As some of you may recall, the central premise of JFK, Jr.’s magazine George, that great curiosity of 1990s political journalism, was that cool young people could only become interested in the uncool topic of politics if the subject was addressed through the eyes and voices of popular culture celebrities. And there was, to be fair, a genuine earnestness to Kennedy’s endeavor which tempered the horror people like me experienced during every exposure to George‘s Let’s-Learn-Civics-From-Supermodels modus operandi.Mixing celebrities with political journalism is one thing. But now, the same idea has invaded the quintessentially uncool arena of the blogosphere, and I must ask: Is nothing sacred?I am speaking of Arianna Huffington’s mammoth new group blog posted on her new Drudge o’ the Left site, the Huffington Post.There’s no question at all that Arianna is the perfectly appropriate impresario for the advent of Celebrity Blogging, since she has never shown any notable comprehension that political opinion is about anything other than self-promotional shouting gussied up with generic Mediterranean glamor. And indeed, it’s not clear from what’s she said about the new blog that she realizes her responsibility for ushering in a rough and unnatural beast that may signal the Last Days. According to Howard Kurtz’s column in the WaPo today, it sounds like La Huffington thinks she’s performing a sort of public service for Famous People:
“The great thing about blogging is that your thoughts don’t have to have a beginning, middle and end,” says Huffington, arguing that famous people are usually too busy to craft an op-ed piece. “You can just put a thought out there in the cultural bloodstream.”
Gee, what a great compliment to all us bloggers: our medium fosters the kind of incoherent rambling that Hollywood types can toss off between drinks, between photo shoots, or between divorces. The New York Times Op-Ed page’s loss is our gain.
I couldn’t bear to stay on her site long enough to discover the full range of celebrity bloggers she’s enlisted. Kurtz mentions Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Geffen, Rob Reiner, Albert Brooks, Bill Maher, Larry David, David Mamet, Normal Lear, Mike Nichols and Aaron Sorkin. They are, at least by reputation, a fairly cerebral bunch when it comes to their own craft. But anyone who’s familiar with the long, sad history of artists and intellectuals who embrace stupid and sometimes evil political causes of both the Right and the Left knows that the ability to write, direct or perform a witty screenplay is often associated with the most tedious and tendentious political views.
Huffington’s initial posts show she is not limiting her blog to Hollywood celebrities; non-Hollywood celebrities (e.g., Walter Cronkite, Arthur Schlesinger) have been invited to the dinner party as well. Moreover, she’s coralled a few legitimate political journalists like David Corn of The Nation, and Byron York of National Review, who’s presumably an acquaintance from the days before Arianna effortlessly shifted her allegiance from the orthodoxy of the Far Right to that of the Far Left.
But this diversity worries me even more. Will non-celebrities in the midst of all this glitter be seduced and drawn into the preening world of their new blogging friends? Can we expect David Sirota to do an ironic turn on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm?
On behalf of all us unglamorous bloggers toiling away in our basements each night, I think it’s time to draw a line in the sand, and embrace our non-celebrity as a Basic Value. We are not cool. Our idea of a chic cocktail party is a vicious argument about the bankruptcy bill at a cash bar in some shabby hotel conference room. We jet-set in the center seats of AirTran, and do not often fly over flyover country. We are the Punks of Punditry.
Yes, the blogosphere is open to all, even to celebrities, but I hope Arrianna’s venture is not as popular as I fear it will be. The pretty people of Hollywood already dominate so much of our culture; they should generally limit their political involvement to writing checks and waving from the wings at candidate rallies. If they are interested in blogging, let them create a Blogger’s Relief Fund or at least hire some ghost-bloggers to post for them.
Now that would be cool.