The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Sunday, July 18, 2004  

“Miss Manners” (Politely) Dismisses Blogging

Judith Martin, the author and syndicated columnist also known as “Miss Manners,” doesn’t take kindly to blogs.

Martin, who is at home today in the Washington Post (“The Key to Discreet Gossiping”), begins her essay, condescendingly, with this presumably worldly-wise observation: “Yes, children, we did used to have blogs. We called them diaries, and they got us into almost as much trouble as yours will get you.”

Her exposure to blogs obviously confined to the salacious, with-whom-I’m-sleeping type for which Rittenhouse readers have no use, Martin, she of the blue-black ink, then chides bloggers with a misplaced nostalgia for the personal significance and literary value of the traditional, handwritten diary (Anaïs Nin, anyone?):

[The diary] had an insatiable appetite for grudges, gossip, love affairs, cultural pronouncements, social criticism and whatever else one chose to put into it. It was the ideal companion, an eager and sympathetic listener who would never betray you in the present but hinted at helping you to fame in the future.

Web logs have a similar lure for those who keep them, with what seem like additional advantages. It is not only that they work faster technologically. They are supposed to supply fame and hordes of eager and sympathetic listeners in the present.

With a diary, the danger was that someone might sneak a peek at it or even steal it and expose one’s secrets. With a blog, the fear is that nobody might do so.

(Okay, I’ll admit that last sentence applies to every blogger.)

In the end, and appropriately, Martin’s primary concern is with bloggers blogging about people they know. She concludes:

The polite person at least gossips discreetly and without malice. Blogs do not qualify as being discreet. For those who must write down their critical observations about people they know, Miss Manners recommends a small blank book that comes with a lock and key and can be hidden in the sock drawer.

Good advice, particularly since by my interpretation of these words, Martin would allow bloggers to continue to post critical observations about people they don’t know.

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