January 25, 2008

Anniversary reflections on this blog

Today's post will mark the completing of three years since this blog began. Although I tend to ignore anniversaries of any kind, they do provide convenient points at which to step back and look at the big picture, to reflect on what was achieved, what was not, and where one should be going.

I have been on a regimen of writing five op-ed type essays a week, resulting over the last three years in over 700 essays and close to 900,000 words. The blog has registered about three million hits.

While it is not easy to produce this level of output, it is not that hard either, provided one is interested in what one is writing about. One of the consequences of producing this output is that I now have extreme contempt for most of the well-known columnists (david Brooks, Maureen Dowd, Charles Krauthammer, David Broder, Richard Cohen, etc.) that occupy the pages of newspapers and magazines. Many of the better known ones are employed full time and have paid researchers to help them gather material for their columns. Given all those resources, it is remarkable how vapid and lacking in content their columns are.

Let me make clear that I am not saying that I am better than them. But given that I have a full-time job and have to do all my own research and edit my own work on my own time, I feel that these columnists should be producing far better output, instead of the superficial dreck they currently do that wastes so much newsprint. In fact, there are very many writers on the web (Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Matthew Yglesias, Steve Benen, Juan Cole, Stephen Zunes, Robert Jensen, the pseudonymous Digby, Justin Raimondo, Jim Lobe, Ray McGovern, Greg Sargent, Paul Craig Roberts, Alexander Cockburn, to name just a few off the top of my head) who produce far, far better political analyses than the so-called elite columnists, and many of them are also writing on their own and on their own time. These good web writers not only have sharper intellects and biting prose styles, they provide links to the sources so one can see if the facts on which they base their analyses warrant their conclusions. In contrast, the well-known op-ed writers tend to rely on Villager cocktail party chatter and unnamed sources, making their output more like political gossip columns

On the basis of the quality of the content, the traditional columnist should have long ago become extinct. But we must remember that these columnists serve a much more important purpose than informing readers and it is this that keeps them around. These columnists are like the goal posts on a football field, they define the boundaries within which the political game must be played, with the so-called liberals at one end and the so-called conservatives at the other end. To be considered 'respectable' and be invited to play, one must tacitly agree to stay within these defined boundaries. Step outside those boundaries, or even question the rules of the game, and you are out of the game and summarily excluded. You are no longer 'serious', just some kind of wild-eyed, irrational ideologue.

Furthermore, the so-called liberals and so-called conservatives are both part of the one pro-business/pro-war party that rules this country. They are all Villagers.

Writing this blog has been of benefit to me personally. The sheer discipline that it forces on me to write daily has resulted in greater productivity. Last year I had five articles accepted for publication, three of which started out as extensive blog entries, which meant that I had done much of the research and writing and editing long before I considered submitting it to a journal. The other two articles were also to easy to write because of the discipline that has been imposed on me by trying to meet the demands of the blog. The blog has made me a far more efficient writer, if not necessarily a better one.

There is one thing about the blog that I have still not quite come to terms with, and that is the personal exposure. I am by nature a private person and initially saw myself only writing about abstract ideas in a coolly analytical way, without revealing much about myself. But it is hard to maintain that level of detachment when one is passionate about something. Although I do not dwell on the details of my personal life (which is very boring anyway), I have discovered what writers know, that you cannot help but reveal things about yourself whenever you write about anything you care about. You inevitably reveal your attitudes and values.

I have tried to come to terms with the fact that regular readers of this blog must have a pretty good idea about what drives me as a person. I still find it disconcerting, however, when I meet someone for the first time and that person says "Oh, I read your blog", because I realize that that person knows quite a bit about me while I know nothing about that person.

But that is a minor discomfort. The blog has been a source of intellectual stimulus for me. It has not yet reached a stage where I have run out of new ideas to write about and start repeating myself, although reading some of the old entries I find myself surprised at some of the things I had forgotten I said. But so far, I have not regretted anything that I have posted or found anything completely wrong, except for predictions for the winners of political contests where I am almost always wrong.

The blog is still fun for me, which I why I keep writing. Thanks for reading.


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You're welcome, Mano. And thank YOU so much for your excellent work!

