Toast Or Roast: Reihan Salam

The Daily Dish has been an important part of my life for a long time. As a less-than-conscientious high school student, I spent a lot of my time reading comic books and The New Republic. The parallels should be obvious. Both featured eccentric, larger-than-life characters waging war against various evildoers, from irradiated mutants to, um, K Street lobbyists.

On reflection, I guess the analogy breaks down. But the short of it is that I came to admire Andrew Sullivan for editing a zany, irreverent magazine, and, in the years that followed, I greatly profited from his contrarian, often incendiary, always thought-provoking contributions to TRB and The New York Times Magazine. When Andrew started blogging, I became a loyal reader.

And Andrew was doing something very new.

For an undergraduate during the fin de siècle, the Internet was a primitive and often frightening place, full of ICQ spam, high-concept ASCII art, and pages and pages of "Yo Mama" jokes. The sites I visited most often at the time were a scarily comprehensive website devoted to the ever-expanding Wu-Tang "Fam" (we hear about the tech bubble -- but what about the Wu-bubble?) and, of course, Because I spent so little time studying, I was able to devote myself almost exclusively to performing Napster searches and playing the M.O.P. song "Ante Up (Robbin Hoodz Theory)" on repeat. You can watch Bert and Ernie performing the song here.

As an early-ish adopter, I had come across various proto-blogs, but Andrew offered a compelling mix of personal observations, bomb-throwing polemics, and sober, or at least semi-sober, analysis that's come to define web opinion. More than most of us, Andrew contains multitudes and his multitudinousness fit the emerging medium exceptionally well.

Because Andrew's tone was so direct and personal, I felt very comfortable engaging him directly. I started emailing tips and criticisms, etc., and to my surprise he'd often write back. This was a tremendous confidence boost given that most of what I wrote at the time were breakfast-themed raps under the name "Hash Brown." I went on to work for Andrew, and he's been a friend and mentor ever since. And that's despite the fact that I couldn't hold a candle to the web-surfing savvy of Patrick Appel, Chris Bodenner, Conor Friedersdorf, and Zoe Pollock.

All this is to say that I blame Andrew for what's become of me. Had Andrew not piqued my interest in the world of ideas, it is possible that I would have fulfilled what had been my lifelong ambition, namely traveling the world on a sleek yacht with an army of foxy raven-haired babes, solving mysteries and fighting crime. But there's still time!

Read Reihan at The Agenda.