Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Glenn Reynolds, a.k.a., "Instapundit," Reviewed

His book Army of Davids, lauding bloggers like himself, is reviewed In The New Republic; an excerpt:

Glenn Reynolds is an unlikely visionary. Before he emerged as the "InstaPundit," he was just a law professor at the University of Tennessee, writing on administrative law and the Second Amendment [for law reviews].... These outlets, however, didn't satisfy Reynolds's desire to reach a wider audience, and, in 2001, he began posting messages under a variety of handles like "AGAndroid" in "the Fray," the readers' forum for the online magazine Slate. Reynolds seemed to have an opinion about everything--from Canadian prescription drugs to the relative attractiveness of rock groupies--and a knack for pumping out copy faster than a wire reporter. His celebrity among the Slate Fraysters prompted him to strike out on his own. And, in August 2001, Reynolds created a blog, InstaPundit, where he could tie together his academic and outside interests and provide links and commentary on news and opinion journalism. 

If it weren't for September 11, Reynolds's commentary on the Slate bulletin board might have been the height of his fame. But, in the dark moments following the attacks, the public craved commentary--and InstaPundit supplied it in torrents. His conservative politics and implacable compulsion to post earned him a massive following....

[For traditional media] to survive, [Reynolds] writes, the news media must embrace the citizen-journalist ethos of the blogosphere. Blogger dispatches and digital photos from readers, he claims, will provide coverage as rich and more thorough than that of Elisabeth Bumiller and John F. Burns, for example. Those who don't adapt, Reynolds warns, may "wind up being replaced by those who do." 

But what would [this new media] actually look like? This is a question that can be easily answered by InstaPundit. Reynolds's blog consists largely of links to news or opinion articles and other blogs followed by comments consisting of such profound observations as "Heh," or "Read the whole thing," or "Indeed." (These are recurring tropes whose centrality can't be exaggerated.) What Reynolds lacks in analysis, he makes up for in abundance of content. On any given day, he'll provide his readers nearly 20 entries--or, if you can stomach it, more.

The blogosphere doesn't universally suffer from this extreme case of logorrhea or vacuity. (Nor are newspaper columnists immune from the latter syndrome.) It contains plenty of experts and thoughtful analysts who excel at precisely the analysis that is hardly the forte of newspaper reporters and eludes old-fashioned pundits. But Reynolds exposes how the blogosphere, at its worst, values timeliness over thought....

If, as Reynolds predicts, the rise of the blogosphere comes at the expense of older institutions like newspapers and magazines, then he will shed no tears. That's because his libertarianism makes him a fervent believer in the wisdom of markets. But, in the market of opinions, can you count on talent and insight to triumph? The case of Reynolds--"Heh," "Indeed"--would suggest that the market for opinion doesn't make its judgments based on logical coherence or intellectual honesty. Reynolds's terse, almost meaningless commentary may make him the reductio ad absurdum of the blogosphere's worst tendencies. But these tendencies happen to be its ubiquitous ones.

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2006/06/glenn_reynolds_.html

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