Andrew Sullivan Calling it Quits

Andrew Sullivan has "decided to stop blogging in the near future."

andrew-sullivan-black-white

Andrew Sullivan has “decided to stop blogging in the near future.”

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years. They’re not HIV-related; my doctor tells me they’re simply a result of fifteen years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress. These past few weeks were particularly rough – and finally forced me to get real.

Having started a couple years after Andrew and petered out before him—while never reaching anything like his pace,  consequence, or reach—I can certainly understand. The daily grind is exhausting and one that fundamentally alters one’s intellectual life. Before blogging, I read for its own sake; after blogging, I read for the sake of generating content. And, for years, there was certainly the pressure of feeding the beast.

I’ve been fortunate healthwise but have had other life challenges complicate my ability to write. Being a single father to two little girls takes time and energy that I once spent doing this. Ironically, so has going back into teaching. Beyond that, the longstanding stalemate in our nation’s political system has sapped some of my will to engage in the day-to-day fray; it ultimately seems so pointless.

One suspects Andrew will be back at some point, if he ever truly leaves. As exhausting as daily blogging can be, there’s also something intoxicating about the instant feedback that only this medium can provide.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Sad…Sully is an important voice.
    A Conservative with the spine to realize and acknowledge that Republicans aren’t.
    You and Doug could learn from him.
    But now it may be too late.

  2. Modulo Myself says:

    As Dorothy Parker said of Katherine Hepburn, his writing ran the gamut of emotion all the way from A to B. I honestly thought Andrew was a Turing machine designed to emulate human vanity and equipped with a helpful British accent and a useful cover story (gay, Catholic, anguished). A lot of people were fooled, apparently, but not me.

  3. Scott says:

    Personally, I’m going to miss reading his blog. I’ve been reading it for many years evening paying for access. There was far more than just politics which is refreshing.

    I agree with James that he will be back in some other form. His mistake, it seems, was to fail to diversify his stable of writers. He had staff but they, for whatever reason, were never able (or allowed) to develop their own voice.

  4. John Peabody says:

    Never read it. Hey, don’t shoot me!

  5. Guarneri says:

    Ok. So far, 3 to 1 “pro.”

    Wait, maybe that’s why he’s retiring.

  6. Poster says:

    This has been a “tree falls in the forest’ moment for me. I am happy that he’s resigned from the Left’s army of useful idiots and fake conservatives, but really, he’s so irrelevant that had I not read it here, I wouldn’t have known.

  7. jewelbomb says:

    It seems as though he’s been on autopilot for a while now, and his blog has consisted primarily of posts from various interns.

    I don’t know. The guy had his moments, but I have a hard time forgiving him for calling opponents of the Iraq was “fifth columnists’ (although I guess he deserves some credit for apologizing well after it became clear that it had been the disaster that many of us always knew it would be).

  8. @C. Clavin:

    I disagree with James and Doug on a lot but to suggest that they should be more like Andrew Sullivan, a guy who still supports the scientific racism of The Bell Curve and is a Matthew Shepard Truther, is absurd.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    @Poster:

    the Left’s army of useful idiots and fake conservatives

    Must. Not. Feed. The. Trolls.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    Hmm — he’s retiring just when the Right is turning on Sarah Palin. Can this be a coincidence?

    More seriously, I am where jewelbomb is, in that I refused to read him for years after the “fifth columnists” post after 9/11, and while I appreciated his recantation, I never warmed up to him enough to make him a daily read again.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    One of Andrew Sullivan’s great strengths was that when he erred he publicly beat himself up over it and invited others to join in. He is a passionate and intellectually honest guy. I’ve been a subscriber since he first started charging and I’ll miss him.

  12. CB says:

    It’s hard to find a more detached pundit than Sullivan. He had talent as an aggregator and editor, but his preening got to be too much for me, much less the Bell Curve nonsense. And then there was the Thatcherism…

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @Timothy B. Watson:
    No ones perfect…but these guys carry an awful lot of water.

  14. Dave Schuler says:

    I think this decision is probably related to his previous decision to go subscription mode. I’m not sure whether he’s quitting because it was unsuccessful or because it was extremely successful.

  15. I was a big reader of Sullivan at one time (and still read the occasional bit when linked to somewhere else), but I’m kind of disturbed at the degree of whitewashing the less savory parts of his career (like his shilling for the Bush administration during the war on terror or his insane obsession with Trig Palin’s birth) are getting.

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @Scott:

    He had staff but they, for whatever reason, were never able (or allowed) to develop their own voice.

    For whatever reason? For the reason of Sullivan’s ego.

    Sullivan’s great fault is that for him, everything is about him. He’s EXTREMELY self-involved, and thus could never stand real competition, including on his own blog.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: I’m still considering the possibility that Poster is Reynold’s conservative sock puppet. IIRC he talked about doing that.

  18. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds: “One of Andrew Sullivan’s great strengths was that when he erred he publicly beat himself up over it and invited others to join in.”

    The Bell Curve?

    Betsy McCaughey?

    Mike

  19. Facebones says:

    @MBunge: Hey, he didn’t really believe that blacks were inferior! He was just fostering debate! And trying to save the most awesome health care system in the world from government intervention!

