Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Who's the Godfather of Blogging?

The death of Hunter S. Thompson has kicked off a discussion over the suggestion that the father of "gonzo journalism" was really the godfather of the blog. Ambivablog talks about it. In the comments section, I gave my own candidates for the honor. Here's what I wrote:

Who is the godfather of blogging?

One could easily make an argument for Saint Paul. His letters, many of which appear in the New Testament portion of the Bible, were occasioned by
specific situations, engaged conflicting opinions, and were relatively short in
length, characteristics shared by the very best blog posts today. His letters
weren't meant to be treatises like those appearing in scholarly volumes, but
down-to-earth communication, the application of Christian faith to pressing
questions surfaced by everyday living.

One could argue that Martin Luther is the godfather of blogging. Luther was, by common consenus, the first media superstar, his work, long and short,
scholarly and popular, cranked out with prolific ferocity, and mediated by the
blog of its day, the printing press. Mr. Gutenberg's machine was relatively new
and just gaining currency in Europe, representing a happy confluence of
technology with Luther's reforming message, each feeding off of each other,
bringing greater success to each.

An argument could be made also for Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin as the godfathers of blogging. Paine's Common Sense, that classic pamphlet advocating American revolution, was hugely important. To inspire and to underscore the reason they were at war, Washington had Common Sense read to his army in its entirety. It's estimated that 2-million people lived in the thirteen original states when Common Sense was published. Something like 500,000 copies were sold!

Franklin, of course, like the best bloggers of today, had a knack for phrasing that people enjoyed and that wormed its way into people's consciousness.

Every accomplished essayist since Montaigne is in the blogging world's family tree, as are newspaper columnists and radio and TV commentators.

Historically though, the group of people who most remind me of the vast
throng of us engaged in blogging today, is the loosely-federated group called
the Committees of Correspondence. They operated mostly under the radar of accepted popular culture, growing in stature and importance as they
surreptitiously passed along the virus of freedom to all the thirteen colonies
that became the United States.

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