Steve Gilliard, A Blog Pioneer
June 04, 2007
The way you honor a writer, in life as in death, is by reading him.
Steve Gilliard, the pioneering blogger who died Saturday, was one of my heroes. In my own poor way, I'd like to honor him. Fortunately, he makes it easy by honoring himself. He covered himself with glory every day of his life, and it's all there for us to go back and read.
Here's his December 2005 archive, as representative a month as any. He wrote 237 posts that month by my count—yes, you read that right. One of the ways he was a pioneer was that he considered blogging his job. His readers were his bosses, and he wasn't going to let them down - not one single day.
The subjects were: the absurdity of regulating video games; the strange modern mores of wedding planning; New Yorkers who changed their names after September 11; privacy for gay students; the idiocy of Ann Coulter; the idiocy of men who claim an ownership right in the fetuses of women they had sex with; computer viruses; Harold Ford and his embarrassing family; Juguar's cowardice in taking their ads out of gay media at the instigation of the Christian right; racist talk radio hosts who sing in blackface; a primer on how Fox's "War on Christmas" rhetoric resembled class anti-Semitic rhetoric; a wingnut recommending the use of landmines on the Mexican border; racial profilers at Wal-Mart; the ins and outs of Wikipedia; Jessica Simpson's divorce settlement; Bill O'Reilly's ill-advised feud with George Clooney' the poor decision-making of Air America's old management; privatization boondoggles in the reconstruction of New Orleans; the joke that is Joe Lieberman; and, of course, his specialty, Iraq (was there any writer in any format who brought to his writing about Iraq a deeper grounding in military history? I'm not aware of any.) Oh, yes, and the fortunes of his favorite footballers—not the Jets, but Manchester United.
And that was just the first four days of December.
Steve was at his greatest that December. Subway workers in New York went on strike. He took it as a teachable moment: he pointed out certain stark facts of working America, facts that somehow got left out of all media coverage of the strike: that most of the public supported it, despite the inconvenience to them. That people expressed something Americans weren't supposed to know how to express: solidarity.
And the media? He pointed out as no one else did the egg on their face caused by their repressing what was actually going on in New York. ("The Daily News and Post so miscovered the strike as to be useless to the majority of New Yorkers. They kept looking for a groundswell of anger, when instead, there was a groundswell of support for the union among their public service and private industry peers.")
Mayor Bloomberg called the strikers "thugs." A working-class New Yorker through and through, Steve took him to school: "Bloomberg violated the other key rule of New York life. You do not attack working people as criminals."
The News referred to the "angry refrain as New Yorkers walk, bike, and hitch their way through the cold with the striking MTA workers in mind: 'Why don't they just fire them all?'" Steve, calmly—well, not so calmly; when he wrote he was rarely calm—retorted, "Angry refrain by whom? A few pissed off Wall Streeters? Please." These papers never talked about the anger of being a stepped-upon transit worker. They wrote as if the city was not—is not—55 percent non-white. Steve was the only New York media you could read to get that.
The only one.
I'll miss him. You start reading his old stuff, and here's the tragedy: You'll start missing him, too.