Apparently the blogosphere has gotten the better of Michael Kinsley, in this round anyway. He plans a more detailed response for next week’s WaPo, but this week is simply a concession that some bloggers got the better of him, i.e. made him think twice about dissing Social Security privatization. Here’s a quote:
That conference was the last straw. Last week, to vent my frustration, I sent an e-mail to some economists and privatizing buffs saying, look, either show me my mistake or drop this issue. Refute me or salute me. Disprove it or move it. Or words to that effect.I always thought Kinsley was fundamentally decent, and regardless of what he has to say about SS privatization, I’ll probably continue to think so. Welcome to instant fact checking, Mr. Kinsley.
As an afterthought, I sent copies to a couple of blogs (kausfiles.com and andrewsulllivan.com). What happened next was unnerving.
A few days later, most of the big shots hadn’t replied. But overnight I had dozens of responses from the blogosphere. They’re still pouring in. And that’s just direct e-mail to me. Within hours, there were discussions going on in a dozen blogs, all hyperlinking to one another like rabbits.
Just so I don’t sound too naive: I am familiar with the blog phenomenon, and I worked at a Web site for eight years. Some of my best friends are bloggers. Still, it’s different when you purposely drop an idea into this bubbling cauldron and watch the reaction. What floored me was not just the volume and speed of the feedback but its seriousness and sophistication. Sure, there were some simpletons and some name-calling nasties echoing rote-learned propaganda. But we get those in letters to the editor. What we don’t get, nearly as much, is smart and sincere intellectual engagement—mostly from people who are not intellectuals by profession—with obscure and tedious, but important, issues.
On a somewhat related note, I thought I remembered a quote by JFK, about the WaPo no less, regarding getting in a fight with people that buy ink by the barrel. Turns out it was Clinton:
Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.Kinsley has a similar statement in his column:
You can send your views electronically to a blog in less time than it takes to find a stamp, let alone type a letter.It’s a good column. RTWT, and I’ll be looking forward to next week’s installment.