Declaration of Independence
Swans sing before they die; ’twere no bad thing
Did certain persons die before they sing.
— SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
According to a popular poetic image, which goes back to the days of ancient Greece and Rome, swans are mute their entire lives and sing one song before they die. We know that’s not true, but the image of a Swan Song remains.
Logarchism.com, and its predecessors 538refugees.com and the “old”, pre–New-York-Times FiveThirtyEight blog, all gave us an opportunity to sing a song about politics. We’ve enjoyed the opportunity. Everything, however, has a season, and the season of Logarchism now draws to a close.
Behind the scenes, Michael Weiss and DC Petterson and I have been discussing where we want to go with this blog.
We began with four — filistro, as was her wont, bowed out quietly and with grace some months ago, with her last article finally being published this past weekend — and roughly 1,200 posts and 58,000 comments later, Logarchism has come to an end.
I will miss working with DC, filistro, and Michael. They have been friends, confidants, my band of brothers.
Every morning at 3 am (Pacific time), a new thought or news snippet or observation would appear when you typed “logarchism” into a browser window. I’m proud of our track record. After filistro downgraded her role as blog author, we divided up the week into Friday Open Mic and six remaining days. Monday and Thursday were mine, unless one of us had something more immediate, or if we had the occasional guest author.
I don’t think we missed a single self-imposed deadline during the last two years or so. We did scramble a few times, but most of the time it was technical glitches that did us in, as well as some mysterious Other Force on the same servers that would occasionally give us a sort of logistical brownout.
We envisioned a place where conservatives and liberals could hang out, smoke a few non-hazardous virtual cigars and sip non-alcoholic virtual brandy, and discuss the events of the day (mostly) calmly and rationally. Hence the name, which Michael (a word wizard among wizards) coined.
We tried everything we knew (short of missing deadlines) to make such a place. It just wasn’t to be. Our conservative commentators are nowhere to be seen (though they still silently visit with regularity). There is plenty to disagree about amongst the liberals who remain, but it’s not what I imagined it would be. I will continue to flit between the comments section of political blogs, on the left and right, libertarian and authoritarian, and sing my song.
I’ve posted under a pseudonym all along because I’m a state employee, and I want to keep a (admittedly thin) wall between this and that. But most of you know my “true identity”, and I’d like to stay in touch in whatever way you feel is appropriate. Contact me.
I have been honored to work with my fellow contributors on this blog. Michael and Monotreme and filistro are incredibly patient and bright people. Classy, too. I have frequently felt outmatched, like a high school football player spending time with the Vikings. I have nothing but good words and high praise for them all.
Producing two articles a week — as a hobby, not a profession — is more daunting and draining that anyone who hasn’t done it can possibly appreciate. What has made it worthwhile are you, our Gentle Readers, who comment and debate and challenge, and contribute your ideas and your passion and your discoveries. I have grown quite fond of all of you, even the ones with whom I am almost always at loggerheads. I am pleased beyond words whenever a new moniker appears that I don’t recognize, or when an old friend resurfaces after have been absent from the discussions for a few months.
The four of us each have our own areas of expertise and particular topics upon which we tend to concentrate. We also each have distinctive styles. I think that has added a variety and diversity to our experiment that a blog with a single columnist couldn’t hope to achieve. We’ve tried a number of times to get conservative bloggers to regularly contribute as well. We never found one willing to do so, though we have had some excellent guest articles from a couple of our conservative commenters. I’m grateful to them for their efforts.
Politics is a passionate activity — and no wonder, for it touches sometimes some of the most intimate and varied aspects of our lives, from the bedroom to the boardroom, from the dinner plate to the collection plate, and from vocations to vacations. I’m pleased to say I think we had a better ratio of reason to passion than most blogs. I’ve also been awed at the quality and thoughtfulness behind the commentary from our readers. Too many amateur blogs consist primarily of a daily or weekly rant followed by a series of one-liners from rabid followers. At least the one-liners posted here were almost always clever and informed. I put even those more than a notch above what’s commonly found elsewhere on the web.
There are things I meant to do, but didn’t. A series on the Dead Sea Scrolls, or a discussion of John Kennedy’s assassination and why I’m convinced it was almost certainly not the work of a single gunman — those two topics rise high on my list. It’s always a judgment call, weighing personal interest against what may generate discussion. I’m fascinated too by the religious and technological implications of politics, and the political implications of religion and technology. America is America because we approach these issues (and others) in such unique ways, yet much of that is so instinctual that it goes unnoticed. A light should be shone there.
The end of Logarchism will certainly leave a hole in my life. The most gratifying and humbling part of doing this has been that there are those who have found our efforts worth reading and discussing. I’d like to find a way to continue some of what we tried here to do. Perhaps I’ll create an independent blog, less ambitious than Logarchism, or an email list through which this community of commenters can continue to converse.
