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The Voice(s) In The Wilderness

Posted by Rick · December 29th, 2004 · 3 Comments

After some bad news yesterday, I had a sleepless night. In the course of it, I ran across a discussion in the “Blog Elitists?” post over at Pandagon. Ironically — because at least some of the comments discussed a perceived failure of the larger Liberal blogs to recognize and interact with the smaller liberal blogs — I seldom read blogs like Pandagon because they’re so big; I gravitate towards smaller blogs, like my own.

The Pandagon discussion has touched upon some of the issues that MalnurturedSnay, Chepooka and a few other bloggers I read discussed (and briefly tried to strategize about): How to Counter the conservative “memes” that proliferate while liberal “memes” — to the extent they exist at all — merely percolate, and How to Build a liberal blogging “community.” A side issue for us was how to cross-drive traffic to one another’s blogs.

Snay’s inspirational attempt to coordinate a handful of us appears to have been, through no fault of his, short-lived. (Herding cats is no easy job.) But as someone who writes daily — and occasionally well 😉 — I’ve puzzled over this quite a lot lately.

It seems to me not just snarkiness to note that one of the “problems” is that the liberal message historically has been a kind of reactive message. The Left has always been about striving for a better society, a better world. Improvement. Doing that naturally involves pointing out what’s wrong with the existing structures and processes; hence, the reactive mode and, hence, the reason conservatives often appear to set the agenda. Furthermore, many liberals (small “el” to denote lack of organization) have their own pet issues, or, if you will, priorities and are not easily pressed into becoming part of a larger propaganda machine. Conservatives are natural followers.

Top that off with the fact that right now (pun intended, to those who got it) there’s a lot that’s going wrong, partly because the conservative leadership isn’t truly conservative. That’s why they’re often referred to as neo-conservatives. They’re radically transforming the world — something which is normally the province of liberals — but they’re doing it in a negative way. They wish to resurrect an older world which, unfortunately, is able to pull energy from a variety of elemental self-serving drives of what had been a waning power. Bigots longingly wish for the days when gay-bashing was acceptable, where men were men and women were not competitive in the job market, where non-whites — who these days are really a minority only in the Republican Party — “knew their place.” Corporations long for the days of exploitation for profit without concern about resources, including human resources. They dream of slave labor, or, failing that, of pliable serfs who know better than to question the Nobles.

Additionally, it’s difficult for liberals to coordinate or consolidate in the way the conservatives have done. After all, since conservatives seldom dig very deeply into any “issues,” they really have just a few key points to hammer. To pick just one example, the Right is not doing any kind of deep analysis of anti-gay social policies — most of them just hate gays. Period. I’d be surprised if they even knew why other than “it’s unnatural.” (That’s in quotes to pre-emptively dispel any thought that the idea expressed therein is mine; they’re scare quotes.) There’s no attempt to understand what constitutional implications their stance has. And sound bites like “it’s unnatural” are easier to propagate when one doesn’t have to ponder what they really mean or whether they’re really true.

On the other hand, liberals frequently do consider such things. One reason my typical blog entry is so long is the combination of trying to make my arguments complete and consider some of the implications, or side issues. (Maybe I should elide more with the hope that it will stimulate interstitial comments and, when it doesn’t, just generate another post.)

Explaining things takes time. But many people — and not just conservatives who, like their Fearless Leader, have difficulty reading anything more significant than “My Pet Goat” — don’t have, or don’t like to allocate, time to read anything more than a few paragraphs, at best. Can you imagine anyone bothering to read the Declaration of Independence today? Seriously? And it’s not even that long.

That document, which liberals felt compelled to write as an explanation for the Revolution that lead to the creation of the United States of America, would if written today either go unread or be reduced to a blog entry that said, “F*ck it. We’re outta here.”

At any rate, my “hits” have, ironically, taken a dip ever since I started pondering how to increase them, rather than just continuing to write. In the run-up to the election, I was getting about 250 per day and I got excited. I wanted more. No one wants — or, at least, I don’t want — to think that something they pour hours of effort into is unappreciated. If I lived on a desert island, I’d feel compelled to write; I built up dozens of journals by writing hours every day for several years before blogging came along and almost none of that has ever been seen by anyone but me. Having readers and, even more so, people who leave comments is just oh so much better.

The bottom line is that I don’t know that there’s any solution — or whether the discussion at Pandagon even identifies a significant new problem that requires a solution — but liberals must just go on doing what we’ve always done. We’re voices in the wilderness, calling others to a world that does not yet exist.

Personally, I think it’s the highest calling. And when the struggle gets difficult, when our voice wears thing and we long for the collective strength that would allow us to lean on one another, it probably pays to remember that,

“No prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed — only Naaman the Syrian.”

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Luke 4:24-30 (New International Version)

When the right-wing conservative neo-Pharisaic crowd gets us liberal bloggers down, and rails against us because we’re busy doing what the guy they purport to worship did, while they’re busy twisting his message, it’s time to just walk right through that crowd and blog on your way.

If you’re lucky, a few will follow. That’s really all it takes to make the world a better place.

And that is what being a liberal is about.

Categories: Blogs & Blogging


3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Malnurtured Snay // Dec 29, 2004 at 7:35 am

    Conservatives are natural followers.

    Rick ponders our ability to market an idea, and why it is so vital that we learn how to do so. It seems to me not just snarkiness to note that one of the “problems” is that the liberal message…

  • 2 Malnurtured Snay // Dec 30, 2004 at 6:54 am


    I think most political-themed blogs experienced a drop in traffic after the election.

    250? I’m jealous.

  • 3 Rick Horowitz // Dec 30, 2004 at 9:10 am

    Yeah, but it’s dropped in the last week to about 100 per day, which has me totally bummed out.

    I’m hoping it’s just because of the holidays and that things will pick back up after the first of the year.

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