Friday, November 12, 2004

Bloggers inherit the Paine legacy

Times Online compares the blogging revolution with the rise of the pamphleteers in the early 18th century.
Like their paper predecessors, blogs are also often catastrophically wrong, a magnet for cranks, conspiracists, partisans and propagandists. Many, if not most bloggers, churn out pure pap; for every latter-day Jonathan Swift writing in cyberspace, there are thousands of teenage girls mewling inconsequentially about their boyfriends, acne and pop music. Ordinary people writing unpaid about things that matter to them may mark a crucial change in the information landscape; it can also be skull-crushingly dull.

But the best blogs are also the most widely read, precisely because other bloggers spot them and link to them; by a process of natural selection, the fittest blogs survive. The same was true of pamphlets in their heyday: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was the most widely-distributed pamphlet of the American War of Independence, a truly revolutionary tract not only for its content, but also because it was copied and pirated on a massive scale. Within weeks of publication in 1776, seven editions of Common Sense appeared in Philadelphia alone, while other cities produced their own rival editions and imitators; this was the 18th-century version of the ├╝ber-blog with countless hyperlinks.

Worth a read.

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