The August 2012 issue of Civil War Times magazine includes a letter from yours truly commenting on Prof. Gary Gallagher’s Blue & 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 bloggers, any more than they would be if applied, as they can and should, to books and authors. However, I did find G’s implication (though it may simply have been my inference) that somehow the blogosphere can, in light of his criticism, be safely ignored by “serious” historians to be wrong-headed. As happens often in magazines, my letter was edited to fit the space available, so I present the original version below:
As a Civil War blogger, I read with interest Gary Gallagher’s “Blue & Gray” column in the June 2012 issue of Civil War Times. I found it to be a molehill with lofty aspirations, if you will. Dr. G. sums up his position: “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.” In other words, the content of the blogs taken as a whole is uneven. As both a consumer and reviewer of Civil War books, I can say the same thing about the print world, including university presses. There’s a lot of crap out there. Unlike print media, with most blogs the comments feature helps to keep the blogger honest, correct errors of fact, and facilitate an organic research process that can be wonderful to behold. Consumers have a responsibility to separate the wheat from the chaff in any case. Anyone researching the American Civil War – or any topic, for that matter – can only ignore what is published in “non-traditional” formats at their peril. Just because they didn’t read it doesn’t change the fact that it has been written. Adaptation is the key to survival.