Blogging – the Elite Way

Apologies for being a lazy blogger, but here I can report on a curious and multi facetted battle in German print culture.

A few weeks before Jonathan Littell’s originally French novel “Les Bienveillantes” (“The Kindly Ones”) is due for release in German translation at Berlin Verlag, the prestiguous conservative broadsheet Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) starts not only to run daily small doses of the book in their culture pages. They also started, attatched to the serialisation, a brand new “Reading Room” with online comments about the book that has a considerable potential for controversy particularly in Germany as it is the (fictitious) autobiography of Max von Aue, an SS nazi officer involved in the Holocaust.

To avoid the risk of uncontrolled or just plain stupid comments, the editors of the newspaper opted for an original version of a blog – by inviting 8 experts to write about Littell, all of them male, mostly professors, and in their 60s.

What would seem only a bit odd, in the light of usual blogging culture, is even more remarkable as only a few weeks ago, FAZ, had launched a furious anti-blogging, anti-stupid-online-posting and anti-“swarm culture” campaign in its pages. It all started with FAZ’s co-publisher Frank Schirrmacher writing a particularly angry piece about a colleague’s unfortunate (and less than brilliant) video blog in the weekly “Die Zeit” on youth violence and the wave of hate posts that this blog had stirred up. (For a balanced summary, see the neutral Swiss NZZ)

For Schirrmacher, the reader’s comments were just the last evidence for how the “swarm”, meaning the reading audience let lose, was bringing about the end of (a) culture, (b) decency and how (c) “quality journalism” was the only force left to defend the holy grail of Western civilised debate.

As this was not enough, FAZ had another one of its staff writers, adding a last and truly final judgment about all that controversy, and the internet and its users with it. Under the headline of “Disgusting and Totalitarian” (yes!), Christian Geyer not only saw an entire “political culture in danger”, but chose to call those readers who had angrily posted their comments against the professional journalist’s op-ed furor “mob users”, and urged any responsible media to, in the future, make sure that such “dirt and garbage” is not published anymore.

With this elite version of blogging, as set up by the quality paper on behalf of the Littell novel, we are now shown how we can save our minds, namely by reading the erudite words of selected professors.

Oh, thank you, we had almost forgotten what had made the blogosphere such a thriving and fascinating space in the first place.

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