Wednesday, December 22, 2004

New-School Bests Old-School

What a fun day in the blogosphere. Like many of you I’m sure, my day began by reading James Lileks out-mock the actually quite witty (if rather insular and lefty) James Wolcott. I found the exchange an excellent illustration of an interesting new phenomenon.

Wolcott is a known wit, as well as an insider among the circles of people who “matter” in New Yaaawk City. Back in the day, these people got to decide what was important to a staggering degree among America’s educated class. Back then, a mere columnist for a Midwestern newspaper being mocked by a wit like Wolcott would have been devastating.

Today, Lileks reads it, and responds the very next day, undoubtedly reaching an audience that dwarfs Wolcott’s in size – and perhaps more importantly in influence as well. It doesn’t matter whom you think had the better of the exchange (though if you don’t realize it was Lileks, you’re delusional). The interesting point is how easily a jest from a circle that used to be so important is swatted aside by an “unconnected” columnist from an insignificant paper in the middle of a land New Yaaawkers can’t find (or at least wouldn’t care to find) on a map.

In its own small way, this illustrates the utter bewilderment of the left after the last election. This was a crowd convinced they had everyone who mattered united against Bush. Therefore, Bush’s win represented more than political failure. It represented that their own intellectual sovereignty is fading in ways they simply cannot comprehend. Their overwrought reactions about the death of civilization itself in the wake of the election are understandable when you realize they cannot comprehend the nation’s intellectual life in any sense which does not place people like themselves at the pinnacle.

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