DEMOCRATIC REALITIES: THE SILENCING OF BLOGS

Two points of view dominate the potential contributor to the open discourse of the blog.

Here is the first view:

Most of you can be described thusly: (tiny, frightened voice) “I don’t want to bore anyone…I have nothing to say…God forbid, I should write something from the heart and a stranger rebukes me…”

Or, from a completely different perspective, the second view:

(Loud, stern voice) “My thoughts are not cheap…I’m not just going to put my opinions on a blog for the rabble to peruse, or, worse, for someone to steal…My thoughts are worthy of being published, of selling; they are not for free!”

Both of these views conspire to stifle open dialogue…

A private club would unblock these inhibitions.

The public nature of a blog, ironically, quells public discourse.

This is the great paradox of cultural exchange.

Yet, as Silliman’s blog entry today demonstrates, poets give public readings all over the place.

What’s to prevent someone at a public reading from stealing a poet’s thought?   Nothing.  There’s danger here, too.

But here’s the attraction:  Poets, in this case, are reading from their published books, and the poet believes their ideas are safe in a published book.

Secondly, the poetry reading reflects a hierarchy flattering to the poet:

I, the poet, am reading my poems to listeners who have come to hear me, the poet.

The listeners worship in a proper position of respect which the democratic blog can never hope to replicate.

The published book is the nucleus of the atom and the electrons of public obeisance revolve around this nucleus, comprising an orderly structure of stability and peace.

The blog which admits comments, on the other hand, permits not only electrons to jump around, but the atoms themselves to be suddenly created, and reactions and fusions to take place with great velocity and force.

This is perhaps good news, for in the above scenario we see that the book is still vital to intellectual life.

However, if the exchange of views and ideas is suppressed and not stimulated by books—as the passive reading replaces the Socratic argument—and books, instead, become mere receptacles of vanity and received opinion in a conservative manner, the complaint we are so bold in making here is perhaps a just one.

Let us, by all means, have the respected author, basking in the respect due the published author, but we should also encourage questions and conversations in which that very same respect is put aside, in a public fashion, for the truth.

Does it matter, finally, where an idea resides?  Published in a book, or unpublished, in a brain?  The former is where we’d always prefer it to be, perhaps, but should we be anxious to have legitimate ideas only reside there, simply in order to preserve the existence of a publishing status quo?

Let the truth itself matter most, at last.

So, to our experts, fearing to give up trade secrets, we say: perhaps these secrets are not as important as you think they are, as secrets, and to our timid folk: perhaps your secrets are more important than you think.

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8 Comments

  1. November 8, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    The thing that I think is kind of funny about this is that the audience that most poets/critics get for their “officially published” work is usually quite a lot smaller than what they might get on a blog. My own blog doesn’t exactly light up the web, but over a year I do receive many times more views that I ever got for probably anything I ever “officially” published, aside from maybe small-town newspaper stuff. I used to find the same interesting phenomena when I used to do a lot of public access television–I have no idea how many viewers I ever had for any particular shows I was doing, but I know for sure that it was a lot more than I had as readers for any of the small literary journals I ever published in. And I would get stopped and engaged on the streets by people from literally every demographic, from junior high school aged skateboarders to old ladies at the supermarket. But that sort of work wasn’t considered “CV worthy”–because it didn’t have to pass any sort of official gatekeepers. I was simply making use of one of the most democratically available media.

    • thomasbrady said,

      November 8, 2010 at 10:55 pm

      Mindless, foaming, untrustworthy democracy on one hand,

      Sterile, pretentious, insular, gatekeeper mentality, on the other.

      The former lacks creds and critical validation, the latter, energy and sincerity.

      How long shall culture and poetry be divided thus?

      History has so many examples of invaluable works of art perishing for centuries and being re-discovered quite by accident, that no writer or artist should have any illusions about recognition or reputation—at any time, in any society, democracy, or no, gatekeepers, or no.

      That having been said, we speak here more strictly of an exchange of ideas, and this, not individual reputation, is the key issue.

