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.