Maybe that should be "Navel-Gazing Column Ahead," you'll have to decide. You have been warned.
Well, we didn't notice until two weeks too late, but this column just celebrated its sixth anniversary. You read that right -- we've been doing this for six years (and two weeks) now.
The first of these columns appeared exclusively within The Huffington Post, but within a year I had managed to get the ChrisWeigant.com site up and running, and now we've got everything archived back to our very first installment (which, sadly enough, still has the ring of truth about it today).
I certainly had no idea, when writing that in June of 2006, that I'd still be here cranking these things out six years later. But here we are, against all odds.
Blog writing is admittedly enjoyable, since I have no editor telling me what to write about. This allows me to roam all over the metaphorical map. While the core focus here is on American politics -- whether doing some actual journalism and interviews or just spouting off in a partisan manner -- this also allows for flights of fancy (such as the article you're now reading) and examining all sorts of other subjects as I see fit (sports, science fiction, the media, grammar, and other trivial bugaboos which annoy me from time to time). It is, admittedly, an eclectic mix, and it certainly does lead to an eclectic audience. But more on you guys in a moment.
As for politics, we've lived through Republican Congresses, Democratic Congresses, and unbalanced Congresses. Well, OK, perhaps they're all a little unbalanced... perhaps I should say "politically-split Congresses" instead. Heh.
For the first two-and-a-half years, of course, we had George W. Bush to kick around. For the rest of the time, we've tried to offer friendly advice to Barack Obama. We're not "fair and balanced," to put it another way, but we do always try to stay "reality-based."
Blogging is a unique method of mass communication in one important sense -- it is (at the blogger's discretion) a two-way conduit of information. I am always amazed at the number of bloggers who don't bother to answer (or even, it seems, read) their comments. To me, this is the heart and soul of blogging -- the instant feedback, good or bad. To hear what others say about what you write is simply not possible in more traditional methods of communication (books, for instance), and to have this instantaneous marketplace of ideas, to me, is the best thing about what I do.
It is always food for the ego when commenters show their approval, of course. But the commenters who disagree are just as enlightening, at times. Not always -- there are always those who just WANT TO SCREAM (in all caps, usually), and aren't interested in arguing their point, just repeating mindless slogans. Thankfully, I find these to be few and far between (to be honest, I think the length of my normal articles is too great for most of those with such short attention spans). But civil arguments where both parties are trying to logically and intelligently challenge the assertions of the other are indeed valuable, since I often come to the conclusion that if I can't back up what I'm saying then perhaps I shouldn't be saying it.
What these exchanges do lead to (hopefully) is respecting the other side's opinion in crafting future arguments. It's always better to get this stuff in the original text, as some form of: "The opposition will of course argue X, but allow me to prove that this is fallacious reasoning thusly...." If you don't know "argument X" then you cannot refute it (or attempt to) -- and such refutations, I find, always strengthen the case you happen to be making. It cuts the opposition off at the knees, to put it more brutally.
Of course, you have to have a pretty thick skin in this business, and not take a whole lot personally. Back when ".sig" files (or "signature" files) were a popular thing (circa maybe the 1990s?), one of the best ones I ever saw was: "Flames cheerfully ignored." That is a perfect way to phrase the attitude you've got to take when dealing with the unfiltered public. If someone is more interested in just screams and playground taunts, the only way possible to keep your sanity is just to ignore them. Nobody's going to be convinced or edified by any sort of exchange, so you tend to learn who to respond to in writing, and who to respond to in the privacy of your own mind with (in a Bugs Bunny voice): "What a maroon!"
Negativity aside, we've mostly had fun here, I think. We hold contests, we hand out awards willy-nilly, and we occasionally decide it's time for an attempt at sheer satire or other humor and ridicule. We've been at it so long, we've even got holiday columns for important dates on the calendar (which reminds me, July 4th is coming up...), the most enjoyable of which are our Hallowe'en horror stories. Early on, inspired by the "Top 10 Conservative Idiots of the Week" column at DemocraticUnderground.com (which has now, sadly, ended), I realized the benefits of serialization, which led to the weekly Friday Talking Points column series (214 installments and counting!), as well as our examination of polling data in the Electoral Math series during the 2008 election, and the Obama Poll Watch series ever since (Electoral Math 2012 is right around the corner, I promise!). This is, in the advertising world, known as "building the brand." Or "repeat things endlessly, in the hopes that it'll catch on," if you prefer.
All in all, it's been a pretty good six years. I've even been able, in the past year, to carve out enough time to tackle a book project, which is coming along nicely at this point (if slower than expected). The site itself is self-supporting this year (for the first time ever!), due to the generous donations of our benefactors and due to the ad revenue which trickles slowly in. Our comments are lively, our commenters astoundingly loyal, and I still have yet to ban a single commenter for any reason whatsoever (not counting comment spam, of course -- that gets banned all the time). I can't promise another six years of blogging, but I certainly don't see any problem with continuing it at this point in time. As I said, all in all, things are good.
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant