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With Sympathy

There are rumbles in some parts of the blogosphere: Where's the outrage? Where's the coverage?

The coverage is there. I know because I spent 14 hours covering the story yesterday for Command Post and part of that coverage was reading and linking bloggers. That is by no means a full list; it's probably about 1/8 of the bloggers who were doing live coverage, updates or just talking about the attacks in general. In fact, check those links and you'll see hundreds of links within.

As for the outrage - I suppose some people want to see the 9/11 outrage again. They want to see that kind of massive reaction from bloggers. They want to see the anger and fear and hatred, in addition to the tears and sorrow.

The thing is, the blogosphere was a lot smaller on 9/11. If it seemed like every single blogger was writing about it, that's probably because it was damn close to that. There are literally millions more blogs now; you can't expect everyone to write about the same story, even if that story is horrific and has world implications.

That's just part of it. How many times can someone express their outrage in the same manner? 9/11, Bali, Madrid, Beslan. It's been said and said again. That's part of the problem with the political/news side of the blogosphere and part of the reason I don't do that type of blogging anymore. How many times can you say the same thing? How many times are you required to say the same thing? Why must one copy and paste the sadness and outrage in their heart onto their blog? Is our outrage not good enough because it's not laid out in bits and bytes for everyone to see? If you can't see it, does that mean it's not there?

There are several kinds of outrage. The people with the worst kind - misplaced - seem to have no problem expressing their feelings the instant something like this happens. You have the "Blame America" side which instantaneously dropped frothing blog posts hinting at conspiracies and riddled with blame. And you have the "Bombs away" side that reflexively called for heads to be chopped, countries to be wiped away, a religion to be demolished, before anyone even took blame for the bombings.

Maybe that's a good enough reason for the people in between to express their feelings, just so the extremes on either side don't have all the say. But I don't think it's necessary. I think the people of Britain know we sympathize, even empathize with them. Perhaps we sent condolences to the British Embassy. Maybe we contacted some friends in London to make sure they were ok and sent our good thoughts and sympathy to them. Maybe we went to church and lit a candle for the victims or we donated blood to the Red Cross or we asked "what can we do to help?" Just because we didn't open a browser and say what we did doesn't mean we did nothing.

Of course I'm outraged. Of course I'm angry and distressed and sad and just a bit fearful. But what am I going to say? What is anyone going to say that won't be a carbon copy of what we wrote after 9/11, after Bali, after Beslan, after Madrid? It seems useless to repeat the words again and again when they are already out there. Is it going to make a difference to some commuter from London who emerged from the Undeground bloody and battered that I, some insignificant woman in New York, is outraged at what happened to them? They will still be injured, their fellow riders still dead, their country still reeling, their sense of safety still shaken.

So why spend an hour virtually shaking my fist at terrorists and clenching my teeth and pounding my anger out on the keyboard? Let me ask you, who isn't outraged? Who doesn't feel anger mixed with sadness right now? Why do you care that a million bloggers aren't calling for a fatwa against all Muslims when you just threw the Union Jack up on your blog and didn't express your outrage at all?

This is the blogosphere, people. It's a stupid name for a group of people who put their thoughts and opinions on the internet for other people to read. They are not required to put every thought and opinion down. They do not have a quota of outrage they must commit to when they open their blog. They do not have to answer to you as to why they didn't express their feelings about terrorism on their blog. We empathize, sympathize and have compassion without having to let you know about it.

Just because I didn't have the Union Jack flying here yesterday doesn't mean I'm desensitized. Just because a blogger didn't post a picture of the attacks with a caption like "we are with you England" underneath doesn't mean they are desensitized. How does one ever get desensitized to terrorism or murder or death? If you're human, you don't. But, apparently, if you're a blogger who doesn't name your outrage and sadness every time it rises up in your throat, you must be callous and unfeeling and yawning in the face of London.

