Bissinger contrite, but still bashing blogs

The world's foremost defender of quality writing makes a fool of himself again.

Published June 20, 2008 10:00AM (EDT)

Buzz Bissinger, Pulitzer Prize-winning old media defender who got 40 lashes in this space last month, is sounding contrite now about the asinine anti-blogger rant on the Bob Costas HBO show that got him in trouble.

He admits in a good Boston Phoenix piece on the whole old-new media feud in sports journalism that he "was just way over the top" in his profane attack on Deadspin editor Will Leitch, and he says Leitch "was treated with disrespect," though he doesn't apologize or identify himself as the one who treated Leitch that way.

He also admits that he didn't know enough about blogs before he went on the show -- which is pretty rich given his attack on bloggers as unprofessional.

But, as Phoenix writer Adam Reilly notes, "This contrition has its limits." That is, Bissinger repeats many of the same ill-informed criticisms once he establishes that there are a few good blogs, such as

Bissinger really needs to shut up, or at least change the subject. Every time he opens his mouth, he sounds more idiotic.

A note: Reilly, whom I don't know, interviewed me for the story, which isn't so much about Bissinger as about the conflict between bloggers and old-media writers that continues in sports even as those two groups are mending fences in their coverage of other subjects. I'm briefly quoted. I mention this only so you won't read the piece and think it's weird that I didn't mention it.

"The younger generation likes the snarky tone," Reilly quotes Bissinger saying. "They like the gossip, they like the juice. I don't think they really appreciate good writing and reporting, and those, to me, are precious arts."

Right, Buzz. Young people, they don't appreciate nothing. Five thousand years of Western civilization, people revering good writing and not caring about gossip, and it all suddenly stops with the generation right after yours. What a tough break, you still needing to make a living and all, with your good writing and stuff.

Then Bissinger goes from get-off-my-lawn crotchetiness to dangerous whack-jobbery. "They cover themselves under the mantle of the First Amendment," he says about bloggers who supposedly "proudly parade around saying, 'We don't need no stinking credibility or stinking information.'" Then: "But if John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had any idea what the First Amendment would have wrought, they would have canceled it."

If that isn't dumber than anything any blogger's ever written, I'll eat Buzz's reading glasses. The ones he used when he read "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," the best-selling book of 1972 and 1973, back when people cared about writing.

First, no they wouldn't have. Fortunately for us, Jefferson and that crowd had a little more sand than Bissinger. The pamphleteers of Jefferson's day would have burned the ears off of the unfailingly polite Will Leitch, never mind the easily offended Bissinger. And yet still the First Amendment seemed like a good idea at the time.

Second, Bissinger is clearly saying Jefferson and Adams would have been right to cancel the First Amendment if they'd known about bloggers, which is an amazing thing for someone to say in defense of great writing.

The First Amendment is the greatest piece of writing we have, and who knows how much great American writing wouldn't have happened without it. For a writer to even hint at the idea that bloggers are somehow wrong, or not entitled, to "cover themselves under the mantle" of it brings shame on the profession. Way more shame than the snarkiest blogger ever brought on it in his worst moment. I haven't heard too many sports bloggers knocking our basic freedoms.

"The good blogs, Bissinger maintains, are the exception," Reilly writes. "The bad blogs -- the ones that privilege glib snideness over reporting and analysis -- are the rule. They're also the most popular. And according to him, they represent the future of the medium."

Of course bad blogs are the rule. Of course they're the future of the medium. Bad everything is the rule and the future. Hasn't Bissinger heard that 90 percent of everything is crap?

Walk into a megastore that sells these "books" that Bissinger holds so dear and say with a straight face that the good ones outnumber the bad. I dare you. Collect every newspaper in America -- yes, newspapers, those guardians of all that's true and real and proper and not snarky about journalism -- and make a pile of the good ones and a pile of the bad ones. Which pile do you think is going to be bigger?

The next time Bissinger wants to clarify the important points he's making about this next generation and its ruinous attack on civilized writing, he ought to chisel it in stone. It would give him time to think about what a chump he sounds like, maybe even reconsider.

Besides, he ought to know nothing worth a damn's been written since we went from stone to paper.

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

MORE FROM King Kaufman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Writers And Writing