When I started this blog a few years ago, it was my intent to write about matters pertinent to computers and the computer business. I stuck with that plan for at least a couple of years. But computer stuff is really pretty boring; it doesn’t fire me up all that much, nor does it get your motor revving either, I suspect. Industry-related blogs are the proverbial dime a dozen, and hardly anybody reads them. Those that do typically just skim for information and move on. It’s a chore and a bore to keep such a thing going.
But by the unwritten rules of this brave new digital world, if you are in any kind of service business, you simply must have a blog, because you have to keep God, er Google, happy. Google wants “content.” Lots and lots of content. And it is never, ever satisfied. It doesn’t matter if you are a plumber or a carpenter, a trader in cryptocurrencies or a purveyor of cat-fetish products. If you have a website and you use that website to get customers, you had better have a blog or some other steady supply of fresh content or Google will downgrade you. Let your website go stale and one dark day you will drop irrevocably off the crucial front page, at which point, for all intents and purposes, you will no longer exist.
Well that’s just weird, you might think. Why would a plumber or an auto shop or an upholsterer ever need to provide “content,” other than: This is who we are; this is what we do; this is how much we charge; this is how you may find us; here is what people say about us? Sensible question, but also completely beside the point. Google wants CONTENT! and wants it NOW! And that’s that. Do not second-guess The Google. The Millennials who dominate the company were weaned on (and are now addicted to) endless, ever-changing content; in their minds that’s what makes the world go around. Minor things like your reputation or your longevity in business are SO twentieth century. Who would EVER care about those?
But people really don’t read any more, either. Too many things competing for their limited attention. Any kind of text that is more than a hundred and fifty words in length is simply too long, and people lose interest. It’s all but destroyed long-form journalism. You go to the considerable trouble of producing a thoughtful, well-written piece of three or four thousand words or so, only to be met with a collective yawn. Or worse, your masterwork is branded with the dismissive shorthand TL; DR (“Too long; don’t read”) by the many self-appointed critics out there. You know all this, but forge ahead anyway because you cannot help it, and because Google must be appeased.
At some point it occurred to me that as long as I was going to have to generate content that almost nobody read anyway, I might as well write about things that matter to me, so that at least one of us isn’t bored. Google won’t care, I figured. Content is content. So gradually the snooze-worthy computer-related postings were replaced with meandering essays and stories about all manner of things. The blog still isn’t being read by anybody, but at least Google seems to be happy and I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile.
But it’s not enough just to generate some words about some topic. That would be too easy. Google is big on connectedness. So your articles all need to have external links. Preferably lots of them. They don’t even have to make any sense, but you simply must have them. You also need to have a compendium of favorite sites–a “blogroll”–as well. Ours comes under the heading Stuff We Like. You may have noticed it already, off to the right, assuming you are reading this on a laptop or desktop. If for some reason you prefer to read this on a smart phone, it’s way down at the bottom, following the article.
Assembling a blogroll requires thought and discretion, because you are judged by the digital company you keep. If your potential customers spy just one website they don’t like in your blogroll they are apt to scratch you off their list, even if you are clearly qualified to meet their particular need. People are funny that way.
If you have read much of my blog, you may have inferred that I lean a little right. And you would be correct. In the memorable words of Popeye the Sailor, I yam what I yam, and there’s no point in masking it. I used to lean very much the other way. Unfortunately, life hardens you and your outlook changes with experience.
But most of the sites on my blogroll aren’t likely to ruffle anyone’s feathers. Some are harmless diversions. Others are utilitarian. There are sites of literary interest, sites devoted to insightful social commentary, weather-related sites, energy-related sites. There are also a couple of sites favored by skeptics of climate change–of which I happen to be one–but spend even a minute on them and you realize they are scientifically sound, reasonable in tone, and anything but objectionable. And if you do happen to be the kind of person who finds them offensive, well let’s just say we probably wouldn’t be a good fit for you, anyway. I have also included a few political sites, chosen for their excellent reporting and writing, from both sides of the aisle for balance.
