I cannot remember if it was just before or after March 2003 when I followed a link on the Guardian site that brought me to this blog. I had spent the previous 18 months or so locking horns with various pseudo-leftists, LaRouchies and sundry white supremacists (some managed to be all three at once) who frequented the ‘Christopher Hitchens Message Board’, with only a handful of like-minded commenters for company. It really is more than just a figure of speech to say that the discovery of ‘Harry’s Place’ brought a smile to my face. I remember, quite literally, giggling with excitement when I discovered this place.
It was now clear that beyond the merry band of HitchensWeb commenters there existed likeminded folk who refused to sacrifice decades of socialist principle on the altar of ‘anti-imperialism’ (or more accurately, neo-isolationism dressed up as ‘anti-imperialism’). What is more, these writers had organized. Rather than conduct pissing contests with debating adversaries for whom the words “Jose Ramos-Horta” meant a quick trip to Wikpedia, the HP guys had collaborated to provide a forum for the promotion of internationalist values that found a home in the minds of leftists who were no longer interested in sharing an intellectual bed with ‘comrades’ who sounded more like Kissinger than Kissinger and who sent their consciences on extended holidays to Westphalia.
The original authors here churned out post after post that had me thumping the table in agreement. I would get to 5pm to discover I has spent the previous 8 hours reading and commenting on each and every post made that day. I can pay the site no higher compliment than to say my work suffered. In short, I was hooked.
And I still am.
On one particular day, my dependency manifested itself in the form of over 100 comments. I am quite sure that Harry’s invitation to me to join the other authors on the site was made only in the hope it might save some bandwidth. And as much as I already admired Harry’s work before joining the staff, it wasn’t until I was given authorship privileges that I realized just what a stupendously good blogger he was and is. Not until you are the one facing that blank word document every morning does the point ram home that blogging is actually hard. At least, it is for a reflexive commenter like me.
Commenters are counter-punchers and you can arrive at any half-decent blog with barely a single constructive thought rattling around inside your head, and within a matter of minutes you can be lashing out in all directions, giving everyone the benefit of your opinions. Some commenters are better than others, but it is essentially easy which is why so many do it. It’s certainly why I do it.
Authoring a blog is different. You have to start the fire, not just fan the flames. That blank word document is yours to fill. To do so, several times a day, day after day, with consistently well-written, informative and thought-provoking prose, is a rare gift.
Harry has it and we are poorer for his absence.
Good luck, mate.