I'm No Superman
I figured out why people blog even though it takes time and effort while providing no monetary reward. It’s because when you do it, you feel like a superhero. Seriously.
Obviously, guys want to be superheroes. Jerry Seinfeld famously observed this when commenting on the act of transporting a mattress from one house to another by means of securing it to the roof of a car. Invariably the driver of the car will reach out the window and hold the mattress down, just in case the rope breaks. This obviously does no good, but we like to think that it would. We all want to be Superman.
I actually think that most guys want to be Batman. Moreover, this desire can be tied to the fact that guys are messy, disorganized, and also tend to procrastinate. I call it, "Batman Theory."
Batman Theory posits that if you are a typical male and you want to be just like Batman, that you should be able to jump off of the top of a 60 story building without considering the consequences, and manage to find a way to survive before you hit the ground. Batman does this all the time. Granted, he carries around Bat-arang grappling hooks and you don’t, but that’s not the point. The point is that even if faced with an immovable deadline and having done no work, your average guy will still feel as though he has a reasonable chance to pull it off. He sets up his own dire situation in the hopes that he can resolve the situation in grand fashion.
Sometimes this results in truly heroic feats. Most of said feats involve driving, and comments like "I was running really late, but I made it from Chicago to Madison in under two hours." Often it leads to embarrassing things like a date having to sit on the empty bag of Fritos you left on the couch while you take the time to properly muss up your hair, because it is preferable to sitting on the actual couch which seems to be covered in a fine film of bacon grease and dog fur, and there are no dogs around. Moreover, the guy will actually be offended in this instance, because he would have had time to clean if she hadn’t arrived 45 seconds early. What could make someone think such an insane thing? Simple, he’s Batman. No task is too large for Batman.
So how does this relate to blogging? Most of your heroic Batman tasks are pretty unfulfilling. Using a steam-cleaner on the couch may be useful and smart, but it is not exactly heroic. And your enemies? Dust, hair, promptness, anti-perspirant, laundry. None truly inspire fear, (well, except maybe hair) they are just annoying.
But on the Internet you have all sorts of powerful enemies to thwart. Big Media, Bush, Kerry, heartless corporations, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, those who refuse to cover Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, religious nuts, environmental nuts, Paul Krugman, and a litany of others. It’s fun to go up against these guys, and extremely fulfilling. It might only matter to you, but toppling Paul Krugman will always beat scooping out the cat box in my book. One of the reasons elections and conventions are so much fun for me is because they bring out the best villains. At what other time does Alan Keyes get national press? Or Zell Miller? Or several thousand insane protesters complaining about a lack of jobs when they clearly don’t want to actually have jobs. It’s as if every four years the Hall of Doom appears out of nowhere.
And I’m sure you have noticed that almost all bloggers have some sort of way-cool alter ego. Instapundit! Dynamist! Powerline! Vodkapundit! The Volokh Conspiracy! Sure a few go by their given names, but most choose something that’s catchy and lends credibility. Talking Points Memo especially reflects this last concern. We here at the Electric Commentary are no different. After all, "Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Clark Kent" (or Kal-el, if you prefer) doesn’t quite have the same ring as Superman.
In the blogosphere anyone can be a hero. The power is granted free of charge and all that you have to do is wield it properly. You get links and build your power. If you get big enough, you can make a real dent. Even if you’re small you can sometimes make a local dent (See the South Dakota Senate race). Would the Cambodia story have been covered as much as it (eventually) was without Instapundit? Maybe, but probably not.
And speaking of Instapundit, he’s clearly the Superman of the bunch. Glenn is certainly one of the most powerful and influential people in the blogosphere. Heck, he’s even getting press releases from Time!
Josh Marshall? He’s Spiderman. Just look at the pictures. He’s a dead ringer for Peter Parker, especially with those specs. Spiderman is always a bit down on life, struggling to balance web slinging and his personal interests. Spidey has always seemed a bit whiney to me, and so does Josh (and that picture isn’t helping). He is a victim of his own power, and sometimes sounds helpless (or defeatist) in the face of Republican assaults. But make no mistake about the fact that Josh has some serious power, and he knows how to wield it when he wants to. Your friendly neighborhood liberal pundit.
Stephen Green is obviously Batman (although he can probably pull off Gambit's hair, no small feat to be sure). Does any other blogger exude "millionaire playboy" as much as Stephen?
Unfortunately, this leaves Will Collier as Robin, except that Will wears pants (I assume).
The Volokh Conspiracy members must be the X-Men. Each has an area of expertise. When they combine their talents the conspirators are truly a force to be reckoned with. Moreover, the leader of the X-Men, Charles Xavier, has initials (C.X.) that are 3 letters removed from the beginning and the end of the alphabet, respectively. The leader of the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh, has initials (E.V.) that are 5 letters removed from the beginning and the end of the alphabet, respectively. Coincidence?
Virginia Postrel is the Wonder Woman of the blogosphere, but I think Dazzler is more appropriate. She converts sound (typically music) into an energy weapon (intensified light), hence creating substance directly from style (although this would not apply to her seventies incarnation who made extensive use of disco, which, as we all know, is bereft of style).
As for the EC contributors, we are a small group with limited power and big ideas. I think the "Civic Minded Five" (of The Tick, and yes, there are only four of us) is a good fit for us. (Plus they feature the Carpeted Man, who is, as you may have guessed, a man covered in carpet. He rubs his feet on the ground to build up static electricity, and then shocks super-villains.)
Every blogger in their heart of hearts sincerely believes that he can correct some injustice that has been perpetrated on the world. The best part about blogging is that every so often someone will pick up on your post, people will read it, and some injustice will actually be corrected. In other words, you will actually get to be Batman, if just for a little while. As an added bonus, those heroic urges that sometimes result in sloppiness are given a truly constructive outlet.
In the words (indeed, the battle cry) of the "Civic-Minded Five:"
We can make a difference!