Comments on Left/Right Blogs, or What’s Fun to Read?

A friend queried me the other day as to why Left-leaning blogs are, on average, more fun to read than Right-leaning ones. Because I am quite aware of his politics, I am confident he meant something else other than, “Why are Democratic blogs more fun to read than Republican ones?” Still, the categories “Left” and “Right” are often difficult to define, especially when applied to bloggers who write about more than just politics. I’ll start here. Is Opus Publicum a Right-leaning blog? Regardless of whether or not my posts are fun to read, the views they express are integrally bound up with the Catholic Faith. If I read an academic article and comment on it, I do so as a Catholic. If I read a book and review it, I do so as a Catholic. And when I discuss socio-economic matters, whether in the form of critiquing liberalism or championing alternative avenues, I do so as a Catholic. Given all of that, it seems that Opus Publicum can be safely categorized as Right-leaning, which maybe also means that it’s foolhardy for me to advertise its contents as “fun” to a single, well-adjusted human being.

Being Catholic doesn’t necessarily mean being Right-leaning. Daniel Nichols, author of Caelum et Terra, is unashamedly Catholic; writes from a decidedly Catholic perspective; and yet comes out supporting ecclesial and political positions markedly—though not absolutely—different than my own. Some of those positions, including his embrace of a certain type of Christian socialism, could be classified as Left-leaning, though Nichols is often operating under a different horizon than the one found over most run-of-the-mill socialists. Is Caelum et Terra “more fun” than Opus Publicum? Perhaps. Nichols has a knack for amusing observations, particularly concerning the hypocrisies of a certain brand of political Catholicism which has been dominant in these lands for far too long. There is also a powerful autobiographical element to what he writes which makes Caelum et Terra as much about his journey on life’s way as it is about the world writ large. Caelum et Terra may not be neatly of the Left, though it’s certainly not of the Right, either.

Here’s a more puzzling example. Fr. John Hunwicke, whose blog Mutual Enrichment should be read from start to finish by all thoughtful Catholics, writes primarily on liturgical topics which have a way of branching out to cover a great deal of doctrinal, theological, and historical ground. With upmost seriousness and painstaking accuracy, Hunwicke can often be found examining a kerfuffle, even a crisis, in the Catholic Church in the light of tradition. When reviewing papal authority, he is as comfortable with the words of Blessed Pope Pius IX as he is with those of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. And through it all, he never loses touch with his wry sense of humor. Intelligent irony coupled with cheerful charity are never in short supply, though overt partisan claims—the sort which are typically used to measure a thinker’s position on the political spectrum—are. Is Hunwicke of the Left? Probably not. Is he of the Right? Maybe. But regardless of all of that, he is a joy to learn from.

These are, mind you, just three small examples of blogs consciously chosen not-at-random, and so it’s difficult to draw an empirically hard claims from this “survey.” Arguably, the most that can be said is that blogs which are written from a self-consciously Catholic perspective are not necessarily going to be Right-leaning (or even full-on of the Right), and little can be said about their humor quotient a priori.

To return to my friend’s question—which means taking leave of the significant, though hardly all-encompassing, world of Catholic blogdom—I think I can see where he is coming from better if I pause to peruse two blogs which couldn’t be further apart on the political spectrum: Alternative Right and Sam Kriss’s Idiot Joy Showland.

Alternative Right, which recently ran a cringe-worthy piece romanticizing contemporary Russia, is a collaborative effort comprised of white nationalists who, to a significant extent, take their bearings from the European Nouvelle Droite while espousing any number of “traditionalist” positions that tend to tip the ideological scale away from “over-the-top” and right on down to “barking mad.” Their postings are not particularly fun to read, both because the ideas they contain are nauseating and the style is often flat and unimaginative. The latter reality is not necessarily a bad thing if, for instance, the purpose of a particular piece is to carefully sort through a discrete topic and draw out the truth concerning it. There is a place for precise, technical prose, even in the blogosphere. Alternative Right is also deadly serious—which is not a bad thing either so long as what’s being emphasized is serious rather than deadly. Alternative Right may be very misguided, but its goal of creating an alternative politics supported by rigorous thinking demands a degree of sobermindedness and care. Any laughs to be had should be directed at, not in comradery with, Alternative Right.

