Oh Boy….

21 03 2012

Today I received the June 2012 issue of Civil War Times magazine. At the top of the cover: Why Gary Gallagher Doesn’t Trust Civil War Bloggers. So that’s where I went straight away – Gallagher’s Blue & Gray column. It turns out the teaser on the cover misrepresents the content of Gallagher’s piece. Sure, he takes nameless bloggers to task for transgressions ranging from saying not-so-nice-things about Gallagher to spending too much time debating “non-issues” like black Confederates (note I’ve included that tag on this post, as I can always use the hits). But the overall tenor of the piece is that the content of blogs is uneven. Gallagher ends with this:

Overall, my limited engagement with the Civil War blogging world has left me alternately informed, puzzled and, on occasion, genuinely amused. I suspect these are common reactions to the mass of valuable information and unfiltered opinion that crowd the multitude of blogs out there.

That sounds a lot like my own thoughts regarding books on the Civil War. In fact, I think you can replace the words “Civil War blogging” in the first sentence and “blogs” in the last and insert just about anything in their place and you’d have an assessment of equal applicability.

Read Kevin Levin’s thoughts here. He has a dog in the fight, so to speak.

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15 responses

21 03 2012
Ted Savas

Overall, my extensive engagement with the Civil War first draft manuscripts written by some of the leading scholars of the field has left me alternately informed, puzzled and, on occasion, genuinely amused. I suspect these are common reactions to the mass of valuable information and unfiltered opinion (and sheer crapola) that crowd the multitude of manuscripts out there.

tps

22 03 2012
Harry Smeltzer

That’s the spirit, Ted!

21 03 2012
Drew Wagenhoffer

Considering the digs he inserted into his McClellan column from an issue or two ago, we know GG’s read the “Civil War Bookshelf” at least once or twice.

22 03 2012
Harry Smeltzer

I think he refers to CWB again in this column, without naming names.

22 03 2012
News and Notes: March 22, 2012 « Crossroads

[...] on blogging in Civil War Times, and, as one might have anticipated, two bloggers (Kevin Levin and Harry Smeltzer) have already devoted some attention to what Gary has to say.  Having not read the article, I [...]

22 03 2012
Patrick Young

Gee wiz. For any lay person studying the war, the excellent work of people like Harry Smeltzer and several dozen other bloggers have placed access to archive materials, informed opinions, and exciting discussions within easy reach. What I’ve found on Bull Runnings alone has completely reinvigorated my own interest interest in Bull Run. Really outstanding stuff that goes far beyond what all but an academic researcher could have read just a decade ago.

23 03 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks Patrick.

23 03 2012
David L

Your comment is true onlyif you look at the larger world of CW publishing where lots and lots of drek can be found. The thing is, we all know who the reputable publishers are, and the work that they put out is generally of the informative type.

Indeed Ted Savas makes an unintentional argument for the reason the blogosphere is amusing or puzzling and full of “crapola” – there are no editors and reviewers making sure that what people put out there as history is, indeed history, and worth putting out there as opposed to informed and uninformed opinion.

23 03 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Hi David. The larger world of Civil War publishing, as you point out, is full of “drek”. And you also point out that, for various reasons, the larger world of Civil War blogging is full of drek. And just as “we” are all aware of who the “reputable” publishers are, “we” are also well aware of who the “reputable” bloggers are. There’s a learning curve in both cases, and rather than travel it some folks would rather just not get on the path. They prefer to “throw the babies out with the bathwater.” Also, as the comments feature on most blogs proves, there is no shortage of reviewers and editors in the blogosphere – many more than in the print publishing world. And the critiques are out there for the world to see.

23 03 2012
Ted Savas

Just to be clear, my reply was a tongue-in-check twist on the original phrasing, turned back against the traditional print publishing world.

One of the most eyebrow-raising aspects of publishing I stumbled across when I began was the downright pathetic shape of some manuscripts submitted by authors with, shall we say, well-recognized names in the business. Some of these guys I was reading when I was a teenager; others only in the last decade or so. We have turned several titles into awardwinners with my own publishing house because of the work I or one of my editors personally puts into it. What is certain is that these “authors” had amazing editors at other presses who labor in obscurity to make them look good to the CW reading public.

As Bob Krick once told me, “Some people can write well and not research a damn, some are great researchers but can’t turn a phrase to save their lives, and a few can do both.” Bob is so right. And as I have also discovered, most of those who can’t write think they can, and love to take credit for it.

23 03 2012
David L

I was well aware that Ted Savas was being humorous in his post, but he has once again made my point for me. The blogoshere is overly full of useless and incompetent junk. I know that I can avoid what I want to avoid, but there are times when the comments sections for posting go on and on and on about unimportant/ill-informed opinions (much as I am about to do here). As you and I have discussed in person, I am of the proud luddite tradition, althopugh I am trying to be more open-minded about the blogosphere. It’s very hard to do, however, when even the reputable bloggers start to take on a “holier-than-thou” self-important tone. It can all be very off-putting and exhausting.

23 03 2012
Harry Smeltzer

Just in case my original thoughts are being obscured, the main thrust of my commentary is that Gallagher’s column really doesn’t say much. Other than the airing of his grievances in three (I think it was three) specific cases, there’s not much there there. He says you can find good and bad stuff on Civil War blogs. OK. Nothing to get bent out of shape about there, is there? That’s something we could say about anything. You can find good movies and bad movies on TV. You can get good food and bad food in restaurants. If we think there is some sort of superior quality control in any one field of endeavor we’re going to be very disappointed eventually. I’m reading a lousy book from the U of Alabama Press right now. Fer Chrissakes, I’m published!

23 03 2012
Kevin Levin (@KevinLevin)

“The blogoshere is overly full of useless and incompetent junk.”

The Internet is full of worthless websites, but that is not a reason not to use it. As you rightly point out, there are ways to sift through the crap. That is exactly what we should be teaching in our classrooms.

23 03 2012
Ted Savas

David. I am not doing anything unintentionally.

24 05 2012
Letter to CWT on Gary Gallagher on CW Bloggers « Bull Runnings

[...] Gray column in the preceding issue. The letter was pretty much a recap of thoughts I wrote about here. I really don’t think Gallagher’s “criticisms” were harsh on blogs and [...]

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