Stirling Newberry explains why we feel so blessed in this blogosphere. He knows the variety of voices and the dynamism of the space. He is himself part of the rebirth of remarkably clean, free and forceful politics online. And he knows how apt is the spherical image of this new linked, democratic, planetary zone we’re in.
The model of politics and culture is shifting, he observes, from the pyramid to the sphere. In conversation he trumped my reference to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Circles” as a sort of key to the Internet transformation. “The eye is the first circle,” Emerson wrote in 1841. “The horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary picture is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world.”
Stirling Newberry had Emerson’s next line by heart, it turned out: “St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere and its circumference nowhere… ” In his own voice he continued: “That’s the image you should have of what’s happening on the Internet. Anyone on any given day can be the center if he has the best observation that resonates. There is no boundary of the circle… You get to sing a song and listen to the echo. You get to hear… how other people have taken what you’ve done and turned it into their center.”
Stirling Newberry spins a common man’s context of history and theory in the second half of our conversation. The spirit of blogging comes out of the “open source” software movement–itself an echo of Gutenberg’s press and the Protestant Reformation. The big blog surge of 2003, in this reckoning, comes out of the shocks of the Internet bubble and crash, September 11, the Iraq War and the realization that “people no longer trusted the Establishment media to tell them the truth.” It is Dr. Jonathan Shay’s point (in Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America) that, as Stirling Newberry paraphrases him, “the most important thing for coming to terms with a traumatic event is having a community of people with whom you feel a deep connection, people who understand what you mean with a word or phrase.” That “richness of contextualized information” is what the Internet provides, he says. At the onset of the 2004 presidential campaign, blogs have become the place where anger finds coherence, where multitudes beating the bushes learn to chop at the root of their frustration. Blogs are the free marketplace of ideas, the place where community generates force. Looking for someone to turn Kool Aid into champagne? Stirling Newberry could be your man. Listen in.