Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Gummed to Death by Gabby Hayes

One of the most persistent and mysterious myths about political blogging is the notion that the average blogger is young, poor, and badly educated. In fact, to judge by recent surveys, most bloggers and most readers of blogs are down-right long in the tooth—in a study of those whippersnapper Kos people, the most overrepresented age bracket was the over 65 set. Bloggers also tend to be both better educated than the average American, which is hardly surprising since people who are comfortable with writing are likely to more highly literate than the norm. They are also relatively well-off.

I’m skeptical of the political potential of the Blogosphere, at least as a medium for mass mobilization. Communicating in whole sentences is just too demanding for most people, especially since even people with the requisite English skills are often too busy or too distracted to relish an activity as high-energy as writing or even reading blog posts. For the common reader, the seriousness, novelty, and complexity of the arguments one finds on many sites are far more apotropaic than the often bewailed tendency of some bloggers to operate at a level of obscenity reminiscent of Deadwood. Because they are highly articulate, however, the bloggers may exert an indirect effect on future politics by working on the minds of members of political elites. And because they and their readers have considerable disposable income, they do have the wherewithal to get politicians to listen to them.

A character in one of my old science fiction stories notices that the headline on Time magazine cover reads “The Baby Boomers Turn 80 This Year!” Well, we aren’t 80 yet, but maybe the true secret meaning of the Blogging vogue is the advent of a generational geezer attack, something rather like what takes place in a zombie movie except that the web’s shambling monsters make a lot more editorial comments than the traditional brain-eaters.

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