Andrew Sullivan & Co.

Alarming tendencies.

I am feeling increasingly impatient and exasperated with the Blog phenomenon that has been so exalted by Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus and their friends — and so effectively, indeed, that I am a participant in the circus myself. Yes, it’s definitely cool to have your own soapbox with a limitless audience, on “a level playing field” where anyone has the opportunity, theoretically, to be a star. But Sullivan and his crew have spawned a whole community of chatterboxes that, for whatever reason, all appear to have the exact same agenda — to deify our dim-witted president, mock the New York Times endlessly, and write glowingly of one another’s blogs. It has become a rather embarrassing “I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you’ll-scratch-mine” game, with Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit), Kaus and a handful of others leading the chorus. They constantly push the readers to one another’s blogs, and they’ll occasionally be mildly critical of one another (“what was Glenn Reynolds thinking when he said blah blah blah,” followed by a link to the “blah blah blah”), but they’re all quite sportsmanlike with one another. One needn’t be razor-sharp to see the incestuousness of it all.

Sullivan is a fine columnist and a man of keen insights. He is also openly gay and HIV-positive. I find it incredible, therefore, that praise for George W. gushes from his blog like a geyser, with nary a word about the darker implications of our president’s reign, namely the revitalisation of the religious right, an eerie contempt for individual rights, a new persona of America as a savagely bellicose and selfish nation. No, I am no bleeding heart, and I felt Christopher Hitchens was absolutely right when he quit The Nation for its “Ashcroft is a greater threat than Bin Laden” world view. But what exactly is Sullivan thinking? Doesn’t he recognize that a hefty chunk of the Bush contingent would like to see him stripped of his rights, criminalized, and maybe even dead? Can he really be pleased with, for one thing, the newly energized drive to end legal abortions? Does he not see the ominous clouds gathering? Something doesn’t make sense….

Everyday I scan these blogs. They all list each other’s links, they all quote each other and they all share a single songbook. The targets are the same each day: Bill Clinton, Tom Daschle, Maureen Dowd, Howell Raines, Paul Krugman. There is a rather creepy gleefulness to their lynchings, a schoolboy’s “see, I told you so!” jubilation as they show us how Clinton and Carter “appeased” North Korea in 1994 (they are all delirious with this one at the moment; so delirious, in fact, that they find little time to ask where their conservative demigods were back then, when only a handful objected to the negotiations). Yes, it makes for some smashing reading. These men — and for some reason they are nearly all men — are damned good writers. The draw to their websites is huge (Sullivan recently boasted his site hit a record weekly high of 250,000 hits), and will certainly grow huger, at least for a while. But my New Year’s prediction is that this trend will reverse, if not backfire altogether. Why? Because it is becoming so predictable, so…boring. The titillation has simply got to diminish as readers come to know exactly what to expect. And then there is the supreme object of their mutual admiration, George W. himself. He is floating too high on this sea of praise, and he simply has to strike an iceberg sooner or later (sorry for the lame metaphor; I just got back from work). He cannot keep consolidating his power, pounding the war drums and catering to the right without some repercussions. And again I stress that I am no McGovernite. No one wants to see Saddam vanquished as much as I do. But there’s simply no way George W. can cater to the Andrew Sullivans and the Jerry Falwells of this world and continue to delight them both. Somewhere sometime there is going to be a nasty split. That’s another of my New Year’s predictions.

Speaking of boring, I realize that I am constantly complaining of how cold it is in Beijing. But if you could see me now in my small apartment wearing five layers of clothing, typing quickly to keep my fingers from getting frostbitten, you’d understand, maybe even empathize. (As I put the period on that last sentence, a light bulb in my overhead went out, plunging my apartment into semi-darkness, making the scene just a bit more tragi-comic. China. I’ve replaced the same lightbulb three times in my four months here! I’m at the point that if I turn on a light and a bulb doesn’t pop I feel startled.) Okay, off to dinner and bed. I have a lot more to say on this subject of cloying, nauseating Bush worship, so please stay tuned.

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