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The Paper Trail
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Robert Darnton on blogging
Robert Darnton at the New York Review of Books blog on blogging: "[blogs] conform to a formula derived from old-fashioned
tabloid journalism: names make news." Darnton compares some blogs to his
area of expertise, underground writing of ancient regime France, and
then gives succeeding examples of 18th C libels and such.
(a bit ominously, to my ear) "I don’t believe that history teaches
lessons, at least not in a direct, easily applied manner, but it does
raise questions. Are blogs disrupting traditional politics today just as
“libelles” did in eighteenth-century France?"
(Why ominously? Darnton and other historians of the French Revolution argue that libelous underground literature helped to undermine the authority of individuals, of offices, and of the entire system which they represented. He's more nuanced than what I write here, but his work suggests that this underground literature ultimately made it easier to destroy the system and behead Louis XVI.)
Robert Darnton is Professor of history at Princeton and past winner of the APHA Award.