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Friday, August 08, 2003

Dammit Jim, I'm a curmudgeon, not a flying nun, but ...

It's hard for a brand-new blogger not to go all gushy, a lá Sally Fields at the Oscars, when given a favorable quotation and cross-link by James Taranto — the distinguished writer of Best of the Web Today, the every-weekday column in the Wall Street Journal's fine online opinion website. 

For at least the last year, Best of the Web Today has been the one online source of news and opinion that I've made a conscious effort never to miss, and there's no doubt that Mr. Taranto's among the most widely read and most influential conservative bloggers online today. 

His first posting in today's column — which describes the large, well-coordinated, and unconvincing reaction of the Angry Left folks at MoveOn.org to his description of them last Tuesday as being "pro-Saddam" and "far left" — is an excellent example of the fact that, of course, not everyone agrees with him.  But Mr. Taranto then proceeds — methodically, honestly, ethically, with cool argument and wit supported by hyperlinked cross-referenced sources! — to respond to the most cogent of their criticisms. 

That's how he has built and maintained his credibility.  It's the same thing all good political opinionbloggers do, wherever they reside within the political continuum of the blogosphere.

That's precisely why people bookmark his site, sign up for his email alerts, include his URL in their links lists, and — the essential culmination of all of the above — that's why people actually read what he writes! 

And I'm confident that must include a sizeable regular readership who seek out Mr. Taranto's columns precisely because they often tend to disagree with Mr. Taranto's opinions.  Those contrarian readers are intellectually curious enough, and openminded enough, and enjoy the debate enough when it's well-reasoned and well-supported, to invest that time — because even when they still disagree, they'll likely have been entertained and informed by the process. 

I also read Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish methodically and regularly, for example, for exactly this same reason — even though my own personal politics prompt me to disagree with probably sixty percent of Mr. Sullivan's positions.  If he hasn't always persuaded me, he's nevertheless sharpened my own thinking.  And yes, sometimes — to my surprise, but with my grateful appreciation — Mr. Sullivan has persuaded me to change an opinion.  Isn't that the "BINGO"-moment any opinionblogger craves?

I'm working on a piece about the similarities I see between good bloggers and good trial lawyers (note: the latter is a term that I define somewhat unconventionally).  My basic theme is that to be effective as either, you must be willing and able to withstand — and then to respond in kind to — a devastating barrage of conflicting facts and opinions, delivered dynamically in near-realtime, in front of an audience whose decision-making and opinion-forming both you and your opponents are attempting to influence. 

Mr. Taranto is indeed effective at doing just that, on a national stage, and consistently over an impressive period of time. 

That's why — even notwithstanding some fairly funny and ... umm, not entirely unpersuasive criticism that bloggers as a species tend towards being altogether too fond of getting high from sniffing each others' fumes — I consider it a genuine honor for James Taranto to have linked to my humble post from last night on Ahh-nuld.  Thank you, sir.  I shall continue to try to live up to your good example in what I publish on BeldarBlog.

Posted by Beldar at 07:47 PM in Weblogs | Permalink


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