Reflections on the 2010s: Blogging


Originally written, Dec. 31, 2019, to commemorate the close of the decade; post expanded, Jan. 5, 2020

This post continues some reflections on the decade now ending. Unlike the previous post, Reflections on the 2010s: Political, this one focuses narrowly on this blog itself and on the political blogosphere generally.

Reflections on this blog

Hail To You, published as a labor-of-love by me, E.H. Hail, was born as a political blog in the first year of this decade (late in 2010), and was at its height between 2011 and 2015. If a single year of peak ‘active’ activity must be chosen it is probably 2012. (I would distinguish ‘active’ activity from ‘passive’ activity, with the latter meaning people cruising in from searches, and/or the secondary use of material like charts, graphs, images, or information that was originally published here on other websites, reports, forums, blogs, and/or social media.)

This blog was successful in its own small way in the 2010s, and earned a place in the network diagram of dissident-right blogs developed in 2013:

map-dark-enlightenment.png

Diagram of political bloggers supposedly inhabiting a network around various nodes (“Visualizing Neoreaction“); by Schalach of the blog Habitable Worlds, April 2013

You can find Hail To You there around the Ethno-Nationalist node, along with significantly bigger players like VDare, Occidental Dissent, and American Renaissance, as well as M.G. Miles’ Those Who Can See. I have long linked to all of these. A more comprehensive diagram focused specifically on this node could have been much bigger still. I would certainly have added many. One I’d like to highlight is fantastic Race/History/Evolution Notes (or RaceHist). (A sidenote on RaceHist: An academic, he had both the good combination of the right background and the moral courage to publish a lot of good things; I note especially his pushback against Mencius Moldbug’s perhaps-in-bad-faith theories about who caused the decline of the West.)

The nodes with proposed ties to the Ethno-Nationalist node are: Secular Traditionalists, HBD, and Masculinity (via Chateau Heartiste, who has been purged totally). The creator of this schematic proposed no ties between the Ethno-Nationalist and Christian Traditionalist nodes, which I would think worth considering. Other nodes in the network were: Femininity, Economists, Techno-Commercialists/Futurists, and Political Philosophy.

Anatoly Karlin noted in a June 2019 post (“From Blogosphere to Vlogosphere“) that the political-blogging ecosystem changed considerably in the course of the 2010s. It started the decade strong, vigorous, robust. It is ending it substantially weaker, with a great deal of energy shifting onto Twitter, Youtube (pre-purges, anyway), and elsewhere:

Many of the small, old school bloggers just stopped blogging. It was the digital venereal disease that is social media that killed them off more than anything else from around 2010.

To have a vigorous blogosphere, you need a tightly connected network of independent bloggers bouncing ideas and arguments off each other, but when 75% of them have migrated to Twitter, there’s no longer sufficient scope in the community to generate the vigorous and counter-argument on which the old blogosphere thrived.

I do not have a better explanation for the decline in blogging other than those offered by Karlin. See some thoughts below on Twitterization of discourse.

As for Karlin himself, he has still been blogging strong, and remains so through the end of the 2010s after relocating to the Unz Review, a regrouping point for many of those in the shattered network, with Ron Unz funding some.

I would add that the Unz Review‘s commentariat, which in most subsections is particularly good, is a partial reconstitution of the early-2010s-era dissident-right blogosphere. That is to say, a lot of the best commenters there make substantive comments and replies, partially and imperfectly (in some ways, more perfectly) re-creating the space inhabited by the small-time bloggers.

In my own case and this blog, I moved away from blogging due to increased time commitments related to other parts of my life, though I certainly never stopped reading and writing in other venues (not much on Twitter). I suspect others have done the same. Life circumstances change, and priorities change, inevitably and always. When I have had occasion to return to activity, blogging

On Other Bloggers

A review of some of the big bloggers in this network in the early 2010s and what they are up to as of the end of the 2010s.

The Ethno-Nationalist node. Perhaps the most dangerous node to be around, many of the smaller players linked to this node when the diagram was created in 2013 have since dropped away or been suppressed. Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance, which has an organizational apparatus dating back to the pre-Internet 1990s, is probably the biggest player here. There was a concerted political suppression effort directed against AmRen in the late 2010s, including full bans from platforms and payment processors. Occidental Dissent, now run solely by the longtime activist Hunter Wallace, is still blogging daily and has a loyal audience. VDare, a relatively well-funded operation and mainstay across the 2000s and 2010s, and surely one of the journalistic-activist vanguards for MAGA, is doing well, as far as I can tell. Spandrell (formerly Bloody Shovel) posts somewhat regularly to the blog but now much more frequently on Twitter.

