Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Would Chesterton Like Blogs?

Our Sunday Visitor had a recent column titled, "Blah, blah, blog, blog" subtitled, "Is it a good thing that we have developed virtual and impersonal networks of contacts?"

His argument is something along the lines of that blogs are just another in a step to seperate us from our neighbors, friends and other real people contact.

I guess I have to wonder, how is a newspaper (the author, Greg Erlandson, is the publisher of the Our Sunday Visitor--OSV for short--newspaper) any more of a way to be in touch with real people? Is a newpaper "real" people-to-people contact in some way that a blog isn't I ask you?

One of the advantages of a blog is that it is very much like a newspaper, except you get the "letters to the editor" immediately, instead of two weeks later (as a weekly such as OSV must do, as it publishes in such a way that letters can't come in fast enough to get into the following week's "Letters" column). The conversation happens in a much more "real time" fashion on a blog, much more like real people having a conversation.

And who does Erlandson think is behind the blogs? Automatrons? Computer non-human geeks of some mechanical sort?

Erlandson turns the article into a mess about our parish churchs needing to do things so that people aren't anti-social. Ho-hum. Saying things like this reminds me of people who say "government should do this or that" as if people, as in US, aren't the issue, someone else must solve the problem.

So, I turn it on Erlandson. If your parish needs, help, volunteer. But don't use blogs as your excuse to say that that's what's wrong with churches today. That line of reasoning just won't fly with anybody who has a thinking brain.

And yes, I believe Chesterton would not only love blogs, but he'd have a blog, and it would be so popular he'd have to be on off-and-on all day putting out fires, stoking up conversations, and carrying on in a very, very lively way on-line. And in-between postings, he'd come down to the living room and see what Frances and the neices and nephews were doing, he'd play along for a while, throw a bun in the air and catch it in his mouth, and have ideas for more posts when he returned a few hours later.



  1. Of course we know that Chesterton had his own Blogg, whom he loved dearly. This is not a joke! GKC's wife's maiden name is Frances Blogg.

    And in his own newspaper he wrote how wonderful if each of us had something like it - "to splash around in" - after all, very few of us are going to have our own TV or radio stations or newspapers, and the typical newspaper or magazine is not very generous (nor timely) in permitting letters-to-the-editor, unlike in GKC's day. (Odd, the machinery wasn't electronic, and they still had daily papers!)

    But the shame is that OSV has missed a very important aspect of blogs - which is an aspect of the INTERNET itself. This amazing tool is available to the "Common Man" and gives EACH of us an opportunity for apostolic work... with just a click we can assist with the work of Peter and Paul, as we recall in the psalm: "Their message goes out to all the earth." (see Ps. 18(19), also see Acts 8:26-31)

  2. I think you're right on the money, Nancy (and you too, Dr. Thursday). OSV is exhibiting what I like to call Catholic Fundamentalism.

  3. I thought OSV was more liberal? Haven't read it for several years now. Anybody out there have an article or blog post about OSV to recommend?
    I recently subscribed to NCRegister. Like that so far.

  4. Well, I think if you had to compare, the liberal thing is the National Catholic Distor--ah--Reporter.

    I've had a few things published in OSV, and I subscribe. But that doesn't mean I like every single article or writer.

  5. There is no doubt in my mind that GKC would have loved the internet!

    His sharp wit and insights along with his uncanny way of finding the fundamental truths behind issues would have made any blog very entertaining and enlightening for the rest of us.

    Indeed, many blogs could use a healthy dose of GKC's civility in debate. One can only imagine what it would be like to have GKC and GB Shaw on the same blog!

  6. Considering GKC's love of localism, agrarianism, and small things, I think he would view the Internet as a flashier example of the internationalist industrialism he decried. Arguing with his next-door neighbor would be far more appealing to him than arguing with someone thousands of miles away. The one thing he would find appealing would be, as touched upon above, the creation of one-man printing presses which would break the plutocrats' hold on journalism.

  7. Kevin, your truest sentence is your last one, and for that alone Chesterton would have loved the Internet: its almost limitless Distributist possibilities.

    Plus, Chesterton did argue with people thousands of miles away: through his books and especially through his newspaper columns. The main difference presented by the Internet is the possibility for immediate feedback. :-)

  8. From What's Wrong with the World:

    "Those utilitarian miracles which science has made are anti-democratic, not so much in their perversion, or even in their practical result, as in their primary shape and purpose. The Frame-Breaking Rioters were right; not perhaps in thinking that machines would make fewer men workmen; but certainly in thinking that machines would make fewer men masters. More wheels do mean fewer handles; fewer handles do mean fewer hands. The machinery of science must be individualistic and isolated.
    A mob can shout round a palace; but a mob cannot shout down a telephone.
    The specialist appears and democracy is half spoiled at a stroke."