Sam Kriss, who managed to turn Taylor Swift’s navel into a sweeping cultural commentary, is fun to read. Idiot Joy Showland is playful, erudite, and insightful, even if the insights proffered fail to add up into a single whole. Without anything in the way of a mission statement or a singular theoretical paradigm, Kriss is able to plow through the media-saturated world in which we live and expose what it says about all of us. At the same time he yanks off a literary reference there, a bit of philosophy here, and then leverages it into something approaching a Leftist moral indictment despite the absence of any discernable moral framework. It’s tempting to call Kriss’s efforts “unserious,” but only because he is untethered from any practical program or intellectual goal. He’s puckish, which works just as much for as it does against him. I have my doubts that he cares one way or the other, which in no small measure seems to be the “point” of Idiot Joy Showland and the larger Left-leaning blogging genre to which it belongs.

16 comments

  1. I’m interested in your take on the internet Right as of late. (I also read your German Nihilism post).

    For my part, I refer to those who call themselves NeoReactionaries as the “Boromirosphere.” Having finished Crime and Punishment, I also find the term “Raskolnikovsphere” apt as well.

    1. Aethelfrith,

      My take on any of the Right which is not the Catholic Right is that they are, at the core, misguided. The so-called “New Right” which has emerged over the past couple of decades is little more than senseless reaction dressed up with phony-baloney intellectualism. I am not even sure they are worth taking seriously, or even reading in depth. There aren’t many “spoils” to raid from that barren wasteland.

      1. The Catholic Right can be spotty too (present company obviously excepted). I find the Anarcho Papist virtually unreadable due to its vaguely postmodernist bent.

        1. Sure. I suppose I find any movement of the Right, no matter how well intentioned or intellectually rigorous, to be vapid unless it is moored in the Christian — specifically the Catholic — religion. There are, of course, Orthodox right-wing movements out there, though many tend to exhibit the gross pathologies of Orthodox nationalism and anti-Westernism. In other words, they’re not my cup of tea.

      2. Where would you place Mark Steyn? Politically conservative, not Catholic as far as I know, but a damned good writer and funny as hell.

        P.J. O’Rourke also springs to mind.

        1. In fact, I find most leftists fairly humorless. Most conservatives I know, including in Real Life, have finely developed senses of humor.

  2. One of the more insufferable right-liberal sites to have popped up recently is the thefederalist.com.

  3. By definition, if you treat what you’re talking about too seriously, you’re not going to be funny.

    If what you’re doing can’t be distinguished from beating someone to death with a ham, you’re not going to be funny, no matter how much you yuk it up during the process. You might end up being regarded as something else, even well regarded, but you’re unlikely to be regarded as funny.

  4. Dear Comrade Sanchez,
    I’m very glad my writings, such as they are, entertain you, but I have to take issue with some of the elements in your analysis. You may well be right that the arguments I make do not add up to a coherent whole, but given the inherently incomplete nature of a dialectic without sublation, or the subject-object separation, or – as doctrinaire Catholics call it – the fallen state of Man, any presentation of a totality by any sublunar Subject can only be false. To negotiate an existence determined by partialities one must proceed by partialities. To recognise the lack of a meaningful totality is not to be untethered to any overarching goal or moral framework. I am a Marxist and a Communist (and a Christian of a sort): it is a political programme I endorse entirely, and everything I write is deadly serious and in its service, even (especially!) the stuff about Taylor Swift’s belly button. You point out very well how an entirely ‘serious’ political discourse is often frankly embarrassing (there are plenty on the soi-disant Left that show the same signs as your garish white nationalists; look at Phil Greaves) – the point is that seriousness and unseriousness are in a constant dialectic. Try to make a serious point without jokes, and you become the joke; when the discourse that surrounds us is essentially unserious, to approach it in all seriousness would be a serious error.

    Red salute!
    Sam Kriss

    1. Mr. Kriss,

      Thank you for the clarification. I actually wasn’t sure if you considered yourself a Marxist and/or Communist, though those terms are often vague. I do enjoy reading your blog, even if I can’t quite follow you into many of the places you go. Still, there’s much that can be learned even from those with whom we disagree.

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