Some other important figures, for some reason not included at the time the network schematic was created, are Counter Currents, Red Ice (see more on Red Ice below), and Paul Kersey. Counter Currents has survived and thrived since its founding in 2010 despite also being subject to serious politicized suppression efforts (less a blog in the common understanding; I have always thought Jonathan Bowden‘s characterization of CC as “right-wing university” was befitting; speaking of whom, Bowden, while not a blogger, attained great influence  and prestige in this network in the early 2010s before his untimely death in March 2012; I don’t know if the Internet quicksands will remember the name, or if people of the future will believe me, but Bowden was a big half of the decade, both before and after his death via his recordings). Paul Kersey achieved some notoriety for his blog Stuff Black People Don’t Like [SBPDL], originally a pun on the late-2000s-era Stuff White People Like [SWPL], the reference now probably lost on many. Kersey is also now hosted at the Unz Review, a re-grouping point for many. Ron Unz himself deserves great credit for his heroic efforts in the 2010s.

The Human Biodiversity [HBD] node. Of those listed in the 2013 network schematic, the popular HBD Chick now tweets but has offered no new, long-form posts in a while. Meng Hu stopped blogging in 2015; Jayman is also now in a state of defacto blogging retirement, but also tweets. Audacious Epigone, who now has three young children, blogs quite actively at the Unz Review and deleted his own Twitter some time back. I have lost track of Razib Khan, a figure whose trolling his own commenters always bothered me.

The latter and more magnanimous half of the pair Cochran & Harpending is deceased (Henry Harpending, 1944–2016, r.i.p.), but Dr. Cochran is still blogging at West Hunt, which roughly retains its strong activity-level of the early 2010s. Education Realist is still actively blogging, with a regular readership perhaps steady in size over the 2010s. Half Sigma, a big player at the start of the decade, quit at the end of 2012 for reasons I do not know. Charles Murray is still very much active, but it’s unclear whether he was ever a “blogger,” as such, at all. I am sure he would disavow the ‘network.’

Peter Frost, though still blogging, has become rather less active. Whereas he made one post a week between 2008 and 2014, in the period 2015–2019 he made an aggregate total of 121 posts, or 24 per year. He occasionally adds an insightful comment at the Unz Review.

The King of the HBD bloggers (also known by some as America’s Best Journalist) is and remains Steve Sailer. You might say he wrote the book on the subject; in fact, he coined the term HBD.

On Steve Sailer’s influence over two decades. One of the most prolific and successful dissident political bloggers of all time, Sailer’s blog (iSteve) must inevitably be a major point on anyone’s HBD blogosphere diagram, and has been so for the entirety of the decades of the 2000s and 2010s. I hope he has a lot more in him for the 2020s and 2030s before he retires. He’ll turn 80 in 2039. For the present in the West, even 80 is not that old. To coin a phrase, Hail to you, Steve Sailer.

Steve Sailer blog readership. Sailer’s blog-readership numbers are worth a further word. He has a core group of readers and commenters, drawn I presume nearly entirely from the IQ110+ set, with many in the IQ130+ range; these are also people heavily of the political and activist classes; in other words, multiply the below numbers by at least one, maybe even two, orders of magnitude to get a ballpark idea of effective political strength (that is to say, one Sailer reader is surely worth more than ten apolitical, pop-music fans).

As far as I can tell, Sailer’s more-or-less daily readers number in the mid or high thousands; his semi-regular readers number in the low tens of thousands on his main blog at the Unz Review alone (he relocated to Unz in June 2014, abandoning the old iSteve.com [late 1990s(?) to mid 2000s] and isteve.blogspot.com [late 2000s to 2014]). These numbers represent only a portion of his direct reach, as he is also published or re-published elsewhere; his influence-net is wide. For blogging standards, those numbers are impressive, I’d argue they are equivalent to a mainstream figure with hundreds of thousands of (largely low-info) core followers.

The Steve Sailer blog commentariat is also excellent; I consider it the best that blogging was at its height.

Steve Sailer’s output. He made an average of about 1,500 blog posts a year between 2013 and 2019, and as prolific as that output is, he gets dozens to hundreds of comments on each. Everyone in the broader network is aware of Steve Sailer, even if they don’t find the time to actively follow his blog on a daily basis.

