Broadcasting in an age of blandness and idiocy

The most frustrating thing about blogging over the last year or so has been a markedly diminished ability to broadcast. I suspect one reason why it is so hard is that mainstream media companies have gotten serious about publishing good-enough blog content often on a variety of subjects. When I write on philosophy, I’m competing with blogs backed by The New York Times or Slate that have a distinct advantage in getting attention and keeping it. Whatever I publish had better be that unique, that awesome and most importantly that much more loved in order to get a passionate audience that will help me spread the word.

None of this would matter if the content of mainstream media was actually enlightening. Unfortunately, it includes things like Colin McGinn’s awful rant about philosophy being the same as science (I have written there that he might have written a satire. More discussion has proved ambiguous on that account; he wrote a second piece defending his proposal to rename philosophy). Media can be either deliberately provocative or focused on catering to common opinion. The bottom line is advertising and dollars, even as the public has a right to be informed.

I don’t mean this to say that our media is so terrible it is unusable or thoughtless. There’s plenty of good journalism and opinion pieces. But there’s a strong case to be made for independent voices having their say. Especially voices like mine – ones that make absolutely nothing from publishing and still work hard to provide the best one has to offer. Those of you who follow this blog regularly know it is no coincidence a bunch more people are reading Dickinson and haiku. I’m not creating a fad for profit. I’m just explaining what I find worthwhile and trying to convey its relevance. It’s amazing how well this has worked so far.

But now that it is harder to broadcast, something worse is happening, something that I really have no patience for: I’m dealing with more of not-quite-at-average intelligence than ever before, and they’re mean. (None of you who comment here are the problem.) Wish I could be nicer about this, but it’s really incredible how much I am dealing with. I do not want to cite examples. I’ll just say that I have to deal with them because they’re the gatekeepers that are left. They don’t know how to read, but they know how to comment. God forbid they try to read – it’s hard enough to read at a high level, but it’s even harder when one has a bunch of irrelevant concerns one wants to push before the text has even been seen. There is, of course, a species of this sort that is terribly insidious: smart-sounding people who want to troll. I don’t even, but they’re out and about.

You might ask: why broadcast? Why do I need more attention? Truth be told, it’s all that’s left for the blog. The immediate audience is large enough and is having a blast with the blog. I’m having fun working with all of you. But I didn’t write things on Maimonides and Plato’s Minos so they stayed unread for weeks at a time. I owe it to myself and all of you to try. I do request any help you can give. An appreciative, thoughtful audience is possible. I have that now. One that grows consistently is the wish.

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