Topical, polemical, and short

From a Pulitzer-prize winning historian:

“The weblog is a one-man show. One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one chooses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive, and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious and ‘high-brow’ than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals. At the same time, since the weblog is always short, it can be produced much more quickly than a book, and in principle, at any rate, can reach a bigger public. Above all, the weblog does not have to follow any prescribed pattern.& ;… All that is required of it is that it shall be topical, polemical, and short.”

Of course, this isn’t really about weblogs. Take the same quote – verbatim – and swap out “pamphlets” for “weblogs”. The author is Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn, writing about the “literature of revolution” in his Pulitzer prize winning book The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. It’s on page two.

Bailyn starts out his book focused on the role of pamphlets in the run-up to the Revolutionary War. Later in the chapter, he writes, “the primary goal of the American Revolution, which transformed American life and introduced a new era in human history, was not the overthrow or even the alteration of the existing social order but the preservation of political liberty threatened by the apparent corruption of the constitution, and the establishment in principle of the existing conditions of liberty.”

Weblogs, in a very real way, are simply a continuation of a tradition that began several hundred years ago. It becomes obvious that what we’re now calling warblogs (at least, those that are not just reporting the war but are advocating a particular point of view) are a continuation of a very American tradition from 250 years ago. Dave – you should look him up. I’m guessing there’s an interesting conversation or two to be had – and maybe you’ll get Prof. Bailyn to start blogging?

Update: Turns out Dan Bricklin made this same observation almost two years ago, talking about the same book…

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