— — —

A few others. An ironic note here is that the creator of that dissident-right network diagram in 2013, Scharlach, himself hung up his hat on blogging in mid-2015.

Christian-Traditionalist node. Vox Day is going strong, and given his consistently good, daily commentary, I can see why. Visiting Vox Day’s blog is a trip back to the heydey of dissident-right political blogging, and I mean that in the best way. Thank you, Vox Day, wherever you are (somewhere in France, I believe).

Lawrence Auster, a fantastic essayist and commentator, is deceased (died March 2013; cancer), a great loss. Another on the Christian-Traditionalist node, Dalrock, is still going strong with what looks like a robust readership. Bruce Charlton is blogging more than ever. I don’t know much about Dr. Chartlon, though I have sometimes read him; he is a British academic who was often in trouble for controversial publishing. At least similar, then, on two points to Dr. James Thompson, who I have followed the past few years since his move to the Unz Review.

Another notable survivor who was active in the early 2010s and remained consistently through 2019, is John Derbyshire, whose main outlet is VDare (see also archive at the Unz Review). He is notable because he was purged from the National Review in spring 2012, and his blogging, if we can call it that, is more a continuation of his 2000s-era journalism career.

I am a Derbyshire fan. I find him to be a consistently good commentator, and despite tending to write on the same topics, has a way of offering up fresh insights in a fearless way. Possibly what I perceive here as his comparative advantage in writing and commentary is his British contrarianism, applied to a US scene whose commentators tend to be more hamstrung by folksiness.

The 2012 purge, which I remember as a shock that made waves at the time and elicited some pessimism, is an example of the bad thing that turns good. Bad that he was fired; good that he was able to write with a freer hand thereafter. It’s the Internet (and not China) — he can still write and publish. I hope we have him for many years to come.

— — —

So there you have an overview of what some others on the right side of the cordon sanitaire have been up to.

What say the enforcers of the cordon sanitaire (breached in the mid-late 2010s, a historic occurrence, on which I reflect at some length in “Reflections on the 2010s: Political;” it was a development in part made possible by the efforts of the dissident figures discussed above, among many others)?

In early Dec. 2016, several weeks after the stunning Trump victory, an exasperated and almost histrionic Jonah Goldberg said the following at an American Enterprise Institute event:

The challenge is that when Bill Buckley was editor of the magazine [National Review], you could shun the John Birch Society. There were just only so many outlets to the mainstream media. And now, this sort of Balkanized, huge digital world — They’re going to have platforms, there are going to be cynical people who use them for clickbait, which is what Steve Bannon did […]

[What] we should be doing is drawing a very bright line around them [core Trump supporters]! And say, “They’re not part of us. They do not share our ideas. They do not share our agenda. It’s an existential thing. They want to destroy us; why would be want them in our coalition? …”

These are lines from a four-minute-long, animated, paranoic, anti-Trump, anti-Trump-supporter diatribe Goldberg delivered, with a generous amount of gesticulation, at this formal event in late 2016, as co-panelist Ramesh Ponnuru looked on shyly and giving sympathy chuckles when Goldberg crescendoed. Goldberg was clearly worried.

Yet there is something in his words which I find to be a continuation of common attitude by the opinion-shaping, “gatekeeper” elite towards blogging that had coalesced already by the mid 2000s. Perhaps this attitude had not fundamentally changed (as of late 2016, anyway), even with the major changes the 2010s saw to the nature of outsider publishing (“Twitterization,” the rise of the Youtube celebrity, etc).

The nuances of the Twitterization of discourse and the move to video-blogging were lost on Goldberg. For Goldberg, all non-centrally-controlled  (cordon-sanitaire‘d) right-wing publishing is, presumably, equally worrying; it all must be a part of the worst kind dark, nefarious plot, somewhere out there, waiting to round up everyone named Goldberg…

— — —

On video-blogging and video-based [Youtube] discussions as displacer of independent text-blogging

There is no question that the migration away from regular, open, independent text-blogging has occurred.

By the latter years of the 2010s, there were quite a few dissident-right-sphere types who were not only entirely on Youtube, but who were earning a living from it. I think some of these have done excellent work, even if nearly always inferior to or less-efficient than well-done text; the market one has to play to is at a much lower level.

I have heard one of these people, a major, high-profile figure especially in the 2016–2017 period, complain that “the movement is now entirely on Youtube” doing self-absorbed conversations. In other words, not much of a political movement.

