There is a cancer — warm and angry — metastasizing in the belly of the blogosphere. It grows, thrives, fed by the deluded, the self-satisfied, the people who use the word “blogosphere.”
I speak, of course, of the “hat tip.”
At some point in the past, a blogger managed to correctly spell “attribution,” and looked it up in the dictionary during a leftward swing of the blogging-is-journalism/jouralism-is-corrupt pendulum. Of course! What blogging needs to legitimize itself isn’t professional standards or a tradition of public service and betterment. What blogging needs is a way to publicly masturbate my friends!
Attribution, like cat pictures, takes many forms. An innocuous “via” or “from,” standing alone, quietly offers credit to the source of a bit of information. A reference to a nickname — “From Mickey” — introduces a self-satisfied familiarity that adds nothing to the attribution but tells the world that you an Kaus are best buds. An adjective — “From the terrific Instapundit” — is embarrassing obsequiousness, while an adjective with a modifier on a nickname — “From the always excellent Sully” — Jesus. Why not just drop by and give him a blow-job, why don’t you? It’s my understanding that he’d accept.
Each of these forms spirals further away from the purpose of attribution and deeper into other, darker motives. Rather than acknowledge the footwork required to dig up a piece of information or let the reader evaluate its source, these more elaborate forms are intended to imply something about the attributor: they know someone, they like someone, they’re in with the in-crowd. Attribution becomes just another few drops in the endless ocean of self-satisfaction and masturbatory self-involvement that is blogging.
Which, down here at the bottom of the barrel, brings us to the “hat tip.”
With those two words, a blogger says to the world that not only is he bestest buddies with whoever he’s linking to, but, why, he’s jaunty! He’s fun! He tips his hat, see, probably a fedora! Nothing rounds out a bilious screed of contempt and loathing like a little jaunty hat tipping! That wasn’t two thousand words driven by hatred — how could it be? I tipped my hat! It’s manly, but polite, just like me!
I’m guessing that the world will never see “Curtsey: LGF.”
Could there be a more transparent method of building a self-image with a piece of information that has nothing to do with self-image? It’s baggage that completely undermines the journalistic purpose of attribution. It — like almost everything else in the faux-journalism that some portion of blogging is attempting to become — manages to both degrade and infantalize the standard it’s supposed to emulate. The New York Times did not conclude the Pentagon Papers story with, “Hat tip: WaPo.”
But you’d expect that from those corrupt “journalists” at the Times, wouldn’t you? Who’d want to emulate them? To emulate “journalism”? You’ll pry my jaunty tipping hat from my cold, dead fingers!
And so the pendulum swings again.