It's Always Nice to Learn What I Really Meant, as Opposed to What I Really Wrote: Over at the Village Voice, Roy Edroso writes this strange history of "warblogging":
[W]ith the rush to war in Iraq came the phenomenon of "warbloggers" -- online belligerents who hollered for invasion and denounced all foot-draggers as traitors. They thought themselves a new breed of patriot, rescuing the nation from post-Vietnam drift, but were merely a useful feeder stream for a new jingoism that enmeshed America in foreign morasses wherein we remain hopelessly bound today.
I've got no issue with anyone flinging well-deserved poo at a category of human I indeed helped give name to. But read that squib without clicking on the links and you'd think that warblogging became a phenomenon in 2003, that I was one of those hollering for war against Iraq, and that my mea culpa was a direct reference to this pro-war belligerence. All are false.
One of the warblogs OGs, Matt Welch, looked back in 2006 on those heady times and reflected, "Man, was I wrong." Nonetheless he admitted, "I can't shake the feeling of nostalgia for a promising cross-partisan moment that just fizzled away." By "cross-partisan," of course, he meant that some people joined his bellowing who later grew hoarse and unsure; there were others who disagreed from the start, but they were disregarded, because they were not part of the great new blog thing.
"Warblogging" came to prominence not during the run-up to the Iraq War, but in the run-up to the Afghanistan War. In fact many early adopters of the term, me included, originally meant the phrase as much as anything as a sort of verbal slap in the face to describe what Islamic terrorists were already waging against us. It's a fair bet that James Wolcott, to name one of many presumably Edroso-approved examples, would not have found warblogs "so damn addictive" back in the spring of 2002 had they been primarily or even tertiarily organized around the concept of toppling Saddam Hussein.
Speaking of which, on that score I was Hamlet, not Dick Cheney. While you can say plenty against such punditorial indecisiveness, what you can't say (at least while pretending to care about the truth) is that it "denounced all foot-draggers as traitors." Here are five mattwelch.com links in February/March of 2003: You make the call.
Why does Edroso go to such lengths in warping a record that's plenty rich enough for criticism? Unlike him, I won't pretend to go in the opposing corner's brain. Instead I will merely observe that all of the above bullshittery is in prelude to the remarkable claim about what I really meant in my Farewell to Warblogging column, presented with the usual straight-from-the-arse tell of "of course." Namely, that I was lamenting "that some people" who "joined" my "bellowing" eventually "grew hoarse and unsure."
Sounds like my wrath was aimed at liberal hawks who got wobbly! Uh, not fucking remotely:
As a consumer, it was exponentially more edifying to me than the post-9/11 fumblings of the mainstream media's binary, Crossfire-style opinion slinging. "What do warbloggers have in common, that most pundits do not?" I enthused [in this December 2001 post]. "I'd say a yen for critical thinking, a sense of humor that actually translates into people laughing out loud, a willingness to engage (and encourage) readers, a hostility to the Culture War and other artifacts of the professionalized left-right split of the 1990s...a readiness to admit error [and] a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review."
It's fitting that Edroso's fantasia comes in the service of a column that attempts to affix blame for "ruin[ing] the Internet." The Internet ain't remotely ruined, and one of the main reasons why it isn't (and why certain grumps will grouse at the digital world passing them by) is that you can actually click through that hyperlink and discover that the writer talking so confidently is, in fact, full of shit.
Man, was I wrong.
Michelle Malkin, to name one writer revered by warbloggers (her site recently won Best Blog in an annual poll organized by RightWingNews.com), is to critical thinking what Ralph Nader is to libertarianism—a very good example of the opposite. The basic scholarship of her 2004 book In Defense of Internment was cut to ribbons by Japanese-internment historian Eric L. Muller (see "Indefensible Internment," December 2004), yet many of the same people who once trumpeted bloggers' ability to "fact-check your ass" simply shrugged, continued treating Malkin as a trustworthy source, and saved their real journalism criticism for those partisan hacks at CBS News and The New York Times.
UPDATE: Oh hey look, jackass saved the best for his personal site:
the warblogger era ('member that?), when alleged former liberals like Matt Welch and Jeff Jarvis would bellow that the scales had been torn from their eyes, revealing to them the necessity of invading Iraq. I notice that they're not similarly rallying to the call to invade Yemen, which suggests such epiphanies have a more limited shelf life than once was thought, as well as a longer, subsequent period of buyer's remorse.To sum up: Before the Iraq War, I wasn't sure what the U.S. should do, was respectful of differing views, and expressed both sentiments a half-dozen times on my "warblog." Through the sour lens of a Village Voice writer, that means I denounced fence-sitters (such as, um, myself?) as "traitors," disgorged several lifetimes' worth of pro-Iraq War "bellowing," then began a long, slow marination in my own regret.
Seriously, dude, at least Glenn Greenwald knows how to use a basic search button.
UPDATE II: Hey look again! Dude found the search button! But instead of saying "Whoops! I was totally wrong about saying Welch bellowed support for the war and dismissed fence-sitters as traitors," he quotes a couple of my pacifist-bashing posts from September of 2001, grudgingly acknowledges that the "Farewell to Warblogging" column he so grossly mischaracterized "doesn't say much about the war part" (ya think, Roy?), makes comments throughout about how "angry" I am (honey, like Tom Petty, I'm laughing all the time), then finishes with this whimper:
Nonetheless some people, including many less critical than me, got the impression the warbloggers supported some wars. So maybe "warblogging" was a misnomer all along, and they should have called it critical-thinkingblogging, or laughing-out-loudblogging. That might have cleared up some confusion, and spared us all some grief.Oh boo hoo. "Warblog" had long morphed into an outsider term of derision as much as and probably more than an in-group identifier by the moment Edroso originally pegged as the advent of warblogging. As a would-be media critic, the onus is on him to figure out what the hell he's talking about.
EXCITING UPDATE III!: Another update from Edroso's latest post says, of my description of him spelunking through my September 2001 archives, "maybe he think's I'm cherry picking!" Not at all, Roy; there's a lot of harsh business in there, some that makes me wince in retrospect. What I do think you're doing is changing the subject from your utterly, laughably, provably false assertions about me "bellowing" support for invading Iraq by quoting from stuff I wrote 18 months before that war started (and just days after terrorists pulverized 3,000 people on American soil). You made multiple assertions about me that were false, a fact that no amount of post-9/11 Robert Jensen-bashing on my part has any relevance to. Keep on digging, though!
AND THE FINAL UPDATE: The Village Voice has run my letter. Edroso, after admitting that his dating was wrong & that the pro-war stuff should not have been applied to me, then says this:
Welch spent much of his early warblogging days (and some of his later ones) beating up opponents of the war(s). ("I understand today -- really, for the first time in my life -- why for much of Middle America the word 'liberal' is a pejorative," etc). I suppose you could say this is not the same thing as being an "advocate for war." I think it's a distinction without a difference.And there you have it. Spending my Sept. 16, 2001 criticizing Noam Chomsky for equating the massacre of five days earlier with Bill Clinton's bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceuticals factory, and Colman McCarthy for advocating that we react to the hijackers by saying "we forgive you," is no different than being an advocate for the Iraq War, even if I wasn't, um, an advocate for the Iraq War. Facts, schmacts, etc. I hope this has been as weirdly (if dully) illuminating for all of you as it has been for me.
01/04/2010 05:07 AM
Hi! What are you doing down here?