Still Blogging After All These Years

Five years ago today—so my wife Laura tells me; I had thought we’d reached this point a couple of weeks ago—this blog was launched. Since then, I’ve written 901 posts, totaling, I’m guessing, about a million words, which has provoked some 16,000 comments. Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, my posts are guaranteed to reach at least 30,000 people (there’s overlap in these audiences so I’m subtracting a good amount to try and account for that), and on a good day, anywhere from 10 to 20 thousand readers will come to the blog and read its posts there. I often cross-post at Crooked Timber, where I’m a regular blogger, or Jacobin, so the readership for any one post can be even higher.

I started this blog kicking and screaming. I had joined Facebook in late 2010 and instantly started writing mini-blog posts there on politics and culture. Often a lively conversation would ensue. Laura urged me to turn my Facebook jottings into a blog. I refused. What I wanted was an author’s web page. Laura, who’s a digital media strategist as well as a writer and editor, agreed to set it up. Only she set it up as a blog, which she had been quietly building over a few weeks on WordPress. Web pages were static, she said. If I wanted readers, I needed to write. Not just books or articles but blogs.

I remember my howls of protest. Why I was so resistant, I can’t exactly say, except that I feared that I was going to tumble down the rabbit hole of popularization and vulgarization. Every academic—well, maybe not every academic, but a lot of academics—wants readers but fears them. Or fears the reputation of wanting readers or having them. Academics worry about being seen as dumbing things down, as not being serious. If they forsake the rarified halls of scholarship, where monkish rules of long silence are punctuated by only the most periodic of speech acts, they and their work will be thought of as not rigorous.

That was the fear. I got over it. And I’m glad I did. Even though I had been writing for popular audiences for years—in venues like the New York Times, the London Review of BooksThe Nation, and Lingua Franca—blogging threw me into a world of conversation of the sort you never really get in either academia or print media. The immediacy of the response; the unpredictability and range of the engagement; the depth and thoughtfulness of the comments; the ease of the back and forth; the willingness to interrogate first principles; the presence, almost material, of the audience: this was the kind of conversation I had gone into academia—and had moved to New York—for. This was the kind of conversation that, except for my union days in grad school, I had always wanted and never found. And here it was, on the internet.

Since then, I’ve gone on to write about a range of topics, some of them with a focus and intensity that I never would have employed were it not for my readers. My work and interests have changed in all sorts of ways because of blogging. Lately, I’ve been talking quite a bit about public intellectuals (a term I’d long eschewed and been wary of): not only their will to create an audience but the role of the audience as an independent and autonomous co-creator. This blog—as well as Facebook, where I increasingly try out smaller bits and pieces of what often becomes a blog—is what, in part, I’ve had in mind.

So on this, the five-year anniversary of my blog, I want to thank three people.

First, Laura, who not only pushed me, kicking and screaming, to do this, but who has since been my consigliere in all things digital. Laura often is the first reader of my posts, in draft. She either gives me the green light or says no, not this one, and thereby spares you all of a great many false starts. She’s an inerrant stylist, with an eye for the fullness of a sentence and an ear for the flatness of its fall. She has a sense of taste, which I always depend on. And despite being a rather reserved and retiring person, she has a feel for the fight.

Second, Remeike Forbes, who spent nearly a year working behind the scenes on the aesthetics of the blog in 2014, before we launched this new design in February 2015. I hesitate to say much about Remeike or what he did because when it comes to talking about aesthetics, I’m hopelessly out of my league. All I can say is that Remeike’s aesthetic vision and imprint is so strong that I cannot think about this blog—its contents, arguments, and sentences—without seeing it as he sees it.

And, last, you, the reader. I don’t always respond to your comments, but they often lodge somewhere in my head. Worrying me, bothering me, inciting me.

When I began this blog, in 2011, blogs were supposed to be on their way out. New bloggers were supposed to be incapable of finding or creating an audience because the market was already saturated. Too much supply, not enough demand. (I didn’t know any of this at the time. In my usual bumbling fashion, I was pretty clueless about the whole thing. I only found out later.) That hasn’t been my experience. This blog has acquired new and more readers every day. Not, I’d like to think, readers in search of a hot take or a partisan broadside, but readers interested in history and theory, in the laden-ness of political experience.

That makes me proud—and grateful. So, thank you, again, dear reader.




  1. jonnybutter July 5, 2016 at 10:31 am | #

    Pretty sure we should be thanking you! Glad you were prevailed upon to do a blog. Always so stimulating.

  2. Rosalind Petchesky July 5, 2016 at 10:55 am | #

    Congratulations, Corey, on this significant anniversary. FYI, yours is the ONLY blog I read regularly and hugely appreciate its thoughtfulness, even though I comment only rarely. Many thanks for your persistence in this worthy enterprise – something I’ve never had the courage to undertake.

  3. Benjamin David Steele July 5, 2016 at 11:01 am | #

    Blogs are an interesting media. Your experience of blogging has some similarities to my own, although I’m not an academic and my readership isn’t nearly so large. But I love the back and forth engagement of blogging, where comments end up further shaping my thoughts. Like Rosalind above, yours is the only blog I regularly read these days. I’m glad there are voices such as yours online.