On Tweeting as a magnet for political energies, 2010 vs. 2019

Tweeting, in early 2010, was still a fringe “platform” (and I believe the term “platform” as used by 2019, either did not exist yet or was particularly uncommon as of 2010; the Internet was, alas, still considerably less platformized, and the term Big Tech likewise had not yet been coined). Twitter in 2010 occupied a space something like Snapchat did in the late 2010s: Something new, cool, and not in widespread use, something people thought didn’t have real value beyond the coolness aspect, something neat that wasn’t going anywhere.

With ten years of perspective, we can say the Twitter-skeptics were both wrong and right. Wrong in that Twitter did go somewhere; right in that Twitter is of low overall value.

Political Twitter is the nationalization/digitization of the practice of yelling at one’s TV screen, and the assembling of cheerleading squads around the windows of people who yell most creatively, waiting for the next case of yelling at the TV so they can cheer in unison. TV-yeller fan clubs.

So count me among those who thinks Twitter, as a medium, is inherently no good for extended commentary and idea sharing. It excels at efficiently delivering one-liners, eliciting snickers, trolling, and other questionably-healthy behaviors; reading or finding/referencing ideas tweet discussions will always be difficult because of the nature of the medium.

But there is another problem, imposed from above: Twitter-commentators are easily subject to purges, having funneled themselves into a single medium controlled by a single company with self-conscious ties to power. Waves of bans can and do happen, in a more regular and comprehensive way than with blogs.

— — —

On political suppression by ‘Big Tech’

Karlin points out that a lot more energy has shifted to video bloggers. He has a rather pessimistic reading on that phenomenon, though many of his commenters pushed back against him on that in various ways.

One thing is for sure: A monetized, video-based movement is at much larger risk of takedown.

Many of the bigger players, both text-bloggers but moreso the newer crop of video bloggers, have been taken down, either targeted for site-takedowns, or targeted financially, or otherwise. Most of the rest of us are “on the list” somewhere.

A major player to mention here is Red Ice (formerly Red Ice Radio). In the 2010s, Red Ice transitioned from audio to video, partly “vlogging” and partly running a kind of dissident news channel. Red Ice came under intense pressure from Big Tech by the late 2010s, and by the end of the decade received they received a full life-ban on Youtube and elsewhere.

Run by husband and wife Henrik (of Sweden) and Lana (American), who welcomed two children into the world in the 2010s, Red Ice regularly racked up hundreds of thousands of views on many of its videos. Their production team broadcast ethno-nationalist events live in the mid-2010s peak.

I don’t know how much the bans have effected their audience; I assume overall views are way down, but they still have loyal financial contributors and there is always solace in “quality” of views over “quantity.”

Thank you, Henrik and Lana; we all wish you and your two young children well and applaud your decade-long efforts.

— — —

On the suppression of Hail To You.

On the now-well-known strategy used by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others to suppress search results for certain websites, Youtube channels, or etc.: I have several data-based reasons to believe that this blog has been one of those targeted for partial suppression, that it was delisted from search results manually and knocked way down on rankings.

Some of my data indicates the change came in late August or early Sept. 2017. The algorithms were modified to achieve the desired suppression.  Hail To You‘s partial suppression is a minor thing, but might be instructive. More on this in a future post.

— — —

Content Life-Span: Text blogging vs. Social Media [Twitter, etc.]

There are a lot of reasons to lean pessimistic on political blogging, but I do think long-form text-blogging is worth it. An important reason is it is more likely to survive and be easily accessible for years to come. As I wrote in June 2019:

Consider also the problem of content life-span.

Even in the <20 years of the Internet's in-earnest existence in a today-recognizable form, an enormous quantity of information has come and gone, and is either totally lost, or as good as totally lost for being so hard to access. And I refer there mainly to text content. For various reasons, political content in video form is sure to have a much shorter life-span than text.

I have noticed a lot more “this video no longer exists,” after a matter of months or a few years, than the equivalent information-loss of text. That is, Youtube videos go down, never to come back up. As huge files, they are easy targets for opponents to take down (a high-profile example is the enormous archive of Alex Jones material [entirely deleted, Aug. 2018]). Re-posting is hard; gate-keeping is much easier.

Text is easier to deal with, and is sure to have a much longer life-span.

Say 100 units of political video and 100 units of political text are created in a year. Content loss of various kinds, including but not limited to direct suppression, may mean that at creation+365 days, 97 units of the text survives but only 80 of the video survives; extend this to five years maybe it’s down to text at 85 and video at 40, something like that, at least via original links.

