Rant: How is it that genuinely dumb bloggers can achieve a decent amount of popularity?

Please note I’m not talking about bloggers who blog about unintellectual things: it takes an enormous amount of skill to write engaging stuff about celebrities or video games consistently. I’m not getting on anyone’s case for post length, topics written about, number of posts per day, etc.

I’m only concerned with one thing: there is a preponderance of blogs that look and read like they were made by a 5th grader who enjoys eating paint chips and slamming his head against a wall daily. The jokes in these blogs are often lame or crude, and when these blogs attempt to inform, they are very adept at relating any given item of news to conspiracy theory past or present.

You can see where the term “dumb” is coming from – it isn’t that these bloggers actually are dumb. I could care less about that. What matters to me is that they’re actively working to be dumb, and make all of us dumber.

What riles me up to no good end are the comment threads. “Dumb” bloggers are perceived by all of us to be really good at starting conversation, somehow. And I think that particular irk might be the answer to the puzzle.

Despite all the mainstream media’s problems, the acceptance of certain forms and ways of saying things meant that public discourse once had a certain shape. The editor of the WSJ can’t just go “hey dumbasses, listen up, vote McCain, peace out,” although I would have very much liked to have read that.

But we all know that formality has been dying for some time. Forget the Internet – once you know that, say, The New York Times has an agenda and will promote it however it sees fit, it’s hard to take their way of communicating seriously. Mendacity more than hypocrisy destroys mores; hypocrisy at least shows you the customs are alive in some sense.

Filling that void, then, almost immediately was going to be our everyday speech. And our everyday speech is dumb: there aren’t many people I’ve met who’ve outgrown the way they spoke in high school. Our everyday speech is dumb because the purpose isn’t to speak well – it’s to speak to our friends, and feel like we’re accepted by them for saying whatever.

Well, guess what. Blogs are the first victim of this need for acceptance, because even the extremely prized skill of starting conversation – something upper classes in all societies depend on – is irrelevant. You don’t need to start a conversation: you need to project a persona people are accustomed to dealing with.

Hence, since most guys are accustomed to dealing with whiny, needy girls, projecting that persona, whether one is a girl or not, goes a long way in the blogosphere. The trick isn’t to sound like you know what you’re talking about: the trick is to sound like you’re going to hyperventilate any moment now, that your pointless life will come to an end if your forecast of doom plays out blah blah blah. Oh, and Joey loves Cheri.

Alright. Rant over. To what degree is this ludricrous theory of mine onto something? I think the “there’s a fundamental neediness in democratic life” part is the only thing I don’t want to jettison – everything else is up for grabs.

3 Comments

  1. Lol, Seriously this post hit close to home *shifty eyes*.

    This was a really interesting post, great insight on the “dumb” bloggers thing. Unfortunately, my whole site kind of fall into your “dumb blogger” description (which I am ashamed of). And I agree that formality as you put it has been changing and devolving downward… Which is bad. We can only blame the success of social networks such as youtube, myspace, ect ,ect for really dropping the IQ to the internet users out there. Including myself. Once again really enjoyed reading this post, even though it stung at the same time.

  2. I also think you’re on to something really
    important here.

    Your post reminds me of the following bizarre phenomenon:

    Many, many times in the classroom or at a conference, I have been unfortunate enough to witness some terribly clever person get up and deliver a really outstanding paper that inexplicably ends up generating far fewer questions/comments than a whole bunch of ones universally agreed to be awful/incomprehensible/devoid of sense. And when I say “good” here, I’m not including the impressivelyimpenetrable: I’m talking about well-reasoned, well-articulated, accessible invitations to further discussion.

    In fact, one of the best papers that I’ve ever seen, actually ended up receiving NO questions whatsoever, despite 15 minutes officially alloted for question time. Now, it’s true that I obviously contributed to this(I raised my hand, maybe 2 minutes in, just as the chair said: ‘well if there are no further questions…’) and then cancelled the damn thing), which makes the ‘why’ question seem all the more urgent.

    And I think that, as you say, we are just not used enough to speaking well. Consequently, when we hear someone do this, our response to is more often than not a kind of aesthetic awe. This might produce applause, but it rarely leads to further comments. OF course, a speaker (or writer) may find this nice enough. It may even be her aim. But unless she’s a kudos obssessed narcissist, she also would probably infinitely prefer an actual dialogue on the topic(s) that she’d introduced.

    It seems to me that this is because
    so much of our “conversation” is, as you so rightly say, so banal as to be almost entirely PHATIC i.e. to remain at the level of “Uh, huh. Mmhm. Right. Really?” and other things whose actual meaning is subordinate to their FUNCTION in the conversational situation where they send signals like: “you can keep going. I’m not going to interrupt you/change topic/walk out of the room or suddenly try to stab you with this pen/my dispostion remains friendly/I am amicably disposed towards you…and other things that would be too stupid or banal to SAY, but which are essential to communciate.”

    In most conversations, I find a whole bunch of potentially meaningful stuff, goes by the wayside, because at least one (and usually both) interlocutors ultimately treat statements AS IF IT WERE PHATIC and thus requried PHATIC responses::

    “And I mean,like, what does he DOING to himself?”/Yeah. I agree. “It’s ALL about deterriotrialisation, isn’t it?””So much so.”/”Republicans are stupid.”/”Aren’t they. So are Democrats.” “I dunno she just seems kinda out there.”/”Yeah. To me too. I mean what’s wrong with her?”

    It’s like the content is irrelevant to the “Amicable. Still amciable. I’m not going to try to eat you or sleep with you. We’re on the same side aren’t we” signals. Most frustratingly, this kind of talk seems to most invite MORE TALK IN RESPONSE, whereas
    it’s hard not to just go: “wow.” at Wittgenstein (or whoever.)

    Anyway: thanks for that one, Ashok. I’ve seen blogs where someone goes: “last night I brushed my teeth before bed” and they get, like, 29 comments. Grrr.

    -Regards,

    -Mal.

    I

  3. Ahhh…..once again he ties the the word of the past to today’s situation to demonstrate our need to rethink. Re-think when to expend (yours/mine) energy to leave a comment(not commenting on tooth brushing in my lifetime, nor the Mr or Ms Hollywood who thinks of them selves so highly). Is it worthy or is it rubbish not worthy.

    So he rants and waits in Divine terror to see if we will expend our energy to engage.

    I say it is worth my expense of energy to engage. What others spend time on is a sorry sight (at times) for sure, but for me, I need more substance.

    “He” could be the collective. Surely feared, but it can be overcome with time and an expense commitment not to stop or to dumb down.

    It is an art… to delve highbrow deep and bridge with an everyday language explanation demonstration. Is is necessary!

    Excellent.

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