Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Long Meandering Serious Meta-Post Whose Purpose is to Insult Arriana Huffington's New "Blog"

I haven't read enough political philosophy to know whether or not any legitimate political philosophers have already made these observations, so I'm just going to take credit for them, even if they're not all that profound.

Jedmunds First Law of Political Philosophy: All enduring power will eventually acquire legitimacy.

Jedmunds Second Law of Political Philosophy: Fleeting power, having acquired legitimacy, will remain powerful until another power subjugates it.

Jedmunds Third Law of Political Philosophy: Power seeks equilibrium, and the maintenance of a disequilibrium of power leads to social and political unrest and instability.

To illustrate these laws, we'll begin with man in the Hobbesian state of nature. But in our reality, in contrast to Hobbes' theoretical world, everyone is not basically equal. Power imbalances exist, and in this state of anarchy, the powerful subjugate the weak. Over time this subjugation achieves legitimacy as the leader of the marauding horde becomes the warlord becomes a monarch, and a form of feudalism develops.

The stability created by the emergence of this regime leads to the creation of markets, which leads to the emergence of the bourgeois class. The existence of the bourgeois, an enduring power, creates a situation where a disequilibrium of power exists, and in accordance with the first and second laws, over time the bourgeoisie acquires legitimacy by subjugating the monarch. This leads to the rise of the liberal democracy.

Subsequent industrialization brings the emergence of a labor class, and we'll give Marx some credit here for recognizing labor's potential for power in the form of collective action. However to the chagrin of those clinging to the notion of a Marxist utopia, the liberal democracy, while resilient at weathering the social unrest that results from this power disequilibrium, has proven remarkably flexible and adept at accommodating these new sources of power and reflecting new and changing equilibriums, or at the very least diffusing competing sources of power.

This is in contrast to the communist experiments history has seen. The fatal flaw of communism is that it demands that all of the power be put in the hands of labor and requires the maintenance of an inherent disequilibrium. This is why every Communist system has required a Stalin, a Mao, or a Castro. It is an inherently authoritarian form of government, demanding that labor subjugate all other forms of power. The maintenance of a political disequilibrium like the maintenance of disequilibrium in chemistry requires an enormous expenditure of energy, which over time proves impossible to maintain.

This brings us to the debate about blogs, their effect, and the mainstream media. I argue that most of the mainstream media's power exists almost exclusively due to Jedmunds Second Law of Political Philosophy. It has acquired legitimacy, and its continued influence derives almost solely from that legitimacy. David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, and other New York Times columnists are influential because they are New York Times columnists. They were chosen to be New York Times columnists for good reason, we can be sure, but the decision to make them New York Times columnists was not made by you or me. This is the way of the old media. Prior to blogs the "self-anointed elite" chose who we read and who influenced our opinions. But we no longer need the New York Times to tell us who to read. The printing press revolutionized literacy and education, and now blogs are revolutionizing the creative end, giving worldwide distribution to anybody. Like Louis XVI we no longer need to supplicate before "opinion leaders" whose influence is explained by a tautology.

But this is not to say that all of the mainstream media's influence is fleeting though much of it is. But the organs that survive will have their decision-making processes transformed. Opinions that will matter will come from those who have earned their place in the market, not appointed airheads like Cokie Roberts and Tim Russert who seem to have gotten their positions more by knowing the right people and less by the compellingness of their efforts. What this will ultimately look like is anybody’s guess, but perhaps we could take late 70's punk rock as a guide. This was an era that proved you didn't have to be Jimmy fucking Page or Mick Jagger to pick up a guitar and make compelling rock n' roll. Likewise you don't have to be Maureen Dowd to make snide remarks about politicians, or Larry King to make stupid observations, or Judith Miller to lie to people. But perhaps the story of punk rock gives us more despair than hope.

In that vein, if blogs are at all akin to punk rock, then the Huffington Report is our first glimpse at New Wave. I've spent some time there and it's remarkable by its complete absence of anything I like about blogs. More power to those people and their efforts, but I'm still somewhat hopeful that tomorrow's important voices will not be chosen by the rich and already powerful.


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