June 22, 2007

Digby 1, Beale 0. (Or, She's Mad As Hell And She's Still Not Taking It Anymore!)

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As long as I’ve known … her, Digby has never left anything on the table.

If no blogger is more consistent on a day-by-day, paragraph-for-paragraph and even word-for-word basis, the speech she gave at her “unveiling” at the Take Back America Conference this week was simply an elevated example of her gift for hitting a target with the utmost precision.  In the name of progressive bloggers everywhere, she explained what we do, why we exist, and how we came to be in the clearest, most exact, and most exacting terms.

But you can read all about the speech from superlative textual bloggers, like Glen Greenwald.  In this house, it’s mostly about the picture — which is what Digby gave us on Tuesday, with purpose.

As she explained to Joan Walsh at Salon:

“There wasn’t any real plan to ‘come out’ but when Rick Perlstein approached me about this I felt it was an important moment for the progressive blogosphere, and I knew that it would be a good use of my (otherwise useless) mystique.

Digby’s comment reveals two points in her thinking, both consistent with her impeccable instincts.

First, her revealing herself represents one more step in the rising visibility of the blogosphere.  Like it or not, we are a personality-driven culture.  To let herself be seen — to put a face to the name, and a face to the words … as well as to extinguish any last fantasy that Digby starred in “Network” — was to play an ace she’d been holding to further boost the sphere’s maturation.

Second, with “Decision ’08” starting to acquire shape, the radical right still drunkenly stumbling around and the ‘roots starting to really, well, sink roots, the hour was perfect.  Said Digby (in this brief interview on the TBA Conference blog):

I don’t think people have heard the progressive argument explicitly in a long time, not filtered through the right wing and the conventions of their media and interpreted by the mainstream media. … I think there is a new political debate that has opened up at a very propitious time for us as a result of the unfortunate failure of the conservative project under George W. Bush, and let’s just say there will never be another time like this one.

The other point, yes, has to do with gender, which makes me wonder if Digby is toying with us, or maybe not fully appreciative of what she casually dismissed as her “useless mystique.”  (And yes, this presuming blogger had it wrong also, and I — from our email relationship — thought I knew … her.)

In any case, I enjoyed this encapsulation of the issue from a reader named melthough on Joan Walsh’s blog.  She (or he) writes:

We donated a small amount to the blog a year or so ago, and when we got a thank you note, I thought to myself, “Wow! What an exceptionally nice man!”

When I read people’s praise of her elsewhere (including Glenn Greenwald’s), I thought, “AWWWW.” Not exactly the reaction I would expect to have if Digby had “come out” as male; that would have been more of a mental power fist, I expect. It matters to me very much that Digby is a woman – both at an unconscious level, apparently, and at a conscious level. Most of us, despite our high-minded desires and ideals, still have different basic attitudes toward and expectations of men and women, and this was a little lesson for me in that fact. Also, I agree that having a strong voice – a voice many assumed was a man’s because it is so aggressively analytical and so smart – that turns out to be a woman’s voice is totally cool. I don’t care about the intellectual arguments and politics on that score. It just makes me happy. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

I share the hope, repeated up and down in various discussion threads over the past few days, that Digby will reflect on, and will blog about this fascinating social enactment.  Personally, I think the loss of the “mystique” is actually a tremendous gain. Not only have our gender assumptions been tested and exposed; and not only has the blogosphere gained another influential women; and not only has a blow been struck against the stereotyping of strength (and tone, and written voice); but clearly, nobody can read Digby again without the now verifiable confirmation that she speaks to, and for, all of us.

And finally, what a treat to view every last frame of that marvelous speech through the Hullabaloo in my old “mind’s eye.”  In this inspired person’s expressions and gestures, the reading experience — the humor, the outrage, the “flat out” confidence, the gotcha, the subtle aside — was suddenly all so animated.

Digby, with all the passion and reverence you have for words, you have also encouraged me so much with your regard for pictures.  With that in mind, all I can say is: What a pleasure to see you!

Digby’s speech here

(screen shots: Take Back America Conference via Google Video)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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