Ace articulated an internal struggle I’ve often had, especially in the leadup to my sabbatical from blogging and ultimately Twitter, and again as I finally caved to pressure from several people to return to the online world. The excerpt is longer than I really am comfortable giving, but I can’t honestly chop it up any more than I have and still do it justice:
I’ve mentioned before my growing weariness with what I’ll dub the Viral Mentality of the Internet.
The Viral Mentality is one in which people are over-excited to push certain memes and facts (or pseudofacts) in an effort to shape the national conversation. Blogging really indulged in this mentality — as I’ve said, my flaming skull is my version of Drudge’s siren, an effort to advertise certain memes and stories — but it’s the ADD format of Twitter that has really supercharged the mindset.
My real problem is that if you scratch the surface of most online writers, you’ll find that, without quite admitting it to themselves, they’ve largely defined success and failure in online writing according to the standards of success and failure in Advertising.
To be really good at “Pushing Memes.” To be really good at “getting stories to go viral.”
To be really good at branding.
I joked a while ago that we will all know this syndrome has reached its lethal phase when your grandmother tells you, “I wanted to mention your new Son on my FaceBook page, but I was afraid it would undermine the Branding image I was going for.”
We all know this is beneath us — well, most of us know this; some idiots might actually aspire to be Kings of Online Advertising — and yet nevertheless it has become the default model of online communication….
Now, online, both the right and the left have accepted the notion that activism is the highest ideal of online communication — if not the highest ideal to aspire to, at least one of the top two, competing successfully most of the time versus the other criterion, Speaking the Truth (or one’s murky vision of the truth, at least)….
Now, every political writer is, ultimately, an activist. People do not write about politics disinterestedly. Everyone has his own take on what the Social Good looks like, and his writing will always, always be informed by this.
Every writer, every blogger, every Tweeter, every commenter writing about politics has his own conception of The Good and will write in support of this.
There is no avoiding that.
There will always be Political Advertising encoded into any political essay.
It’s a question of the degree to which we permit ourselves to be captive to the lowest form of communication, Advertising.
It’s a question of whether we elevate the Advertising Imperative above the Truth-Telling Imperative, and by what margin.
As I always say, READ IT ALL. Whether you do it before or after continuing with the self-aggrandizing bullshit I’m about to spew, or you skip said bullshit, is your choice.
I know I have a bit of an ego. Otherwise, I would never have started NRE nor restarted writing. At the same time, my conscience won’t just let me write bullshit just for the sake of getting my name out there, or really to promote what I write. In fact, I was surprised to find that the folks at WisPolitics noticed immediately that I had returned (guess they never dropped the RSS feed) and saw fit to link to the first post back.
When I started this place 8 years ago, I never imagined it would have any real following outside of the people whose blogs I had been commenting on for the several months prior to writing long-form. I never expected to really be able to write long-form posts – writing has always been a major struggle for me, and self-promotion has never been a strong suit.
Then Fred Dooley and Mark Block, then the state director of Americans for Prosperity, invited me out to the first Defending the American Dream summit in 2007. Things sort of snowballed from there, with invites to more national events, meeting and befriending a lot of people I never would either have met nor expected to be in the same circles as, seeing some of the inner workings of politics that the average Joe never does.
On the flip side, I started letting The Brand creep into my musings. Whether it was the NRE Brand I never really intended to build or a larger Conservative/Libertarian Brand (the current iteration being the TEA Party Movement) is immaterial. I started feeling the strain between merely aping whatever came down the pike and taking a critical look at everything.
A long time ago, Jib gave out a key piece of advice – when it stops being fun, it’s time to stop. A year ago, it stopped being fun, with the Twitter part dragged out a few months after that. I pretty much did a hard reboot of the process that began, really, in early 2001 when I joined Free Republic.
In my restart, I can only hope to live up to what Ace closed with:
So when you see me balk at the idea of permanently subordinating my belief in what the truth is for the purpose of advancing the Brand, this is why.
It’s because I don’t want to be Matt Yglesias.
I may be ridiculous inadvertently, but I refuse to make myself ridiculous.
No matter how much some buffoonery and dishonesty might Help the Brand.
Matt Yglesias believes:
Humans are hierarchical primates by nature and have a kind of fascination with power and dignity.>
And by “dignity,” he means the trappings of power– that which “dignified” the nobleman.
That may be true — that may be true of man at his base animal level — but man is not limited to his base animal level. He can aspire to more.
He can aspire to more than being a monkey who begins repeating the squawks of the higher-ranking Alpha Monkey, in order to get the monkeys around him to begin squawking in the same fashion.