They say that blogging is over—in fact one of our own writers recently made the argument. That it was just a fleeting moment in the history of opinion journalism, ultimately doomed by far more efficient modes of expression. More specifically, the theory goes, the blog post was killed by the tweet, which has allowed for further compression of thoughts and the expression of so many more of them.
At the New Republic, we reenacted our own version of this small saga. When we remade our website in January, we shelved our old group blog, The Plank. Between our essays and Twitter feeds, it was hard to imagine much intellectual space (or writerly time) for short commentary. We theorized that a blog post could either be reduced to 140 characters or expanded to a full-fledged piece.
Then something strange happened. A few months later, we found ourselves unexpectedly nostalgic for The Plank. The blog had been a common room for the staff, where we could argue with each other. What’s more, The Plank had served as one of our most important vehicles for engaging the world—to quickly comment on events and to comment on the commentary about those events. It turns out that we misjudged the lasting value of the blog: we had grown accustomed to the form, to its casual tone and polemical potential; there was an essayistic style that we belatedly discovered was indigenous to the genre.
Fortunately, the beauty of the Internet is that it has the power to resurrect. So, today, we present the new, old Plank. It will be in some ways different from its last incarnation. In addition to The Plank's venerable obsessions with politics and policy, it will feature more writing on science, society, technology, high culture, and the popular stuff. But it's still the kind of place you can have a robust, many-sided debate about a topic like, say, the end of the end of blogs.
Hillary Clinton joined Twitter on Monday. The political press and the feminist Twittersphere (many of whom moonlight as semiprofessional Hillary groupies) all but had to sit on their hands to contain their excitement. Her bio: “Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD … .” Was that TBD a signal that she might run for president, wondered the Christian Science Monitor breathlessly? Her first tweet, “Thanks for the inspiration @ASmith83 & @Sllambe – I’ll take it from here ... #tweetsfromhillary,” was a reference to the popular blog Texts from Hillary (as is her Twitter icon).
His administration isn't done meddling in emergency contraception
Edward Snowden is a symbol of our growing distrust of government
What the Pew/Post poll does and does not reveal
The National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs have proven extremely controversial, but the jury is out on whether they're popular. A Pew Research/Washington Post survey released yesterday found that 56 percent of Americans supported one aspect of the NSA’s efforts: getting court orders to track telephone calls.
It's not as crazy as you think
Mike Tannenbaum, as general manager of the New York Jets, once consulted Wall Street management specialists to solve the dilemma every National Football League franchise faces: How do you consistently excel when you're not allowed to outspend other teams? The finance guys’ advice for Tannenbaum was to sign players with what are known as “character issues”: good athletes who are also bad apples.
Washington is full of high-earning contractors just like him
Edward Snowden is ready for his Rorschach test. Is he Benedict Arnold or Tom Paine, Daniel Ellsberg or Bradley Manning (or Aaron Swartz)? For the moment, I’ll leave that to others to debate, and instead consider Snowden through another lens: as an exemplar of the conspicuous, decade-long economic boom of Washington, D.C.
I've seen this all before—and have an FBI file to show for it
I've seen this all before—and have an FBI file to show for it.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler embarrassingly confessed recently that while he had alleged last year that upwards of 11,000 noncitizens were registered to vote in the state, an investigation by his office had turned up only 35 instances of a noncitizen casting a ballot. Like many conservatives who inveigh against the phantom menace of voter fraud, Gessler defended his zeal to patrol the voter rolls by invoking a zero tolerance policy.
Editor’s Note: We’ll be running the article recommendations of our friends at TNR Reader each afternoon on The Plank, just in time to print out or save for your commute home. Enjoy!
Thomas Friedman’s columns are not just self-indulgent. They are an assault on humanity.
Jacobin Magazine | 7 min (1,717 words)