Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming and Why It Matters

By SCOTT ROSENBERG

Queen Victoria would not have been amused. We live in a confessional age in which authenticity demands saying everything about oneself. From politicians to celebrities to ordinary people, mainstream culture is increasingly self-revelatory. Reality television, call-in radio, and millions of self-published personal electronic diaries known as “blogs,” have become the most popular vehicles of this confessional culture. Why is this? In Say Everything Scott Rosenberg quotes Nick Denton, the founder of the New York City–based blog Gawker who, in explaining the value of 9/11 blogs said, “Only through the human stories of escape or loss have I really felt the disaster.” The point of media, Denton implies, is to “feel” rather than “explain.” The old industrial model of professional journalists handing down coldly objective information is being shoved aside by a hyper-democratic experiential model in which everyone publishes their feelings about everything. And the most experiential of all modern media confessionals is the Internet blog — of which there were 64 million in 2008. Rosenberg, a cofounder of the Internet magazine Salon, really does say almost everything (even a little too much) about the blogging revolution. With patience and not a little love, Rosenberg introduces us to the crazy panoply of blogging founding fathers: virulent anti-Semite John Barger, a brilliant yet prickly software programmer with a Socratic obsession about truth called Dave Winer, and the first blogger, Justin Hall, who, in celebrating the new year in 2005, blogged: “I really enjoy urinating.” But blogs aren’t just the refuge of the mentally ill. Over the last ten years, more and more writers have embraced the blog: Rosenberg explains that in everything from politics to sex to “mommy” blogs, the experiential self-published Internet diary has gone mainstream, turning blogging’s “great outpouring of human expression” into the future of all media. Rosenberg criticizes mogul Barry Diller for suggesting that talent remains the one scarcity in today’s media. But this book is a glitteringly subversive argument against Rosenberg’s own thesis. It’s a beautifully written and meticulously fair narrative about the past, present, and future of the blog. Only somebody with Rosenberg’s incomparable ability could have written Say Everything. We are lucky to have his unique talent.