An example. I regularly reference old text-blogging material from RaceHist’s highbrow material posted in the late 2000s and early 2010s. RaceHist is among those inactive in the past few years. The writer known as n/a at RaceHist was, though, an excellent researcher whose material is timeless; seldom or never did RaceHist deal in passing news-soundbites-of-the-day.

RaceHist’s material is accessible today, easily; had it all been on video, I think much of it would be gone. As it is text, I can easily still find all that material after ten years.

The content at this blog is also still accessible, though a lot of images have gone down (mos have been successfully replaced and re-hosted); I formerly used a free image-hosting service that closed my account for some reason unknown to me, another example of content-loss in action.

— — —

Final Thoughts

Hail To You was a successful project in the early-mid 2010s.

In the intervening years between the peak of activity here and this writing, the general trend has been away from open-website, text-based political blogging. The migration of political energies has been other, what are now called “platforms,” often with nominally larger audiences (positive?) but negative consequences in the nature of discourse for all involved.

As Anatoly Karlin put it, those [political bloggers] that haven’t died of social media AIDS have instead succumbed to mediocrity amidst the avalanche of YouTube bloggers.”

Hail To You may be fairly placed into the latter part of that formulation, as it sank into inactivity for most of the second half of the decade.

I am trying to remember my thought process on why. Did I see blogging was in decline and did I consciously run off from it? I don’t think that was it. Nor was there any single ‘Great Purge’ moment that scared those early-2010s-era people (me, in this case) off. I believe it was much more changing life circumstances and time/energy commitments. I believe many of the others who stopped blogging would say the same, and once you stop for a while, you tend to lose your core audience, reinforcing the pressure to stay quiet.

Turnover of that kind is surely natural. The difference is that new people did not emerge. New, incoming political-oriented people were all absorbed by the great Twitter-attention-sponge and the black hole known as Youtube, its content-to-time-commitment-needed ratio unfavorable and in some important ways a partial regression, a receding of the tide of Internet dissident political discourse.

We do see a strong survival of (written) political blogging associated with the Unz Review, of which I am a regular reader. This is a great credit to Ron Unz, and that the term “Unz Review” occurs multiple times throughout this post with reference to the situation ca.2019 is testament to his success. The pessimists are partly wrong: Some of the text-blogging of old still with us (and non-Twitterized), but in shifted form, and in no better place I know of can this be found than in the comments-sections at the Unz Review.

As for the many good commentators on the scene today on Twitter and YouTube (who are at serious risk of ban; see Red Ice’s lifeban and the many bannings from Twitter), I wonder whether it will be easy to find specific late-2010s tweets and the like they made by 2035? The 2030s? Even 2020, for that matter. I mean, it’s hard to even find tweets made last week; that, combined with the risk of account-deletion and several other things suggests not. Twitter is bad for political discourse on several fronts.

I believe there remains a place for blogging (by which I mean, specifically, publishing in text form on the open Internet, not a gatekeeper medium or chokepoints like Twitter or Facebook), in the new atmosphere, in terms of:

  1. Original research, or (more likely) presentation of existing data not otherwise published anywhere; (this as opposed to commentary, which is now entirely videoized and Twitterized);
  2. The firm recording of events that are otherwise much more likely to be (much sooner) “lost in the Internet quicksands” (Twitter is fast-acting quicksand);
  3. As an extension of (2), the recording of particularly good comments made in other venues, like the Unz Review. I would like to try to get back to this in the 2020s.

— — —

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5 Responses to Reflections on the 2010s: Blogging

  1. Pingback: Reflections on the 2010s: Political | Hail To You

  2. Hail says:

    This post has been updated.

    I would be curious if anyone from the Youtube side has a similar reflection up. The 2010s was the institutionalization of Youtube, for better and worse.

  3. Achmed E. Newman says:

    Hey Hail, A.E.Newman here with a request.

    Could I paste in (in it’s entirety and with full attribution) your comment under the (current) most recent post of iSteve on the Kung Flu?

    This is the comment I am referring to:

    https://www.unz.com/isteve/how-long-to-shut-down-lets-procrastinate-on-making-that-decision/#comment-3796463

    I had thought it would be up as a post on Hail to You but I don’t see it up.

    Thanks. You can reply on any unz comment of mine with an OK, or I’d rather not.

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