The openness and honesty of blogging

Long time US based British blogger Andrew Sullivan has hung up his keyboard after leading the way in political blogging for most of this century.

He looks back at the strength of honesty.

In his last post The Years Of Writing Dangerously at The Dish he looks back to his first post:

[T]he speed with which an idea in your head reaches thousands of other people’s eyes has another deflating effect, this time in reverse: It ensures that you will occasionally blurt out things that are offensive, dumb, brilliant, or in tune with the way people actually think and speak in private. That means bloggers put themselves out there in far more ballsy fashion than many officially sanctioned pundits do, and they make fools of themselves more often, too.

The only way to correct your mistakes or foolishness is in public, on the blog, in front of your readers. You are far more naked than when clothed in the protective garments of a media entity.

But, somehow, you’re liberated as well as nude: blogging as a media form of streaking. I notice this when I write my blog, as opposed to when I write for the old media. I take less time, worry less about polish, and care less about the consequences on my blog.

That makes for more honest writing. It may not be “serious” in the way, say, a 12-page review of 14th-century Bulgarian poetry in the New Republic is serious. But it’s serious inasmuch as it conveys real ideas and feelings in as unvarnished and honest a form as possible. I think journalism could do with more of that kind of seriousness.

It’s democratic in the best sense of the word. It helps expose the wizard behind the media curtain.

Some political blogging is more spontaneous, raw and honest, but wariness is essential, some of it is deliberately and blatantly dishonest, party of a dirty game.

He now says:

I stand by all those words. There are times when people take this or that post or sentence out of a blog and make it seem as if it is the definitive, fully considered position of the blogger. Or they take two sentences from different moments in time and insist that they are a contradiction.

That, it seems to me, misses the essential part of blogging as a genuinely new mode of writing: its provisionality, its conversational essence, its essential errors, its ephemeral core, its nature as the mode in which writing comes as close as it can to speaking extemporaneously.

Everything is true, so long as it is not taken to be anything more than it is. And I just want to ask that future readers understand this – so they do not mistake one form of writing for another, so they do not engage in an ignoratio elenchi. 

What I have written here should not be regarded as interchangeable with more considered columns or essays or reviews.

Blogging is a different animal. It requires letting go; it demands writing something that you may soon revise or regret or be proud of. It’s more like a performance in a broadcast than a writer in a book or newspaper or magazine (which is why, of course, it can also be so exhausting).

I tried, above all, to be honest. And you helped me. Being honest means writing things that will make you look foolish tomorrow; it means revealing yourself in ways that are not always flattering; it means occasionally saying things that prompt mass acclamation but in retrospect look like grandstanding.

I try to be honest and open too. It’s easier, and I think better. But it does expose me to a lot of personal attacks, taking what I say out of context, and highlighting of mistakes (blogging inevitably leads to mistakes).

But for me it’s worth it. You have to be open and honest if you want to demand more opennes and honesty from other bloggers and from politicians.

But it was effort nonetheless, as the exhaustion in our minds and bodies now proves. And it was the effort to keep honest that matters to me now.

Being open about who I am and what I am trying to do enforces honesty, because if I’m not honest I will justifiably be blasted.

In the main it’s the dishonest hiding behind anonymity who attack because they don’t know how to deal with openness and honesty. And they hate their dishonesty being exposed.

The dishonest inevitably turn to personal attack because that’s all they can do when they can’t defend their dishonesty.

Blogging can be a dirty weapon.

But it can also be a weapon against the dirt.

The best way to fight is by being open and honest.