Posted by Norm Nason on January 25, 2008 08:21 AM

Happy Anniversary Mano.

It would not be much work to move your blog and/or add some sort of advertising.

It is advertising that allows those who you mentioned above to do what they do full-time.

If you are against the idea of selling ad space on your blog - you could always donate the profits to charity.

Posted by bob on January 25, 2008 08:49 AM

Happy Anniversary Mano and thanks for all the effort. Your blog goes great with a cup of coffee!

Posted by Faith Healer on January 25, 2008 08:51 AM

The blog is still fun for us, which I why we keep reading. Thanks for writing!

How long does it take you to write a typical day's entry?

Posted by Jeff on January 25, 2008 09:22 AM

Your blog remains informative and thought-provoking, which is why we keep reading. Thanks for writing!

How long does it take you to write a typical day's entry?

Posted by on January 25, 2008 09:23 AM


It is hard to put an exact time since each entry grows over time. What happens is that I keep a whole series of files under different headings where I put down topics and links and ideas as they strike me, and as I read things, along with notes on these things. All the pre-writing helps me write the actual post quickly, in less than an hour. I usually prepare a post a few days early so that I can correct and polish.

Posted by Mano on January 25, 2008 11:04 AM


If I took this blog "private", i.e. to a commercial site like blogspot, I could do advertising but the Case blog site is very convenient. It is reliable and the people who service it are very prompt and helpful so since I don't do it for the money, I see no advantage to moving.

But I am really glad that some of the other writers are able to support themselves by advertising. Media analysts have long pointed out that one way to censor views is to make the cost of entry into the marketplace of ideas high. That is what happened with newspapers and radio and TV. The internet has lowered it again which is why it is really important to keep the internet free and neutral.

Posted by Mano on January 25, 2008 11:10 AM

The blog has been a source of intellectual stimulus for me. And for others. Many thanks from another Ohioan.

Posted by RBH on January 25, 2008 06:49 PM

Congratulations on completing 3 years!
As you very well know I am a regular reader here. I find it very impressive that you are able to stick to your self-imposed deadline. When I started my blog, I was writing a quite a bit, but then these days I find it easier to just post a sketch or photograph with minimal writing accompanying the picture.

Posted by Arvindh on January 26, 2008 10:36 AM

Congrats on the anniversary! I too took up blogging (far more recently) primarily to force myself to write and think daily, though I haven't been able to be quite as disciplined about it as I hoped (it takes so so long to pump out even short entries!).

I've actually meant to write at some point and ask you, Mano, what sorts of resources and groups are on the Case campus as far as freethought and whether you participate in them. Perhaps you've talked about that here before, but I missed it. If so, does any of that interface with your blogging?

Posted by Bad on January 26, 2008 03:03 PM


A student group called the Campus Freethought Alliance started this academic year and I am their academic advisor. The group is affiliated with the Center for Inquiry, a national group. My work with the group does not directly relate to my blogging but of course, the interests are similar.

Posted by Mano on January 26, 2008 05:49 PM

Mano - I've just started my own blog. Partly this was due to a few humanist societies that I joined, but partly this was also due to your own blog. So thank you for your insightful posts and the inspiration! Jon

Posted by Jon Mountjoy on January 27, 2008 09:03 AM

I now have extreme contempt for most of the well-known columnists Only now? I am surprised it took you so many years.

Great work Mano. I am going to ask our own PD to invite you to write a weekly column. Keep the sixers coming!

Posted by shiva on January 29, 2008 11:52 AM

Hi - Socks - Pants - Trousers - Boots - Shoes


Posted by Greardged on February 1, 2008 01:41 PM

Now it's time to monetize your blog!
Perhaps with NetAudioAds?


Posted by Rob on March 22, 2008 01:00 PM

Congrats on blogging for 3 years. Thats quite some commitment not to mention all your other life demands.Again good job.

Posted by IceBreaker on April 10, 2008 12:41 AM

I think your commitment is great, I really hope you continue the blog as you have certainly made me think about a lot of key issues and in some cases question my existing ideas - which is fantastic!

Here is to many more years!

Posted by Karlsson on May 26, 2010 08:01 PM