Blogging Public Intellectuals
Matthew Yglesias argues that bloggers are the new media, but not quite like people think:
It’s not the case that weblogs let everyone be a journalist, but they do let everyone be a public intellectual — spouting off their ideas on whatever whether or not they have any particular expertise. The flipside, though, is that it lets all experts be popularizers of their own work, which is a very valuable thing for those people (like, say, me) who are paid more-or-less in order to be generalists.
Public intellectuals are a fascinating breed in that my training as a specialist leads me to be skeptical of people presenting non-expert views while under the cloak of intellectual qualifications (e.g., the brilliant but often wrong Paul Krugman) but yet I’m strangely drawn to them. Indeed, when pressed for time on various talking heads shows, I invariably skip past the interviews with policy wonks and go right for the roundtable discussions with the bright, amiable non-experts.
A quick perusal of my blogroll will reveal a bias toward intellectuals — certainly a much higher concentration of PhDs, JDs, professors, Ivy Leaguers, and other big brain types than a random selection of the blogosphere would produce — and yet there are almost no specialty blogs on the list. My own blogging is much the same. Certainly, I concentrate on national security affairs, where I have some modicum of geniune expertise, more than the average blog. But I also feel free to spout off on other things that interest me, whether or not I’ve done a lot of research on the topic. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much what all the public intellectuals on television do as well.