniversary or occasion to celebrate. But here I am, almost to the end of February, and this blog is still going.
I continue to find myself fascinated by what posts people read and which ones they don’t. Whitesplaining Berniebros remains my most popular post, which I would not have expected at the time I wrote it. My political posts are hit and miss, generally. Sometimes they get read a lot, other times they get little attention. It is still the case that posts about international events or issues receive very little attention, though. Maybe that makes sense–it’s likely that my focus on American issues and an American audience means that that same audience would rather not come here for international news. There are certainly much better sources for it, so the implication is not that readers don’t care, just that they’d rather obtain such information elsewhere. (I don’t really know since nobody has said so!)
But I find posts about American politics a bit too easy. I used to wonder how pundits could come up with a few hundred or a thousand words every day on politics in America, but in the course of running this blog I’ve come to realize how easy it is. It’s often said that economics is the dismal science, but I would argue that punditry excels in dismalness. It’s rare that one must show their work, and on the off chance that you are required to, there is always a poll or study that will confirm whatever conclusion you wish to draw.
Good punditry is difficult, but rarely rewarded. Good punditry takes time and actual research. But bad punditry is easy to create and often indistinguishable from the good stuff. Oftentimes, unloading barbs and zingers against one’s political adversaries is viewed as more important than communicating useful information. A good pundit can do both, but a bad one can get away with relying mostly on snark.
This is not a post where I want to name names. I couldn’t honestly give you names if you asked–I’ve read so many pieces by so many different people that I’d be hard-pressed to tell you who wrote what. But what I know understand is that, when it comes to political writing, it is rather easy to give the impression you know what you’re talking about, and you can make up for rhetorical deficiencies with snaps of wit. It’s no wonder political writing is viewed as an insular cesspool of back-patting wonks, and this is probably why most people pay no attention to it. The average voter isn’t reading Ezra Klein or Matt Taibbi. Americans are, by and large, politically ignorant–and like it that way. Those of us who pay at least of attention are the outliers.
This is not meant to harangue low-information voters, though that is indeed a troublesome situation. But having written a number of political articles at this point, it’s become clear to me that competently assembling a piece of political commentary simply isn’t that hard, and it now makes more sense to me why it’s such a popular form of writing online. Of course, those who do it because they enjoy it have less of an obligation than those who are being paid to write useful commentary. I don’t get paid for this and I don’t pretend to be more than just some guy who has an interest in the system, the country, and the world. I wish others cared as much–enough to even write bad political commentary! I think that’s better than not caring at all. I am disheartened when I see politics being regarded as something lesser, as unworthy of examination. I think the poor quality of political writing contributes a lot to this mindset–anyone can say anything they want, and unless you are particularly well-read or some kind of insider, you don’t know what’s true or not.
Since I’m the kind of person who prefers not just to complain, but to follow up with solutions, I think what I might do is try to highlight good political writing. That’s definitely something I can do in the link roundups, and of course when a particularly good piece of political writing comes my way, I can make a post about it and reflect/expand upon it.
Looking through the topics I have left in my queue, much of what remains is difficult to talk about and may necessitate multi-part features and a lot of research. Not that I don’t like a challenge! We’ll see what happens. I have a lot of irons in the fire lately but I definitely don’t want this place to suffer.
As always, thanks for reading!