    From outline of sanity:
    "If the pleasure-seeker himself were really a pleasure-maker for himself,
    if he were forced to amuse himself instead of being amused, if he were, in short, obliged to sit down in an old tavern and talk--I am really very doubtful about whether he would confine his conversation entirely to the Crown Prince of Fontarabia, the shingling of hair, the greatness of certain rich Yankees, and so on; and then begin the same round of subjects all over again.
    His interests might be more local, but they would be more lively; his experience of men more personal but more mixed; his likes and dislikes more capricious but not quite so easily satisfied."

    Blogging, even when substantive is still generally dependent on the near-monopoly of the big media which bloggers make a show of deriding. Few major movements have been initiated in the blogosphere; they begin elsewhere, and find amplification on the internet. See Daniel Larison's post ""

  9. Cut off, let's see if this works:

  10. This quote from the Outline of Sanity is perhaps the best argument expressing how GKC would delight in and approve of blogs which I have yet seen. But it stopped too soon, which is all too easy to do when quoting GKC:

    To take a parallel, modern children are made to play public-school games, and will doubtless soon be made to listen to the praise of the millionaires on the wireless and in the newspaper. But children left to themselves almost invariably invent games of their own, dramas of their own, often whole imaginary kingdoms and commonwealths of their own. In other words, they produce; until the competition of monopoly kills their production. [GKC, The Outline of Sanity CW5:161, emphasis added.]

    But even if one is not being creative - or inventive(!), the mere act of having one's own blog asserts that GKC was right, for erecting a blog is a creative and inventive act.

    Oh, yes, there's more in the next paragraphs about the problems of "industry" and "invention" - but unlike most modern studies, GKC considers these issues only as relevant to the larger whole, though not THE whole, and neither question nor answer. He has a very different view of the right way of approaching technology:

    Suppose whenever [a man] went to the telephone (bowing three times as he approached the shrine of the disembodied oracle and murmuring some appropriate form of words such as vox et praeterea nihil), he were to act as if he really valued the significance of the instrument. ... He would be really and truly expressing the sentiment, "Wonderful thing, the telephone!"; and, unlike the thousands who say it, he would actually mean it. He would be really and truly justifying the great scientific discoveries and doing honour to the great scientific inventors. He would indeed be the worthy son of a scientific age. And yet I fear that in a scientific age he would possibly be misunderstood, and even suffer from lack of sympathy.
    [ibid 152]

    Do you bow in reverence to your computer before you double-click? Or to your car when you turn the ignition? Maybe you should. Maybe if we knew more... but who wants to learn about finite automata or internal combustion? Just what IS under the hood - of your car, or of your computer? "The wrong is not that engines are too much admired, but that they are not admired enough. The sin is not that engines are mechanical, but that men are mechanical." [GKC, Heretics CW1:113]

    Two final quotes, perhaps my favourites, on which I try to base my whole intellectual approach to GKC. (I distinguish from the spiritual approach, which I may explore in another place.) The first is quoted in Jaki's Chesterton a Seer of Science which is an essential reference for any who wish to know more about GKC and science:

    "The rebuilding of this bridge between science and human nature is one of the greatest needs of mankind." [The Defendent 75]

    You won't find this second quote in the following form, but this is what I hear every time I read it:

    "You don't expect me," he said, "to revolutionize society on this BLOG?"

    Syme looked straight into his eyes and smiled sweetly.

    "No, I don't," he said; "but I suppose that if you were serious about your CHESTERTON, that is exactly what you would do."

    [Cf. GKC, The Man Who Was Thursday CW6:481]

  11. Using blogs to criticise blogging? What a riot!

    Chesterton anticipated this:

    A cosmos one day being rebuked by a pessimist replied, "How can you who revile me consent to speak by my machinery? Permit me to reduce you to nothingness and then we will discuss the matter." Moral. You should not look a gift universe in the mouth.

  12. Using blogs to criticise blogging? What a riot!


  13. "Using blogs to criticise blogging? What a riot!"

    I just want to rain on the blog parade.

    I like the medium myself, I just don't think GKC would have. Considering how the internet has enabled depths of degeneracy, I suspect he'd be calling for an armed revolution against its more abusive denizens.

  14. Considering how the internet has enabled depths of degeneracy, I suspect he'd be calling for an armed revolution against its more abusive denizens.

    OK, how would he be calling? Why not with a blog?


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