  4. David EGan July 5, 2016 at 12:58 pm | #

    Thank you Corey, your honest appraisals of current events is most welcome in this world of fraudulent media.

  5. The regular, must-read, blog diet for The Enemy Combatant: Corey’s; Fairness And Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR); “Crossroads”, by historian Brooks D. Simpson (on Civil War history and its resonances in the present); and “tressiemc” by Tressie McMillan Cottom (on race, class, gender and gender identity, higher ed. and digital media — just for starters; asst. prof. of Sociology at VA Commonwealth); Crooked Timber; Working Class Perspectives.

    Something new and exciting is afoot in the genuinely progressive critique and some of us are lucky enough to be around when these blogs first got started.

    Readers may find this a bit of a stretch, but I’d say it ain’t: The blogs I have listed have made history as they are highly suggestive of a change on the progressive-left of public intellectualism. Something new is on the critical scene — the proof is the worry that some of these blogs inspire in the neoliberal project. In the days before these blogs, the neolibs just ignored the progressive critique (if they could not buy it off with CIA money). Now they unleash their trolls on them. It has gotten real up in here!

    Corey, you have been brought kicking and screaming into making a difference beyond the halls of criminally underfunded public academe.

    I am just glad to be here to see the result — and to be a part of it on occasion.


  6. xenon2 July 5, 2016 at 6:19 pm | #

    ‘ Lately, I’ve been talking quite a bit about public intellectuals (a term I’d long eschewed and been wary of): not only their will to create an audience but the role of the audience as an independent and autonomous co-creator.’

    I’ve been hesitant to use ‘public intellectuals’, too.
    Recently, I heard Chris Hedges use it, in a positive way.

    So, if it’s OK with Corey and Hedges, it’s OK with me.
    That means there are at least 3 of us.

  7. SK Figler July 5, 2016 at 7:47 pm | #

    Your blog is an interesting read, one of the few. Thanks.

  8. ken barker July 5, 2016 at 9:11 pm | #

    I’m just a construction worker, not that educated.

    I believe that I can recognize a craftsman’s quality when I happen upon it, even outside of my trade.
    It’s refreshing, satisfying, a pleasure to experience.

    Thank You

  9. JohnB July 5, 2016 at 10:52 pm | #

    Thank you, professor. Always great writing on great subjects. Please, never stop.

  10. mark July 6, 2016 at 4:59 am | #

    I came to this site via Paul Krugman’s recommendation on his blog, and to Krugman I had read approval of his work in Harold Perkin’s ‘The Making of a Social Historian’ (2002).

    It was the writing on the Sublime which drew me in, as I had put into my notes on Stefan Collini’s chapter on Manly Radicalism this (my thoughts in brackets):

    Manliness of political economy was for some of its adherents, who saw other causes dear to J S Mill to be sentimental, feminine and philanthropic, its main attraction (think of Burke on the sublime as well as his reflections, and von Hayek’s mountaineering his last hobby in Brittan’s ODNB entry).

    “He was also growing increasingly deaf and had ceased to go to the theatre, thus leaving mountaineering as his main extra-curricular interest” (Against the Flow, 2005, Samuel Brittan p311, ODNB entry for Hayek, 2004).

    In short, I found here a fuller working out of a sketchy half-sentence I had penned as something to come back to maybe.

    Elsewhere, Corey wrote that “sometimes, however, a writer does get the last word. Do we know of a Trojan War that is not intimately Homer’s, a Richard III who is not Shakespeare’s?”

    Well, there is another Richard III, Colley Cibber’s 1699 version of the play that David Garrick essayed in 1741 as his first role, and whose subsequent performances seemed to need the commingling of the languages of naturalism and the sublime to describe.

    On that day Garrick made his audience, and certainly his audiences’ tastes made him (see David Garrick, Director, Kalman A Burnim (1961)). I hope this blog continues to reach out into making audiences afresh.

  11. Paul O'Sullivan July 6, 2016 at 6:50 am | #

    Thank you for the excellent work. Long may it continue – things get more interesting by the day it seems (I’m British – for as long as that lasts). I read you regularly after first discovering (and purchasing) your books. Typically I read via my RSS feed so I’m not sure if that gets counted in your numbers.

  12. Kurt Petersen July 6, 2016 at 9:35 pm | #

    Only blog I try to regularly read, or at least skim. Sometimes I don’t understand it, but more often learn from it. Don’t stop.

  13. Nell July 7, 2016 at 5:42 pm | #

    I enjoy your blog regularly. I have to ask one design favor, though, to correct a flaw that reduces ease of use:: the ‘nav bar’ under the post title makes it impossible use the space bar or PageDown to read through a post without having to scroll back up a few lines because they’re covered up by the nav bar. Possibly you’re now too attached to the look to get rid of (or shrink) it, but it’s an irritant.

  14. Thomas L. Dumm July 7, 2016 at 6:34 pm | #

    Congratulations Corey. And as a writer, a million words? Wow, think about it, with a little bit of editing….

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