Is blogging, this despite the fact that he is a "print snob."
To my mind, getting published in print -- whether in a book or a magazine or a newspaper -- confers a certain status on the author -- a status that cannot be matched by a blog. The latter is self-produced, demonstrating nothing at all about the quality of my ideas, other than my own fondness for them. A book or a magazine/newspaper article is different. Its existence proves that some small community of editors and other literary judges stands behind the quality of the ideas. That may not be much -- I may have merely flattered their prejudices, I may have merely affirmed the conventional wisdom in the most obvious of ways, I may have merely attacked widely accepted beliefs in order to gain attention -- but it’s something. Certainly something more than the purely subjective self-certainty of blogging.
I’ve never been an editor, except of a book, and my other editorial experience is limited to refereeing articles for professional journals. I like (some) editors, though I won’t name names in order to avoid offending those I don’t name. But the blogosphere exercises its own kind of discipline, some of it civil and incisive even. It’s much mroe of a two-way street than much of the editing I’ve experienced.
And then there’s this:
I tend to believe that political and cultural commentary is best when the critic stands back from the fray to meditate and reflect, to allow his passions to cool, and to gain some perspective. Needless to say, the Internet -- with its rapid-fire pronouncements and reactions -- makes such detachment difficult.
I wish I could regard Damon’s book as having lived up to this standard, but I discern a good bit of passion there, to go along with the intelligence, and sometimes even (I fear) to mislead the intelligence. But I can’t render a full judgment until I’ve finished the book.
Update: Damon links (how many times will I use that expression?) to Adrian Wooldridge’s review of his book, which is generally laudatory, though it says that DL overestimates the importance of his subjects:
In the end, the theocons are just too eccentric to exercise the sort of influence on America that Linker ascribes to them. Again and again — in their deference to papal authority, in their belief that American ideals and institutions derive from Catholic principles, in their willingness to sanction civil disobedience — the theocons come across not as harbingers of a conservative revolution but as a rather eccentric intellectual clique. Secular America has more potent enemies to worry about than the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus and his colleagues.
As a criticism of the book, this has to warm the heart of anyone who actually worries about the designs of DL’s subjects. As I noted above, however, I’m not as convinced as Wooldridge of DL’s "dispassionate tone." Well, maybe the tone is dispassionate, but not the thinking it expresses. As I read along, I keep thinking that Damon should know better than the framework he implicitly poses as an alternative to Michael Novak’s syncretism (which I’ll concede is at least sometimes a stretch) and the concerns that many of his subjects express that America can’t retain its identity and aspiration without a religious soul. There’s a long argument here that I don’t have time to make (I’m in South Carolina visiting with my parents), but I find myself wishing as I read the book that DL had actually seriously engaged that argument in the course of the leisure purchased by his advance. Instead, he seems to fall back on a kind of oversimplified secularism, worthy perhaps of
Michelle Goldberg, but not of someone with his learning and experience.
Update #2: The more I think about it, the more ambiguous Wooldridge’s review seems. Does the threat to secular America come from Americans other than the folks at FT, or from genuine theocrats overseas? I vote for the second, but those who know Wooldridge’s work and perspective better than I do may have a different view.