Would George Orwell have made a good blogger? That teasing question in the Arts and Letters Daily led me to a Financial Times article, Time for the Last Post, about the "dismal fate of blogging". Sure, some blogs have been making waves, but by and large blogs are a bore, "a medium of internet medium" which took off in America only because some talented writers got into the act, there was an election in 2004 and the traditional media started fretting about this new kid on the block. That, I think, was the gist of the article, except that the writer used much longer words.
The writer, Trevor Butterworth, did raise one interesting question. Would Orwell and Marx have blogged, he asked some noted bloggers like Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds and Ana Marie Cox of Wonkette. Both seemed to think Orwell would have blogged — and produced a lot of bumf, said the writer. Instead of "bumf", he used the word "dross" — he was writing for the Financial Times. Any writer needs time and peace to write memorably, said the writer. Journalism is ephemeral, only of passing interest, and blogging even more so — "blogging is the closest literary culture has come to instant
obsolescence,” said the writer. Blogs are not likely to be compiled into classic anthologies, he said, there will be "nothing but a virtual tomb for a
billion posts – a choric song of the word-weary bloggers, forlorn
mariners forever posting on the slumberless seas of news". A nice line lifted from Tennyson. And he was complaining about blogs feeding off newspapers and other media!
In fact, the only thing original about his own article was his question about Marx and Orwell. All the other points he made, from boring blogs to most blogs getting little traffic, had been made before.
But I still found the article useful — and not just for the Orwell angle. It’s also an example of how not to blog. It is fine as a newspaper article, however.
The Financial Times set up a blog based just on that one article, reported Bloggers Blog. But the blog, FTmagblog, has been closed now though it’s still on the Net. It attracted 89 comments and only four links. One would have expected FT to do much better.