  20. C. Clavin says:

    @gVOR08:
    I always default to Jenos when I suspect sock-puppetry.

  21. wr says:

    @gVOR08: ” I’m still considering the possibility that Poster is Reynold’s conservative sock puppet. IIRC he talked about doing that.”

    I like to think that if MR were to create a conservative sock puppet, the character would be a lot more entertaining than “Poster,” who is a whine-by-numbers rightie.

    Now if we were to discover that Tyrell was MR’s puppet, that would indeed be a spectacular piece of trolling, and well worthy of his talents.

  22. CrustyDem says:

    I view Sullivan as quite similar to Hitchens – both come from the British tradition of debate, both are/were excellent writers, but both have incredibly strong biases and limited core values. Basically, while writing and arguing were their strength, they lacked the intellectual acumen to analyze whether their incredibly strong, neigh infallible, impression in any way resembled the world around them. Great writers. Poor thinkers.

  23. Rafer Janders says:

    @CrustyDem:

    Great writers. Poor thinkers

    Well put. Sullivan was never quite as smart as he imagined himself to be.

    Which for me was exemplified by his ability to make the same mistake AGAIN AND AGAIN, without ever quite learning from it. Or rather he’d make a mistake, dig in, have it be pointed out he was wrong, then go through an extremely public self-flagellation the whole point of which was to show how reasonable he was….and then, six months later, he’d make the exact same mistake and repeat the process.

    After a while one gets tired of the same old show.

  24. Andre Kenji says:

    I don´t care if Sullivans quit blogging. If I manage to keep OTB and it´s wonderful team of commentators everything is fine to me.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @wr:

    Thank you.

    I mean, seriously people, you think that’s the best I could do as a conservative sock puppet? Do you understand that of the 150 books I’ve written, more than half I wrote as a woman? And at one point I was writing as a woman who was a Christian, writing on Christian themes? See this? That’s me writing as my wife, if she were a Christian, adapting a TV series that was itself adapted from a book. I wrote effing Bible lessons as a woman, and they bought it.

    Trust me, if I wanted to do a conservative sock puppet I’d be the best conservative commenter here. (A low bar, I admit.)

  26. @michael reynolds:

    Do you understand that of the 150 books I’ve written, more than half I wrote as a woman?

    *pictures MR in a cocktail dress and a really obvious blond wig*

  27. Tillman says:

    I think reynolds just copped to being KansasMom, you guys. 🙂

    I’ll miss him. We often disagreed, but at least he was sane about it. I always thought his Bell Curve stuff gave too much importance to IQ, one of many intelligence tests and one with a compromised and, in my mind, disqualifying history. But the zanier crap like that was never posted very often. What was left was intelligent, sensible criticism of a Democratic administration that in a perfect world would have been the official Republican response.

    As a moderate liberal, that’s what I look for in conservative commentators. Hell, I found OTB by looking through Sullivan’s blog roll, so he’s the reason I’m even here.

  28. gVOR08 says:

    @Tillman: This showed up in Booman Trib a couple days ago. Couldn’t help but be reminded of it. Linked only for the picture.

  29. Modulo Myself says:

    @michael reynolds:

    So you’re Jan.

    We’re through the looking glass here…

  30. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    As a moderate liberal, that’s what I look for in conservative commentators. Hell, I found OTB by looking through Sullivan’s blog roll, so he’s the reason I’m even here.

    So much this. I’ll really miss the passion and the honest effort he put in everything. He might have been wrong often but at least he was honestly trying.

    In a discussion world that consists mainly of either partisans trying to sell their pre-packaged solution du jour on the one hand and specialists blogging semi-safely on things they are experts on anyway on the other, his voyages of discovery in good faith were always a breath of fresh air. I wouldn’t have stumbled on a lot of interesting thinks without him and I have honestly no idea what could possibly replace him as an aggregator in my dailies list.

    Sad tidings. I’ll miss his input on my mental landscape.

    On the other hand he will never manage to be quit for long so there’s hope still :D.

  31. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m reminded of Sam Clemens’s wisecrack: it’s easy to give up smoking; I’ve done it hundreds of times. We’ll see if Andrew stays quit.

  32. Tillman says:

    Another thing Sullivan did that isn’t really done elsewhere is “curate a reader discussion” instead of using comment threads. As Conor Friedersdorf puts it:

    The community of Dish readers is another feature of the site that is worth conserving. They are a delightfully diverse group, possessed of a public-spirited willingness to share, via email, impressively informed, thoughtful perspectives on most any subject. Marijuana use as a successful adult, whether to spank children, the experience of having a late-term abortion–on those subjects and so many others, the Dish community has produced engaging collections of insight, debate, and personal narratives unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere. In attracting these correspondents and inspiring them to share their ideas across ideologies and identities, Sullivan mediated something that may well be impossible to recreate if it disappears.

    I recall several of these posts. The one that still burns in my mind was when a woman wrote in to describe her rape in college — and did so evocatively.

  33. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: I always default to Jenos when I suspect sock-puppetry.

    And, typically, you’re always wrong. Why do you keep failing like this, Cliffy? Do you gain comfort from the familiar?

    I like Pejman Yousefzadeh’s tribute to Mr. “power glutes,” myself…