Why I am a Dishophile
I am convinced that the Daily Dish will be remembered as one of the greatest, most pathbreaking blogs of our time. If the discussion thread was one of the blogosphere’s more democratizing innovations, the Dish goes a step further, publishing excerpts from reader emails alongside a bonanza of teasers and links, and of course Sullivan’s own commentary. The Dish reader becomes the Dish writer, with the result that the Dish itself takes the form of a discussion thread — albeit a heavily moderated thread. (The Dish is at once more and less democratic than the standard blogosphere fare: more because of the attention it draws to lesser-known and unknown voices; less because it vets all of its contributors in lieu of having a separate thread in which anyone can participate.)
The genius of Sullivan is in creating unity and cohesion out of it all — e pluribus unum, if you will. Part of his secret seems to be the threads of posts, in which readers submit stories, jokes, opinions, and anecdotes on such diverse topics as “How Jesus Kicked Ass on the Cross” and “The Cannibas Closet.” Whereas Yglesias discussion threads tend to quickly degenerate into liberal cliches, second-hand statistics, and internet troll skirmishes, Sullivan keeps the discussion intelligent and vibrant. Other recurring features that contribute to the Dish’s coherence include the weekend posts on philosophy and religion, the “View From Your Window” thread, the Dish awards, and the “Daily Wrap.”
And then there is the uniqueness of Sullivan’s authorial and editorial voice. “Of no party or clique,” the Dish is a unique amalgam of high and low culture, frenzied polemic and careful analysis, libertarianism and intellectual and social responsibility. Think what you will of Sullivan’s politics — I am sympathetic, though often in disagreement — his is a carefully considered, formidable perspective.
All of this is a prelude to a plug I’d like to make for Sullivan’s new book, The Cannabis Closet: First Hand Accounts of the Marijuana Mainstream. Personally, I don’t plan on buying the book, don’t smoke pot, and am indifferent toward marijuana legalization. What impresses me is how the book was created and is being distributed. Once again, Sullivan defies cliches, demonstrating that the internet may not be killing so much as transforming print media. Here is a book without a conventional author or publisher. What it does have is an editor (the Dish) which has compiled a popular online discussion thread (“The Cannibas Closet”) and bypassed the traditional publishing industry by printing copies through blurb.com. On top of all of this innovation, the book generates revenue for the Dish at a time when most journalists find it increasingly difficult to get paid. Overall, a remarkable feat.
For anyone interested, here is Sullivan’s blurb for The Cannabis Closet:
The book is a compilation of first-person pot use testimonials, from top executives to responsible parents, from entrepreneurs to A-students, from unwinding suburbanites to the very sick. In more than 120 personal stories, it demolishes every hoary “stoner” stereotype of the regular pot-user. It doesn’t glide over the downsides of pot-use, but it does explain more graphically and powerfully how marijuana-use has become as American as, er, brownies and milk. It shows how responsible pot-use is already compatible with middle-class life and its obligations.