Thursday, February 16, 2006

Present upon your piece!

No matter how hard I try to avoid it -- if for no other reason than it strikes me as a form of navel-gazing -- the question keeps coming around: Why blog? Right now, the hot topic is, as Evil Glenn would have it, "for love or money?" See here and here for other current articles on the subject of blogging for cash.

And I think the question should probably be phrased differently. It's not "why blog?" but "why write?" Blogging is a means, not an end. I've been writing since about the time I started reading, and like any other writer I write for many reasons. Love and money are two of those reasons, so my answer to Reynolds's formulation is "both, and then some." I blog because I like to write. I like to make money, too, and I make some by blogging (not enough, but some).

A third reason, of course, is politics. It's natural to cast politics in military terminology, and as a military type, I'm especially prone to that kind of analogy. I'm a grunt in the political wars, and the blog is my weapon.

What kind of weapon is it? From the title of his forthcoming book, An Army of Davids, I can reasonably forecast Reynolds's answer, and I agree (I'll be reviewing it in full on Blogcritics, btw, and will of course let you know when that happens).

Blogs are definitely in the "small arms" category. Reynolds analogizes to the sling, but I'm going to go in a different direction to offer my own historical context: The blog is a rifle. The blogger is a grunt on the virtual political battlefield. He (or she -- consider the gender-neutrality flag waved and let's move on) wields his own small piece of Internet weaponry as an individual. Even on "gang blogs" -- crew-served weapons, perhaps, but one individual is on the trigger in any given post -- the separate authors normally take aim and fire in their own ways. Even when one ideological wing of the blogosphere fires at the enemy by battalion, each blogger chooses his own targets. There are big differences with respect to caliber, muzzle velocity and such (see part two of David Sifry's latest "state of the blogosphere" report for the three-tier analysis), but whether it's a .22 bolt action or an elephant gun, we all carry it on our shoulders and pull the trigger ourselves.

The cool thing is that the Age of Rifles -- generally defined as that time between the redcoats' discovery that a single rifleman shooting from behind a tree could put the hurt on a much larger number of organized musketeers and the emergence of heavy artillery, tanks and aircraft as forces which could break up massed formations of rifle-bearing soldiery -- never really ended in meatspace, and it's not going to end in virtual space, either.

Oh, the "mainstream media" and the political machines will bring out their heavy artillery for sure. They're already trying. And they're losing. Whether firing by battalions or stalking flyover country in ragtag little guerilla bands, or laying in the brush awaiting the opportunity for a well-placed snipers' shot, the Internet Rifleman is here to stay. The best the MSM/politicians can hope for is to minimize casualties. They can't win a war of attrition and although the environment is target-rich, their weapons aren't suited to its fluidity or the mobility of the other side's forces.

The Internet and political blogging have evolved from matchlock to wheellock to flintlock to caplock to breech-loader to semi-auto in a few very short years. Formations from squad to army size have coalesced. But it still all comes down to putting a hole in the other guy, one hole at a time, every shooter taking his own aim. Grassroots political activists finally have weaponry suitable to their mission (and not just blogs -- check out CivicSpace). Make ready.

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