A blog is not a person's whole being. The blogosphere is just a small, microcosmic part of your world. There's a whole lot happening in people's lives that you aren't privy to and that we aren't required to show you. To judge a person's reaction to a world event by what is or isn't on their blog says a lot more about you than the people you are trying to shame.

[Update: Please note that the complaints were not addressed at me personally, but to bloggers in general, and the complaints were issued at more than one blog, in several comment sections and in a couple of forums and no, I am not going to link to them. They know who they are and if they see this, great, if not, oh well. I'm not going to lose sleep over their blog pissiness]


So am I to infer that someone gave you grief because you did not have this topic all over this blog? Geez,Do I want to even take the time to figure out what kind of projection that entails? Even being the short bus kind of guy that I am I know that TCP is the plave for that kind of coverage. I don't feel guilty for spending some time at some more "frivolous" sites yesterday, thank goodness I have both the time for and the accessability to some comic relief.
Rock on Ms M!

Beautiful post. I would just add one thing:

The reactions of the Brits themselves has been so laid-back, so taking-it-in-stride that getting publically worked up almost seems...disrespectful? Does that make sense? I don't knwo how to really put this feeling into words, I just knwo that I am impressed and inspired by this very British "Oh, what, that little old explosion?" attitude I'm seeing from everyone I knwo over there.

They've made some declarative statements of intent. The powers that be have clearly stated they want to hunt down some terrorists. And it seems the people just want to get back to being excited about the Olympics, and I say good for them.

mbruce - not me personally. Bloggers in general.

As a side note, can someone explain to me why I can't properly spell the word "know?" :)

Michele: I agree with what you are saying but maybe we are a little desensitized. I just heard someone quote a poll that says only 35% of people think their will be another terrorist attack in America. While I am sure that it is higher the closer you get to New York, maybe a little outrage will convince people to keep their eyes open. It isn't a question of "if" just "when" and "where."

[JimK: You might try using TinySpell if the constant "bonk" of misspelled words won't drive you as crazy as it does me. :)]

I'm still sorting through my hatemail.

It's good to be an infidel.

I'm the lucky one; I'm 1500 miles from home and nobody expects me to cover anything more complicated than the smell of the hotel room (which, if you've ever been in a pre-1960s barber shop, you'd recognize instantly).

Beautiful post.

Interestingly enough, most of my London area blog friends are stoic and calm regarding the events of yesterday. Accustomed, resilient, unflappable. The vast majority of the outrage I've been seeing has been from the Arab nations, courtesy of the Global Voices blog. I find this an oddly encouraging and comforting thing.

The people who sing loudest in church are therefore the holiest. Same principle.

Great post.

There really doesn't seem to be much to say -- although you have my unbounded respect for saying that in so many words.

As disturbing as it is I think this is indicative of how much these events have become part of the landscape. I'm afraid that many are coming to view these events the way we see tornadoes and plane crashes and chalk them to scary shit happening in an increasingly uncertain world.

While expressing sympathy for the victims it seems pointless to write another diatribe pointing out that terrorists are murderous assholes. We know this already and it seems to me that there are more productive ways to improve our lot than writing the same weblog post over and over again. It's the same people each time doing it for the same misguided reasons, only the names of the victims change.

Most of us have problems of our own and it strikes me as foolish to roam about the blogs and media sites working up a healthy dose of outrage to share with your readers, readers who all agree with you anyway. I don't need a weblog to get angry at cowardly murderers and there is something distasteful about the self-congratulatory hubris of many bloggers when people are burying their loved ones.

One thing that has struck me about this whole ordeal is that the folks who are more upset about it...are Americans. Makes me wonder if we aren't just a bit too sheltered.

Another point I would add about political or news blogging is that you have to be fast. Unless they're super fast thinkers, poli-bloggers in general usually write down something that really hasn't been thought through enough.

BTW, well done on the post and well done at The Post.

The reactions of the Brits themselves has been so laid-back, so taking-it-in-stride that getting publically worked up almost seems...disrespectful?

