Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Blog of War

Anne Applebaum looks at a potential, and scary, new trend: The Blog as history.
Until now, I had assumed, like everyone else, that the main victim of this new vogue for arrogant ignorance would ultimately be the "mainstream media" itself. Who needs The New York Times or The Washington Post if you can get your news from Google and your opinions from the latest, hottest, angriest blog? But Human Smoke might be a harbinger of what is to come in other spheres: Baker, after all, is the historians' equivalent of the smug bloggers who think that because the mainstream media is sometimes wrong, they are always right--and that if they can find a link to a "fact," that proves it is "true." If Baker can find a compelling anecdote, from Mein Kampf or The New York Times, that's good enough to make it a part of the historical record. Thus will "conventional" history eventually vanish.

Human Smoke, in other words, is not a conscientious pacifist tract. It is not a clever contribution to today's debate on warfare, and it does not add anything to what we know about World War II. It is a cheerful contribution to the movement against scholarship--a movement which has advanced so far, in fact, that I fully expect these observations, too, to be condemned as "elitism." As one who does contribute (it's pathetic, I know) to the mainstream media on a regular basis, I know that any author who expresses a sliver of doubt about the wisdom of amateurs risks bringing down a torrent of recrimination and insult upon his head. But if we have arrived at the point where a solemn and excited individual can cobble together anecdotes from old newspapers and Nazi diaries, and write them up in the completely contextless manner of blog posts, and suggest that he has composed a serious critique of America's decision to enter World War II, and then receive praise from respected reviewers in distinguished publications, then maybe it is time to say: Stop.
ht to Daimnation

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