It happens everywhere and without fail. A group forms, and someone decides that rules are necessary. Jesus loved the world, then along came the Church. Before you know it, a religion of universal love drew lines between the saved and the damned, the orthodox and the heretic. I accept that anarchism is a dream requiring far too much work to make a living reality. Rules simplify. I suppose rules are necessary. But it doesn't mean I have to like it.
Are there emerging standards of orthodox behavior emerging in the blawgosphere? Perhaps. There's been a lot of chatter on line recently about the slackoisie and now a new category has emerged, the happysphere. This latter place is where sissies dwell, apparently. Those who can't take the rough and tumble of debate on line are invited to tune out.
I accepted the invitation today, and took Scott Greenfield up on his standing invitation to have him remove a reader's blog link from his page on demand. I've nothing against Scott. I've read Simple Justice since its inception. Until recently, I looked at it daily simply to see what issues Scott spotted. I admire his range of interests and envy his obvious talent. Imagine covering the legal world in 10 minutes a post times three posts each day. He gets more done in half an hour than I do most days. (He contends his blog is but a moment's inspiration, something done with the morning's coffee and before the workaday tasks of lawyering begin.)
Scott's Herculean intellect and energy give him a special place on the blawgosphere's Mount Olympus. Fledgling writers and lawyers cower in hopes of a favorable mention, all the while fearing his thunderous grumble. I can't help but wonder, sadly, whether this has all gone to the good man's head. Railing against the slackoisie, ridiculing those who seek his approval and fear his scorn by denigrating them as Happysphere wannabes, has the cliquish appeal of the darlings riding with the high school homecoming queen in dad's convertible.
The Rule of the Eleventh Man is in operation in the blawgosphere. It is an ironclad rule of social psychology, so near as I can tell. I claim pride of authorship here, so pay attention.
Whenever a group forms around whatsoever interest or preoccupation, the first ten to arrive share a sense of charismatic wonder over having found one another in a world of strangers. This innocent joy is spread among the happy clan. The group is small enough that no real leader need exist. But the group's pleasure attracts the interest of others, who want to share in the good fortune. Because the group has no rules and no norms, the eleventh man enters, expecting to share the innocent glow. But now the group has become just large enough that standards of behavior and membership emerge. An inchoate sense of orthodoxy takes root, and soon some one or two among the group articulate the standards expected of group membership. The eleventh man, unless he toes this new line, is always a heretic, and the heretic always loses.
Of course, I have no idea whether it is really the eleventh or the fiftieth member of a group that represents the tipping point. But the point remains. Charisma is almost always reduced to something less inspiring. This rule knows no exception.
I've checked out of the blawgosphere twice now. First, after Mike and I more or less burned out at Crime and Federalism, we both moved on to other things. Now we are both back, writing about a broader range of topics on separate pages. On another occasion, I grew weary of the sound of my own voice and the demands of the few readers I had acquired. I pulled the page down, to the surprise and chagrin of some who still don't trust me as a result.
But I am back again. I know better than to walk away from writing this time. I simply enjoy it too much. So I will keep pecking away for the few who read, and I am grateful to them for reading. I admit, I enjoy being read -- that's why I write.
This time I am simply trimming my sails for the time being and pulling back from several pages whose authors have taken a turn in a direction I don't care to go. The struggle for leadership of the blawgosphere, and the right to set standards for what may be written and how it should be written, simply doesn't interest me. It has the feel of a schizophrenic staring into the mirror to make the acquaintance of the multiple personalities raging within. I see but one person staring intently into the glass. But there is now a strange ferocity in their eyes.
I call the zone I am leaving the torporsphere: another replay of the Rule of the Eleventh Man and the imposition of orthodoxy in a newly formed group. It may be an intensely interesting game and pursuit for those who want to share the huddling warmth of the ten orthodox souls, but I've always preferred the company of the eleventh man.
I'll miss Scott. I've spoken to him and he is a great guy and a good and wise lawyer. But the persona emerging on his blog page is a phase I am hoping he will soon outgrow. When he does, I will once again count Simple Justice among my daily reads.
Update: My wife from time to time reads my blog, a terrifying ordeal for me.
"Whose Tannebaum?" she asked last night while looking at this piece.
"A lawyer in Florida. He's a big deal, president of the bar or some such. Why?"
"I can't figure out what he is saying," she said.
"Did you read the piece he was commenting on?"
"No," she said. "I tried. It was too boring."
Ouch. As I suspected. Our internecine sniping doesn't engage more than a handful of folks. I should have stayed away from this topic and walked quietly away.