Steve Gilliard: Remembered, and Appropriated
Via the Group News Blog, I see Matt Bai has a piece on our friend (and occasional Firedoglake contributor) the late Steve Gilliard for this weekend’s New York Times Magazine. It’s not a bad piece overall, by any means. I continue to be glad the NYT is giving Steve some of his posthumous due.
That said, it does suffer from some of the same blindnesses we’ve become accustomed to in the work of our self-selected chronicler on behalf of the establishment.
I arrived at Steve’s wake before everyone but a handful of family members, and attended the funeral, a light skinned latino: I saw a number of bloggers of color there, though the white folk in attendance mostly were Steve’s political friends, not just bloggers. Air America’s Sam Seder arrived at the wake very shortly after I did.
The establishment has this imperative, it seems, to represent the blogosphere as purely bleached out, when it isn’t representing the blogosphere as all male. The Group News Blog gently points out how Bai’s piece depicts a white throng of alien bloggers on cultural safari to East Harlem. . . because both Bai and the Times, I guess, have mad street cred, and Bai himself personally interviewed all these attendees to discover their personal backgrounds and life experiences (hint: not).
And while I have no doubt at all Matt Bai knows what it is to awaken in a stranger’s bed, I don’t think Steve viewed his own life as lacking in human warmth or personal connection. He wrote effusively of his connections to friends near home, Jen not least of all, and his devotion to his niece and nephew made blogospheric legend.
What Steve did understand, in a way Bai never has, is that love of topic, and doing a lot of fucking work to understand a topic on its own terms, can itself be enjoyable, a bridge through which to forge real connections with others. Bai writes shallow personality driven pieces that always seem to fit his preconceived notions, making him precisely the kind of journalist Steve used to skewer with such inimitable abandon (see Zengerle, Jason).
It’s therefore ironic, in a way, that Bai would be the one to write this piece. I wonder what Steve would say, and how many f-bombs would be in it, were he here to read Matt Bai do his intellectually lazy hanger on shtick once again, this time at Steve’s expense, depicting him in part as a socially awkward geek wanting for human warmth (nope, no lazy blogger stereotypes in there, eh, and doesn’t everyone know that all single people are hopelessly lonely)?
With each Bai piece I read, no matter what the subject, it seems I just get more of a read on. . . Matt Bai. Just as Bai tried to make himself the biggest personality on the stage at the Ykos candidates forum last summer, alongside Clinton, Obama, Edwards and the rest, he keeps showing up like the guy who never really felt quite cool enough, who tried always to insert himself into the "it" cafeteria table by whatever means necessary.
For all that crap, the piece itself is not all bad, and as I said, I’m extremely glad it’s been written. Steve deserved a regular NYT op-ed more than William The Bloody "Wrong About Everything" Kristol ever could.
Steve (or as your family called you, "Stevie"), we still miss you achingly, terribly.
Every fucking day.