For a variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking about the use of language in print. The ongoing debate about whether blogging will change journalism or if it even can be journalism; the questions about whether a blog posting should be edited or restructured to resemble a news story if it appears in a “publication”; the whole issue of whether the lack of linguistic precision that does characterize blog postings is bad for the language.
Then, it occurred to me as I was walking around a trade show yesterday listening to the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK on my iPod that Mick Jagger has been knighted by the Queen of England. The condemnation of bloggers’ writing style by “professional journalists,” amongst whom I am numbered, sounds suspiciously like the conceit of the English aristocracy at the mongrelization of its language by the masses, by people represented by folks like Sir Mick, who had sympathy for the devil, danced with Mr. D. and made some great songs out of the phrase “Doo doo doo doo doo.”
We—that is, the people—should thumb our nose at anyone who claims to be entitled by training to set the public debate about the the value of culture, the value of issues to be debated, or the right to participate in that debate. It’s our world, all of us, not just the people holding certain titles. If blogging breaks down the barriers to contribution to the public discourse, more power will flow to the network’s edge and to the many edges of society shut out of public debates today.
Blogging may introduce more informality into debate, but that also sweeps more people into the debate. If bloggers pursue the same low-minded discourse as, say, Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity, then it will be for nought. However, if they add to the reasoned discourse in coarse language, more power to them.