Posts Tagged ‘andrew sullivan’

Well, actually, not really.  But I’ve been thinking about journalism and blogs this week, for three reasons.

First, I received a couple comments and then a personal email regarding a post that I wrote earlier in the week.  The correspondence came from a friend who is also an academic, and she challenged the lack of sophistication in my post, saying that I was slinging around terminology in a sloppy manner.  In an email response I agreed, and then went on to say that blogging is a medium that is different-in-kind than the kind of work she’s used to doing.  I then joked that I hoped she wouldn’t have the same criticism of my dissertation!

Next, I read this piece by my favorite blogger, Andrew Sullivan.  Andrew really has been a shaping force in the blogging medium.  In has Atlantic essay, he argues that the blogging form is still evolving, but that it is turning out to be a uniquely postmodern form of communication, one that lends itself to quick, timely, opinionated thoughts.

Money quote: “For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”

Sullivan goes on to argue that traditional daily journalism (e.g., daily newspapers) and long-form journalism (The Atlantic, The New York Time Sunday Magazine) become more relevant and more important in this era.  Blogging merely represents a new facet in the evolving constellation of media.  Really, I urge you to read Sullivan’s whole essay if blogs are a part of your life.

Finally, I read this post by Jeff Jarvis on the death of newspaper journalism.  I have a great affinity for daily newspaper journalism, in that my grandfather rose from copy boy to executive editor of the Minneapolis Tribune (all without a college degree), and one of my good friends is a journalist at a daily.  Jarvis takes on the conventional wisdom of the day that says that blogs and craigslist have killed newspapers.  Not so fast, he says.  What is killing newspapers is the lack of imagination among journalists.

Money quote: “No, the essence of the problem is that we thought the internet represented just a new gadget and not a fundamental change in society, the economy, and thus journalism.”

As I prepare to move my blog over to Beliefnet in coming weeks, am thinking about exactly how I see blogging and my role in the blogosphere — particularly among those who are interested in reading about God and spirituality and church and religion.  It will be, I am sure, an evolving conversation.

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That’s basically how Andrew Sullivan describes Barack Obama in his Sunday Times essay.  And there’s really something to this.  First, Obama’s calm in the face of the Clintonistas drove Bill (“Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice”) Clinton and Hillary (“Shame on you, Barack Obama!”) Clinton to say things that they’d later regret, and that may well have lost them the primary.

Now Obama continues unruffled in the face of McCain/Palin onslaught of negative ads and tenuous connections to Bill Ayers and ACORN.  I expect that we’ll see tonight, once again, Obama perform in the debate without any Goresque sighs or Nixonian flop sweats.  Clearly, as Sullivan convincingly argues, Obama’s calm demeanor in the face of the global economic crisis has contributed to his recent surge in the polls.

And now to venture into the land of pure speculation: It seems to me that BO could not maintain this unshakeable calm were he not an exceptionally grounded, centered, and spiritual person.  I suppose that some people are more “wired” toward calm than others, and I’m quite sure that our life experiences contribute to our personalities (like, say, 5 1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton).  But running a 2+ year presidential campaign entails an extraordinary amout of stress.  Embedded journalists have repeatedly reported both Hillary and McCain regularly exploding in rage at their campaign teams.  Unless I’ve missed it, there’s been nary a mention of Obama losing his cool, even behind the scenes.

As a person who tries, often unsuccessfully, to stay centered in the midst of crisis and stress, I cannot but believe that BO’s own spirituality contributes greatly to the preternatural calm that he exudes.

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Two of my favorite members of the punditocracy went at it on Friday night on Real Time.  I most appreciate both Bill Maher and Andrew Sullivan for their honesty.  I agree with each of them on some things and disagree on others.  I tend to agree with Maher on the present state of America and the current administration and I love his acerbic wit (plus the linguistic freedom that he is afforded on HBO), but I find his views on religion to be odious and reactionary.  I appreciate Sullivan’s wholehearted commitment to democracy and capitalism, but I think he’s living in lala land to believe that either could achieve the idealistic state that he envisions (in fact, Naomi Klein really busted Sullivan’s chops on this very point on the show).

I think Sullivan is one of the best guests that Maher has on, primarily because Andrew is not the least bit intimidated by Bill’s intellect and tongue.  This clip is a classic repartee between the two of them on the subject of religion:

In other news, journalists are finally started to talk publicly about the power of the racist vote in America, and about the McCain campaign’s unwillingness to speak boldly against it.  Mark Ambinder has written about it here and here in the last couple days, and Nicholas Kristof today argues that the lingering lies about BO being an underground Muslim is really a foil for racism.

I do think there’s something to this, unfortunately.  In fact, the only way I see BO losing the election is if a certain segments of whites don’t vote for him because of latent racism.  How sad is that?

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“Under modern conditions, where almost everyone lives in communities in which diversity has taken the place of consensus, certainty is much more difficult to come by. Relativism can be described as a world view that not only acknowledges but celebrates the absence of consensus. So-called post-modernist theorists like to speak of narratives and, in principle, every narrative is as valued as any other. The moral end result of this world view can be captured by imagining a television interview with a cannibal. “You believe that people should be cooked and eaten. I certainly don’t want to be judgmental, but the audience will be interested. Tell us more.” (Laughter.) This is not all that fictitious.


Fundamentalists respond to the same situation of certainty-scarcity by seeking to regain absolute certainty about every aspect of their world view. No doubt is permitted. Whoever disagrees is an enemy to be converted, shunned or, in the extreme case, removed. The last two centuries of history have made it very clear that there are secular as well as religious fundamentalisms. Both relativism and fundamentalism threaten the basic moral order without which no society, least of all a liberal democracy, can exist: relativism because it makes morality a capricious game, fundamentalism because it balkanizes society into mutually hostile camps that cannot communicate with each other,” – Peter Berger, in a dialogue on Relativism and Fundamentalism: Is There A Middle Ground?

I think he wrongly equates postmodern theory with radical relativism.  But, I should know, that’s a common misperception.

HT: Andrew Sullivan

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