Sometimes I worry that people may read this blog. Whenever I wander through other parts of the Catholic blogosphere, I become even more anxious. What happens, I wonder, when an average, decent, God-loving person stumbles into the Catholic blogosphere? What happens when a typical Catholic, who believes and serves in the fields of everyday life, gets a whiff of the rancor in the comment blocks of a typical Catholic blog? In a way, I hope they never find us blogging away in the dark forests of cyberland busy about our bloodsport.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing David Brooks speak at Boston College. Brooks, as you may know, writes a bi-weekly column for the New York Times. And he may be, as one person in the audience called him, every liberal’s favorite conservative. For what it’s worth, I want to be just like Brooks when I grow up. I really appreciate Brook’s ability to hold contrasting ideas alongside on another while still making sense. For example, he told us that most politicians are reasonable and concerned people, in private. In public, however, we only see them ridiculously cling to the party talking points. Brooks was trying to keep in check our cynical attitudes towards Washington. However, a few moments later he suggested that no one in Washington, not even Obama, can rescue us from an impending economic crisis that could reduce our GDP by 25 percent. He blames a drastic change in American culture over the past quarter century.
During the time for questions, Brooks was asked about the effects of the 24-hour news cycle upon Washington. He suggested that this phenomenon makes more of an impact during campaigns when each side must monitor dozens of media outlets, listening for potential points of attack against the opponent’s campaign. Moreover, he said that market for the cable news programs is mercifully small and, therefore, has little impact on the voting population. For evidence he reminded the audience of Rush Limbaugh’s all-out assault against John McCain in the 2000 primaries in the days leading up to the election in South Carolina. McCain, in spite of Limbaugh, won the South Carolina primary. Brooks concluded that if Limbaugh could not sway voters in very conservative South Carolina, then he cannot sway voters anywhere. Most people do not attend to the constant drone of Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and MSNBC.
When we started this blog we knew the blogosphere, in particular the Catholic blogosphere, was a polarized world. We wanted to be different, and, perhaps a little naively on our part, we thought we might set the cyberworld on fire with the love of Christ. We chose as a guiding principle Ignatius’s admonition to “spin” the other’s words in the most charitable way. We write on a range of topics. We’ve struck a tone that, I hope, is more “for your consideration” than “the sky is falling.” Nonetheless, the blog has mirrored, at times, the polarization that has nearly crippled public discourse in America. At times the comments, my own included, have sunk to the level of the chatterers on the TV. However, on the whole I think we have managed mostly to remain civil. Nonetheless, I fear that some nice person might see Catholic bloggers and commenters at each other’s throats and wonder what’s up with those crazy people.
Brooks made me rest a little easier. I imagine that the audience who follows the Catholic blogs is even smaller than that of Rush Limbaugh. In other words, we cannot do too much damage. Nonetheless, that does not liberate us to whack away at one another with anger, venom, and curses. Indeed, the Catholic blogosphere is a very small world but still a world in need of grace.