February 13, 2005

Friday night, I attended a party at a loft next to MacArthur Park in downtown L.A. hosted by Mark Brown of Buzznet. For those of you who are new to the internets, Buzznet is front and center of the emerging "photoblog" trend, and those of you who are intrigued by the potential of sites such as this one, who own a digital camera, and who also have the same desire for self-publicity should check out that site. Also, Mr. Brown is a terrific host, whose willingness to put up with the chainsmoking of myself and a documentary crew from French television is proof he has the patience of Job.

One of the discussions I had was about one of the most remarkeable posts in the history of political blogs, one I briefly alluded to last week: this Michael Totten piece, about an afterparty attended by himself, Christopher Hitchens, and several Iraqis following a televised panel they did on the elections two weeks ago. Totten is one of the more conservative links on my blogroll, which may be an indication of how far left I've traveled. He's what used to be known as a "Jackson Democrat" (after Scoop Jackson), a hawk on foreign policy with liberal views on other issues, but unlike other bloggers who pay lip service to those principles, he walks the walk. He's a fine writer and photographer, especially concerning his frequent traveling, and the aforementioned post is one reason why he's such a terrific blogger.

Totten completely exposes himself in that post. Having said and done any number of idiotic things myself, I know how hard it can be to put myself on the line, to write something that may make me look like a fool (at least intentionally). The temptation to edit out the embarassing details is strong. Totten, on the other hand, does not come off looking all that good; for example, his recounting of the patronizing manner in which he and Mr. Hitchens announced there would be certain limitations to this "self-government" thing the Iraqis were seizing at the polls that day, and his genuine discomfort with the angry reaction his guests had at their presumption, has already been much commented on. The relentless manner of his kissing up to Hitchens, as well as his description of the way in which the odious Mr. Hitchens loses himself to the bottle, are discomforting to the reader.

But Totten is too smart not to know this, yet he still (I hope accurately) gives his readers a warts-and-all version of what happened that night. He gives a rationale for his opinions that the reader can agree or disagree with, but he doesn't hide behind a curtain of false dignity. It makes for fascinating reading, and at the end, you can't help feeling a grudging respect for the man.

A good blog should always inform the reader that it is fronted by a real, flawed human being, and Totten's post does that, in the tradition of Andrew Sullivan's infamous post about his backed-up toilet. Any blogger who does not allow his audience to see his inner assclown will remain mired in mediocrity, which is why Michael Totten has, and deserves, a large audience.

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