If Anyone Can Be Sympathetic. . . .

Mike Golby eloquently undresses Dave Winer in a series of recent blogs, in connection with Dave’s slagging of Rebecca Blood’s books on blogging, and then Dave’s conceptually muddy remarks on journalism and blogging. Dave’s a Big Wig, very much more so than I or even Mike himself, but he really ought to attend to Mike’s critique.

Elaine observes, in Mike’s comments, that of course “if the blogger applies the standards and techniques of professional journalism to the researching and writing,” then the blog can be journalism — but that’s a far cry from what seems to be Dave’s claim that blogging simply is a form of journalism. “Can be,” certainly; “is,“ no. It certainly looks as though Dave has his argument all muddled. Dave’s confident tone and his success as a software entreprenuer sometimes enable him to pass off jumbled ideas as common sense; I recall a number of times Dave has delivered a lofty pronouncement, then needed to backtrack or clarify or (as the expression “do a Dave” memorializes) simply drop the problematic claim.

Of course, almost all of us write our blogs casually enough that we need to watch out about throwing stones. Perhaps Dave’s readers, if not Dave himself, may take this as an occasion to check ourselves and our pomposity quotient. Whoops! Mine just peaked out too high. . . .

Then look at this bit about quitting smoking. Three cheers to Dave for quitting—that’s something really tremendous, even if it did take heart surgery and a week in the hospital to usher him off the habit. But “If I can, anyone can”? How on earth can any sensible human being make that kind of claim? If we didn’t have reason to think otherwise, we’d have to conclude that Dave is heartlessly oblivious to the pain of others’ addiction. I’ll never be in a position to judge your (or her, or his) capacity to overcome an addiction or a mental illness or some other hitch. I never smoked a cigarette, but I dread to think what an addict I’d be if I had. I have shaken off some bad habits, but that’s no proof that someone else can (or that I’m a hero of self-discipline—just ask the editors who are waiting for my writing projects!).

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