      When two opposite spheres, as outlined above, exist, and no or little exchange occurs between them, we have a problem. It seems to me, that if one side needs to ‘give,’ it is the ‘gatekeeper’ side, for reasons that should be obvious to everyone. Once movement begins, the advantages will be immediately seen in many areas; but if neither side will acknowledge the other, the stagnation will, of course, continue.

  2. Marcus Bales said,

    November 9, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    You don’t go far enough in your democratic example: what about requiring anonymity, not merely allowing it, in the blog itself, and in the comments to the blog, so that the merits of the writing, if any, are all that any writer can hope will distinguish his or her thoughts from the rest? Perhaps even that is not far enough — perhaps what’s needed is a randomly-assigned and never-duplicated different name for each post, so that if there is going to be any ‘ownership’ in the thoughts expressed, it has to reside in the ‘voice’ in which those thoughts are expressed, and not in the name, irrespective of the ‘oochiness’ of that name, of the person writing.

  3. thomasbrady said,

    November 9, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Bales,

    Nice idea. Let the voice alone ID one.

    Reminds me a little of Plato’s suggestion that society raise children anonymously…

    Human nature being what it is, though…

    And what if errors were made, someone else’s rant attributed to you…

    Tom

  4. Solwing said,

    November 9, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    JRLowellFableForCriticsEmerson by PoemOfTheWeek

  5. Sandy Stone said,

    November 9, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Hi

  6. Sindy Stone said,

    November 9, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    JRLowellFableForCriticsEmerson by PoemOfTheWeek

  7. Sindy Stone said,

    November 10, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Sundy Stane

    Cheers Tom, this is the best bit of writing of yours I’ve read in a long time. You are back onto a target that the audience can see, and go along with you on the premise. The language is punchy, to the point and most importantly of all: Eloquent.

    Not piss-pantingly fabbo eloquent like you have in [name your painter], but of a rare and original enough combinational one-two one-two – to take me back to the days when you were the famous anonymous Tom, back in the day when we were the fab three kicking things up in what became, ampo: After DS, Trav, Ron, Chris, the American guy in Portugal whose name is on the tip of my tongue, who wrote that really powerful piece that taught me a lot, when he told us, the audience, about how all his New York Poet sensibility ‘collapsed’ when he exported it, as he came to understand that what he had, whilst ‘real’ enough poetry in America’s premier megatropolis; in Europe, it was a singularly useless failure and even fraudualent, in Paris.

    The good old days, before the Death of the Comment Stream. The day Ron turned it off, I remember it was a Wednesday; I’d just got back from dropping the kids of at college, Wendy Bannerman the Boston poet who won the First Collection For Doggerel award 2004, was in the recording studio working on her Toa Poetry Collection of bi-mantric utterance, and the tragic news, on-screen as I opened Rons page, read the Goodbye and, stunned into depression, considered committing suicide, until deciding Ron was probably right, who needs wierdos ranting onto our blog, the same few people rehearsing the same old routines. The Punch and Judy show of American Poetry, the disgraceful, loony blather of a few sad, middle-aged old avants, past it, the radical truth-seeker starting out at 15 commited to become a famous person in Letters, the purest ethical strategies, the hippie optimism: Gone, in the decision to go straight, stop pretending there’s a poetry war on, and embrace the MS we’ve always secretly been, but haven’t dared to admit to ourselves until we face the final stretch and all the cod revolutionary politics we lived to effect when student poets – exposed as the goombah it is, old pal, Brady.

    I love this sort of non-baseball, not stupid silly doggerel or attempts at that instant poetry you publish here straightfaced, alternating between trashing poets who write stuff of at least the same quality as your own masterpieces you put here for free, and often better – and bouts of unbalanced rant at Po-Biz.

    I think what it is, is that some of your colleagues here, the professional ‘friends’ (in the fb sense of yr ‘freinds’ really being professional ‘enemies’ posing as freinds) who have wound you up into splurging out the ‘real’ you, Brady baby.


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