And then there’s Unz.com, after Ron Unz, its founder and guiding spirit. How to categorize Unz? Depends on your slant. Let it suffice to say that they probably don’t care if they upset your applecart. To call Unz “edgy” would be an understatement.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are thoughts that we all have but dare not speak out loud. Unz is the kind of site that does that for you. Ron says “You’re welcome.” Unz has no filters, don’t need no stinking filters, and really couldn’t care less if this is a problem for you.
I included Unz in my blogroll in spite of these liabilities because of its consistently excellent writing on a variety of thought-provoking subjects not generally covered by the mainstream press. Sharp (and sometimes sharp-edged) types like Fred Reed, John Derbyshire, Iliana Mercer, Linh Dinh, and Steve Sailer fill out its roster of writers. It’s a clearinghouse for alternative ideas, and as such tends to be a mix of gold and dross. Even so, it’s been on my daily “must read” list for some time.
But over the last couple of years, the tone at Unz seems to have changed. It’s not as though there was any one thing you could put your finger on. What finally drove it home for me was a rather tasteless headline on a recent piece by John Derbyshire. Energetic, mild-mannered and courtly, a genuine polymath with a staggering range of interests and a formidable output on a wide variety of topics, Derbyshire is hardly a demagogue. But neither does he mince words. The piece under the headline was actually a pretty good, worthwhile read, as almost every bit of his work is. And for that matter, Derbyshire might not even have come up with the headline; lots of publications have specialists who do that. But somebody made the decision to run this particular headline, and it left a bad taste. Insulting with a hint of sneer doesn’t really work for me.
Derbyshire, along with other writers on Unz, is a devotee of the Human Biodiversity (HBD) movement, which draws on the latest developments in genetics and behavioral psychology to highlight the differences among human populations. Not a week goes by without at least a couple of articles devoted to it appearing on Unz. You really can’t argue with the science of HBD, the gist of which is that humans are subject to the laws of nature like every other species. Groups that are isolated from each other, in different environments, will over many generations inevitably evolve physical, behavioral, and cognitive traits in response to those environments. These traits are neither better nor worse, just different.
The larger theme is that such differences form a biological basis for the conflict we see so much of in human societies. The even larger theme is that multiculturalism is doomed to failure because of immutable human nature. If you have a science background this will probably not be news to you. “Well duh” you might say, although probably not out loud. It’s Biology 101.
But it’s not exactly the sort of thing you shout from the rooftops either, because it’s a sensitive, politically loaded topic that will land you in hot water in a hurry if you mishandle it. Frankly, it’s also rather depressing. Only someone who was a hopeless cynic, socially tone deaf, or a complete twit would ever choose to dwell on it. But because HBD runs exactly counter to the beliefs of the politically correct classes, Unz has to make a giant deal out of it. If Unz has one defining principle, it is to regard political correctness as a mortal enemy.
Another favorite topic is immigration. In a word, they’re agin it. Now lots of intelligent persons of moderate temperament agree in principle. They have concluded that our nation’s immigration policy is a disaster, and worry that we are headed for Babel or worse if we don’t get a handle on this thing pretty soon. Humanely, of course. But that’s not enough for Unz. They aren’t just anti-immigration; they are anti-immigrant. It’s personal. So you have an endless parade of stories about disruptive or clueless or predatory alien immigrant hordes, all coming for our wimmenfolk. Bloody savages!
There are other peculiar fixations, too, which I won’t go into, that echo the obsessive, conspiratorial mindset of the founder. Not that the subject matter is completely without merit. But it frequently trends weird and hints of a dark and convoluted worldview I am not comfortable with.
Ultimately it’s not necessarily what they say, but rather how it they say it. There has come to be a really angry undertone running throughout much of what is published on Unz, and this repels me. If I want my blood pressure elevated, I’ll smack my thumb with a hammer or go for a crosstown drive on the freeway at five o’clock, thank you very much.
So for these reasons and more, I have demoted Unz. I will continue to read it, but it no longer is a member of my blogroll. If it loses the weird fixations and the angry undertone then maybe I will reconsider.