Robert Appelbaum

A Blog Against Blogs

Actually this isn’t really a blog, partly because up until now I haven’t figured out how to
set up a proper blog.   A blog implies a certain form of technology.  Just as there is no
film without film, there is no blogging without the apparatus of blogging.  The blog is
technological through and through – and this blog doesn’t avail itself of the whole
technology.  It only imitates it: the way someone who sews home-made garments by
hand for a hobby tries to imitate the finish and feel of store-bought garments made by

But also, it isn’t a blog because it is written in a spirit of permanence.  There may come
a day when this blog is ‘archived’, as it is put, put aside like a memory one wishes one
could forget but can’t: it’s always stored in the brain somewhere.  There may come a day
when I delete this entry altogether, if I can figure out how to do so.  And certainly I am
not worried about posterity; there doesn’t seem to a future for posterity anymore.  But
there is a difference between writing for the instant, which is what most blogging tries
to do, and writing with a view toward an idea of duration, an idea of the past and the
future.  In the eternal present of most blogging, what matters is that now, right now, I
the blogger have an opinion.  I have to tell the world what it is.  I have to tell the world
now. But when one writes with a view toward duration, the ‘I’ becomes a ‘scripter’
(Barthes and Derrida both used this term) and what matters is that, though the agency of
this scripter, something can be written and eventually experienced as written.  What
can be written may contain opinion – it almost certainly contains opinion – but it is the
writing itself, the writing as a durable inscription (durable at least until it is lost, or
erased, or merely forgotten) that can be endurably experienced by readers.

An illusion of duration seems to be necessary for all serious writing.  Absent that
illusion, all that is left is an opinion forced into the ether, an opinion that matters now,
and usually too an opinion that is entirely innocent of a sense of the past or the future.

Many newspaper columnists were doing this long before the Internet and blogging; and
continue to operate this way both in their columns and their now de rigeur blogs.   They
always seem to be talking about the future, but what they are really talking about is
their opinion in the now.

There is a difference between a Big Blogger and a little blogger.  Big Bloggers have their
own website, or a dedicated section of a corporate site.  Little bloggers add their
opinions to the ‘comments’ section of the Big Bloggers blogs, or to the ‘reviews’ section
of consumer services blogs, like Travel Adviser.  They are unavoidable today, both the
Big and the little.  One has to stay current with them today, even if only in one’s
capacity as a consumer trying to make informed choices.  But they seldom rise above
the narcissism of the moment.  I have an opinion!  Now!  It matters because it is mine!  
(And maybe too I can make some money out of it.)  To read them as if they had any
claim on objective truth, or as if they should be experienced as something written, is to
make a categorical error.  It is to be absorbed in the illusion that there is no time like
the present, and even no time but the present.