I’m late getting to this, but Jonah’s column on new media is a must-read:
I’ve toiled in the cyber-fields for close to a decade now here, and what fascinates me is how the Internet is allowing the nation to return to its historical relationship with the media, not how it’s changing everything.
In the 19th century, newspapers played a different role from the one we think they’re “supposed” to play. Newspapers contributed a sense of community to the boisterous new cities and towns popping up across the country. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the young American democracy thrived on competing “associations” between like-minded citizens. But because these people could never all physically meet, newspapers were essential to American democracy because “newspapers make associations, and associations make newspapers.” […]
There will always be a need for serious, professional news-gathering organizations. But there will also always be a need for the politically committed to form their own communities. The Internet is allowing the United States to have both once again.
Kevin Drum also agrees with Jonah’s larger point, but takes issue with an offhand comment he made about the nature of conservatism:
(On the other hand, Jonah’s contention that “the ‘problems’ of the human condition are permanent” — and therefore, presumably, barely worth trying to improve in any deep rooted way — is quite another thing. It’s why I’m not a conservative, and it’s why, in the end, conservatives rarely have any long term positive impact on politics. After all, if you don’t really believe that the problems of the human condition are addressable in any meaningful way, what’s the point?)
The point, obviously, is to keep utopian liberals from imposing government solutions onto unsolvable problems and thereby making everything worse.
UPDATE: I somehow slept through Jonah’s response to Drum, which is somewhat more, er, comprehensive than mine:
I don’t think any conservative in the American tradition — or, at least, many of them — believes that the “problems of the the human condition” as Drum understands them can’t be ameliorated. That certainly wasn’t the vision of the founders and it’s not mine. I really like air-conditioning.
Meanwhile, the history of the left is chock-a-block with people who thought that all problems are indeed solvable. And their record is nothing to brag about.
That’s what I meant. And here’s Drum’s response.