The Blog as Modern Pamphlet

I’m re-reading for the first time in many years Bernard Bailyn’s classic Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, which deservedly won both the Bancroft and Pulitzer prizes.  An early footnote (yes, I always take in the footnotes) quotes George Orwell from 1948: “At any given moment there is a sort of all-prevailing orthodoxy, a general tacit agreement not to discuss some large and uncomfortable fact.”  Orwell thought the remedy to what might be called the monopoly of the media-academic-complex was the revival of the pamphlet.  May I suggest that the blog, like Power Line, is the modern day equivalent of the pamphlets of the revolutionary era?

Bailyn paraphrases Orwell’s description this way:

The pamphlet is a one-man show.  One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one chooses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive, and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious, and “highbrow” than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals.  At the same time, since the pamphlet is always short and unbound, it can be produced much more quickly than a book, and in principle at any rate, can reach a bigger public.  Above all, the pamphlet does not have to follow any prescribed pattern.  It can be in prose or in verse, it can consist largely of maps or statistics or quotations, it can take the form of a story, a fable, a letter, an essay, a dialogue, or a piece of “reportage.”  All that is required is that it shall be topical, polemical, and short.

Just so.  Bailyn went on to argue that pamphlets (like the most famous one, Tom Paine’s Common Sense) was where the ideas of the American Revolution were worked out in real time—and not so much the newspapers, of which there were many at the time.  Sounds a lot like today, with our somnambulant mainstream media.

According to our control panel dashboard, since its origin Power Line has published over 35,000 individual posts.  It makes rather difficult my idea of compiling an e-Book of “The Best of Power Line.”  But with enough advance orders at $1.99 we might just sit down and try it!  I think, however, I’ll give it a different title: The Ideological Origins of the Power Line Revolution.  I’ll see if we can get a dust jacket blurb from Dan Rather.

. . . And I blame Power Line!

JOHN adds: Professor Bailyn was one of the great historians of the 20th Century; he was also my younger brother’s PhD adviser.

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