The League, Here and There and Back Again
I know Mark is working on a history of the League, and Patrick and Tod and others have been doing various posts about where readers and commenters and writers and so forth all hail from and top posts and other grand delvings into the site’s whirligigs. I thought I’d say a few words.
Once upon a time I had no idea how to blog. And it really is something that takes practice. It’s not like writing an essay at school or a short story or a poem, though I do think that blogging can make you a stronger writer in all these other forms. I dabbled at tech blogging, went through a brief obsession-with-Israel phase, and then eventually struck out to blog about religion and politics from an independent’s perspective. This was only a couple years ago, but I was such a political novice it sort of galls me to even think about it. Fortunately, I’m also a quick learner. (Unfortunately I have a terrible memory.)
Anyways I stumbled on Culture 11 in fairly short order and soon picked up on the blogs of Daniel Larison, Freddie deBoer, John Schwenkler and from there to Mark’s blog and Scott Payne’s blog and soon found myself engaging these various bloggers whom I so admired in various little bloggy debates. One thing led to another, and I think it was Scott who proposed a group blog and Mark and I quickly jumped on the idea, netting Freddie and a couple other bloggers for the launch and spending days sending back and forth emails trying to settle on a name for the site.
It turned out that the launch of the blog coincided pretty perfectly with the unfortunate shuttering of Culture 11 – though this was probably good for us as I’m pretty sure we grabbed up at least a handful of their readers. Freddie had name recognition at that point also, which drew the eyeballs of some more trafficked bloggers our way.
For all the times that he has infuriated me, it was Andrew Sullivan who sent the vast bulk of our early readers in our direction. I recall not being as excited about the traffic as I was about the potential for new readers, new commenters, new points of view. And so slowly the site grew. Heady days.
And the site changed. New writers came aboard. New commenters, too. And the comment box was always our big focus. At first we tried to arrange posts into discussions or into a series of write-and-respond type posts, but that fell through pretty quickly – and I think for the best.
What eventually emerged was a community, and as we’ve brought former commenters into writing positions, that community has only grown. At no point in the history of the site has it been as interesting or as fun or as full of quality writing as it is now – at least in my humble opinion. Tod Kelly’s second date post was our highest trafficked post of all time – and for good reason. In some ways, these deeply personal stories have transcended the typical politics blog, adding a depth that I don’t think you find most places. I hope Rufus puts together that anthology soon. I think it will reflect this.
For my own part, The League has given me a place to stretch my intellectual limbs, to try on various ideological shoes and hats, to allow my ideas and my uncertainty to run wild. For the most part, this community has been receptive to my inconsistency and self-exploration in a way that many places would not have been, and it has given me a space to honestly address my doubts in a way that makes me a stronger thinker and – I believe – a stronger person.
So thank you to everyone who has stuck with us or joined up or who come and go from time to time. Thanks to the commenters and to the readers (or lurkers if you prefer, though I do not.) And thanks to the many brilliant bloggers who make this place so fascinating and powerful. This blog is one of my favorite dives of all time. We started it to start a conversation. We succeeded, I think, far beyond our hopes. The only thing it’s missing is beer on tap.
And I’m working on that, but the technology has a long ways to go.