To what end might we do the things we do, the things we have done, and the things we dare to dream? One can never know how far the ripples reach in the pond once you’ve dropped the stone. Some of those ripples can long outlive the hand that caused them. If living has any purpose at all, it is in the journey and the effort. This block is a tiny stone in a vast pond; but Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Wherever any of you go next, keep that always in mind. Strive ever toward your highest ideals. I hope we have helped to enrich your lives, to stimulate your minds, and to provide meal for the mills of thought. It has been an honor to know you all. Thank you for reading, for writing, and for caring, for your passion and your thought and your loyalty, your dedication and your honesty. Onward to the next challenge!
I was blessed, as a latecomer to the group. I was late to FiveThirtyEight, joining as a lurker late in the 2008 Presidential election season. I was really late as a commenter, breaking my silence a mere few weeks before the New York Times handover. I made the jump to the now-dormant 538refugees, and offered a couple of guest articles.
And I was honored with an offer to become a permanent contributor, the only one who had yet to be published in the non-blog world. The team I joined was made up of really powerful writers. The quality of their work pushed me to write better. And we developed quite the camaraderie.
In the early days, the article titles were almost entirely mine. I aimed for them to be short, reflective of the article, and contain as many interpretations as possible. It is a testament to the quality of Logarchism’s regular writers that I rarely had to come up with a title over the past year. In fact, I daresay Monotreme has surpassed me in that arena.
At the time that I joined, I knew I had much to say — many things I wanted to get off my chest. Moreover, I wanted the chance to see if my ideas were crazy. Could they pass the test of analysis by other political thinkers? Could I maintain internal consistency, and intellectual honesty?
Most of all, could I learn something new, and evolve my opinions without digging in my heels in an act of partisan demagoguery?
I haven’t been perfect by any means, but I have evolved. I’ve learned new things. I’ve discovered a great deal along the way. And I’ve met some remarkable people. Logarchism got noticed more than many of our readers realize. I have been contacted by members of the press, a couple of household names, and some who were the subjects of articles. None of that would have happened without Logarchism.
But I also got tired. As I approached 30 months of writing, mediating disputes, handling technical issues — and all as a hobby — I found myself putting off writing. I began to spend more time away from Logarchism. I began to spend more time away from politics. This became particularly true as Inauguration Day passed this year.
Oh, sure, there were Supreme Court cases being argued. More battles in Congress. Special elections. A round of scandals, some more manufactured than others. And I wrote about them. But I found that I was writing about them more because I had a deadline than because I was so enthusiastic to write about them.
In other words, my hobby had become an unpaid job.
And that’s not fair. It’s not fair to me, because I’m cheating myself out of hobby time that should be used for things that make me excited to do them. It’s not fair to my wife, who has put up with all of the time I spent at Logarchism instead of with her, but did so because she knew it was a hobby that I loved. And it’s not fair to you, our loyal readers, who deserve better. When I’m not excited, I’m not delivering my best, and you should get my best if you take the time and trouble to visit this corner of the Internet.
The past 30 months have been an amazing ride for me. I’ve met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’ve grown, and learned so much. Not just about politics, but also about people.
It takes an amazing amount of effort to run a blog of this sort. Most blogs consist of a single person who throws words onto a page and moves on. Logarchism has always had multiple authors. But, more importantly, Logarchism has always had a vibrant social interaction among the readers. That’s always been my favorite facet of this blog, and one that makes it more engaging than most. But that also means that this isn’t a small island dictatorship. Instead, we’ve always had complex social interactions among people with different backgrounds and viewpoints. Politics inspires passion, and passion inspires heated discussion, and heated discussions can easily get out of hand. It has been extraordinarily difficult to achieve the right balance between allowing everyone to speak their mind and maintaining respectful discourse.
Having been on both sides, I can assure you that it’s far harder to get the balance right than it ever looks from the other side. It has, in fact, proven to be the most difficult challenge of all. More difficult than protecting the site from spam and malicious attacks (both of which happen literally thousands of times a day). More difficult than keeping the site available. More difficult than writing, editing, and publishing the content. It’s among the most difficult tasks I’ve ever undertaken.
Also among the most difficult tasks is walking away from something into which I’ve put so much time, heart, and soul. But now it’s time for me to step away. My email address here will live for some time to come, though, so you can feel free to reach out to me if you’d like. I’d love to hear from you.
And so the time has come for us to wave a collective adieu. Thanks to all of you for the thought-provoking conversation, and the laughter, and the (fortunately virtual) fisticuffs. We will miss you all.