I've noticed this too. I'm moving to Wales in less than three weeks (landing in London), so obviously their reaction to all this has been something I've paid particular attention to. I think— and an actual Brit may well refute me on this point —that having been bombed during WWII and occasionally during the Troubles has probably given Brits a more circumspect attitude about this kind of thing. Not having huge oceans protecting them on all sides, it seems they rather expect to get bombed during a war.

I put a 8.5 × 11 print of the Union Jack on my cubicle at work. Got lots of positive comments.

I have a flag mounted on one of the columns of my front porch. At one point, I thought about buying the flag of a country that was attacked, and flying it for a week or so. I gave up when I realized that I'd have to buy a bunch of flags. So, I flew my American flag instead.

I agree with two points listed above:
1. We're weary - it was a shock on 9/11 but the shock is wearing off day by day (including the bombings in Iraq).
2. It does seem a bit disrespectful to be MORE demonstrative than the Brits.

I can't understand why anyone got upset about who did or did not comment on the bombings. I found that between emails, phone calls and comments many Anglosphere bloggers got in touch with me over the course of the day. My thoughts on reflection I summed up here.

Outrage is overrated. You did a great job yesterday.

I've been longing for the return of British phlegm and stiff-upper-lipness to England; I'm glad to see that they can still do it. It gives me hope that they can stay the course, as well as being a relief from the state of over-emotionalistic displays of hysteria the rest of the world (I have to include most of our country in this indulgence, alas) seems to prefer.

Ah, the pleasures of being a small-time blogger. I didn't post any outrage I just posted a news-link or two and walked away from the topic....no outrage for my blog.

On a side note, I must admit that I often miss that political side of you Michele, but I certainly understand why you aren't blogging politically anymore.

I still read ASV almost every day....almost because my job here in Baghdad takes more and more time out of my blog reading every day.

As I've said before, I'll say again, you're still one of the best bloggers I read, in my humble opinion.

The British weren't just bombed during WWII - they were bombed on a continuous, daily, unrelenting basis for months on end. I suspect they'll handle whatever al Qaeda or any other terrorist outfit manages to throw at them...

London will survive and emerge stronger...it always does. I am proud at how my city has handled this attrocious attack.


Let me add to those who have already posted. Excellent coverage at TCP (which I directed my readers to) and your post succinctly covers the rest.

Within a few weeks of 9/11 (and then after Beslan, Bali, et al) it's quite apparent that the blogsphere is not going to have a monolythic reaction. There are those that "get it" (the root cause of terror = jihadism) and those that don't/won't (the "blame GW & Blair" crowd). No amount of blogging outrage from the former is every going to convince the latter. So the former offer their sympathies, thoughts, prayers and support; cover the story and temper the outrage.

And the latter go into the basement to work on the papier-mâché giant puppets.

Darleen, while I see what you are getting at, it truly misses the point of my post. This isn't about left/right. It's about a couple of people - right wing bloggers - wondering where the mass outrage from their political counterparts is. And I saw plenty of sympathy, thoughts and prayers from left/democrat bloggers. I can name at least 20 left leaning blogs right off the top of my head that did so. Maybe you aren't looking in the right places. There's more to the left than DU. Or maybe you just see things in a strictly left/right sense, even when it's not about that at all.

Very well written, Michele. I was going to write something about this myself; now I don't have to. Why bother when you've done it perfectly?



Certainly there were liberal blogs that blogged sympathy..did I say different? You're right, this is not a left/right issue and I didn't say it was in my post. Certainly far-righties like the indecent Buchannan and others of his ilk don't "get it" anymore than DU'ers (and there were individual DUers that were trying to talk sense ... and Markos has tried to at least clean up his site of the more eggregious conspiracy mongers). Left/right certainly HAS united under certain things like the FEC stuff.

My only point is/was that those who understand "it" know convincing those who do not is in the "slim to none" category ...so why waste the energy shouting? We can just be more constructive in other ways.

Sorry if I wasn't being as clear as could have been.