Dave Weigel's unfortunate departure from the Washington Post, and the furious, revealing, and I think healthy debate about the future of journalism that's followed it lead me to pick up Ender's Game again over the weekend. For anyone not familiar with Orson Scott Card's 1985 novel, it's the story both of a boy trained to fight an alien invasion at a singularly vicious military academy, and of his two siblings who are left behind on Earth. It's also an eerily accurate prediction of how blogging, and the way people read blogs, work today.
Of course they were not invited to take part in the great national and international political forums--they could only be audiences there until they were invited or elected to take part... And in the lesser conferences... they began to insert their comments. ...They were not bland, and people answered. The responses they got posted on the public nets were vinegar; the responses that were sent as mail, for Peter and Valentine to read privately, were poisonous. But they did learn what attributes of their writing were seized on as childish and immature. And they got better...."It's a long way between writing a newsnet column and ruling the world," Valentine reminded him. "It's such a long way that no one has ever done it." "They have though. Or the moral equivalent."
But I do think that this section of the book outlines the risk and opportunity blogging presents for bloggers, readers, and traditional media. Peter and Valentine are able to be successful--and more importantly--plausible in their guise as adult policy experts and demagogues because their online personas provide something that reading audiences want. Valentine, the kindest of the children, wins acclaim first as a militaristic, anti-Russian writer who even guides the opinions of her unknowing father. She sets up the conditions for Peter, who tortured and threatened to kill his siblings, to step in and propose a plan for peace, and to become a world leader. Their age and identities end up mattering not in the slightest because their readers want to believe in them.