Matthew Yglesias, in response to a gripe about blogging and him in particular wrote a ludicrously self-efacing response where he horribly insults his main benefactors in his readers and employers at the Atlantic, and followed it up with another article expressing his regret that he doesn’t have a greater mastery of Middle eastern languages to add depth to his opinions on the matter.
Part of the reason that so many of us like reading Yglesias is that he comes up with this kind of stuff that might not be always comfortable to read but it sure makes you think—the mark of a philosopher, and the real reason for reading good bloggers.
Clearly if you are going to comment on an area, some mastery of it is required, but anyone who seriously believes that a mastery of Persian, Arabic and Hebrew is necessary to comment on US foreign policy in the Middle East is exhibiting worrying signs of narrowness. Yglesias finishes his second missive on the subject with a beautiful observation about the Pakistani understanding of US culture and language will make them much more effective in manipulating US policy makers than the reverse. It is this kind of awareness that makes Yglesias’s commentary so valuable.
Just yesterday Yglesias observed that many commentator’s advocacy of bombing Iran show signs of people with a solution in search of a problem. I used to work in the tech sector and we learned to recognise this kind of thinking, and Yglesisas is of course dead right. It is this ability to condense into a short article a critical insight that makes them so valuable. Yglesias says that thanks to his shortcommings ‘the overwhelming majority of Americans have never read this blog and never will’ but this is exactly wrong. It is the chalenging (i.e., worthwhile) aspects of his blog that will act as the barier. I wish perhaps more of the pundits that populate the mainstream media would read, and, more importantly, understand what he says in his blog. We would not be in half the mess we are if they did.