Friday, September 30, 2005

Attention seeking

So here's an Atrios post where he chimes in on a dustup between blogger Richard Cranium (who was instrumental in drawing media attention to a missing non-white woman) and columnist Noel Weyrich (who thinks bloggers are callow attention-seekers).

He hits on Weyrich's version of the Prime Pundit Fallacy- since he's in it for the attention and media adulation everybody who ever puts themself out there is in it for the same reason. ... what should be obvious is that people who blog behind pseudonyms aren't, in fact, doing it for fame and fortune (why anyone thinks one who desires fame generally would turn to blogging I do not know). The main reason people start blogging is that they want to, in some small way, occasionally have an impact on the public discourse.

So here's the dilemma, for an obscure blogger like myself -- to have an impact on discourse or anything else, you have to get some attention. Not necessarily from the MSM, but at least from people on the nets. So blogging becomes a mix of high and low motives, or idealistic and cynical -- there's the social goal, and then there's the selfish goal.

I am not naturally an attention-seeker, in fact I seem to have a talent for not getting attention and credit for things I do, but every so often I find myself forced into scrabbling for it. In the blog world, that means shameless linkwhoring and generally advertising yourself. Definitely goes against my nature, but sometimes it's good to go against your nature.

Just about any action is going to have this mix of motives, and navigating the mix is one of the jobs of moral philosophy and political philosophy. Some people who can't handle complexity become Randroids and loudly proclaim their devotion to selfishness exclusively. Most of us muddle through, using our embeddedness in real-world social networks to guide our actions so they aren't exclusively self-seeking.

I am suspect of my own motives in writing this blog. Am I trying to change the world, or just barking at it? I don't have a social agenda, although I'm as much in favor of truth, justice, and the real American Way as anybody, not to mention turning the Republicans out of power as soon as possible. Mostly what I'm trying to do is unclog my brain, by forcing me to organize and externalize the clound of random ideas that flit through it. Whether this does me or anybody else any good remains to be seen.

BTW Atrios and Cranium are clearly right in this particular case -- a blogger had a clear social goal, went ahead and did something about it, achieved some success (and attention), absolutely nothing wrong with that, Weyrich is indeed a wanker.

1 comment:

goatchowder said...

For me it is a combination of conversation, a chance to exchange ideas, "confessional debugging" (or thinking-out-loud), and of course just barking/venting.

Also, I happen to enjoy putting words together. It's fun. Some people like puzzles; I've never understood that. But I love any kind of creative endeavor: writing music, words, or software.

I guess I'm not at all alone in this.