Alex Massie

In praise of Andrew Sullivan

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My father is fond of telling a story that, though possibly apocryphal is, in the old newspaper terminology, too good to check. Apparently Georges Simenon was in Edinburgh and, as you would, asked what the gothic rocket on Princes Street was. On being told it was a monument to Sir Walter Scott the great detective writer was left open-mouthed in astonishment. "You mean they erected that for one of us?" he asked. Well, yes, they did. "Well, why not, he invented us all" Simenon is said to have said. The Scott Monument is quite a thing. One day the blogosphere might have to consider an equivalent monument. And when it does, the chap credited with inventing us all will have to be Andrew Sullivan.

Andrew is by turns perverse, infuriating, stimulating, entertaining, humane, amusing, provocative, admirable, obsessive, generous, contradictory, witty and above all, incorrigable. Everyone who blogs owes Andrew a measure of gratitude because he, more than anyone else, has made blogging what it is today. Of course, I would say that since he's kind enough to link to this blog quite often. Nevertheless, any credible account of the history and impact of blogging will feature Andrew prominently. If it doesn't it won't be worth reading. He has been a pioneer and a courageous one at that. The blogosphere would not be what it is today without him.

Although we have several friends in common and I lived for years within a ten minute walk of his house in DC, I've never actually met Andrew. But one of the great virtues of the blogosphere is its intimacy. Blogger Andrew may not be the same chap as non-blogging Andrew, but he is a person I know well. This too in one of the great virtues of the internet. Just as once upon a time lifelong friendships could be formed on the back of epistolary relationships, so a sense of intimacy can be fostered by the blogosphere these days. I've been reading Andrew since 2000 or early 2001 and now find it hard to imagine a day without his writing. Agreement is not the issue; thinking is.

Like most people, I've had my disagreements with Andrew, but that's part of the point. It's a discussion, not a commandment.

All of which is to say that I most heartily recommend Johann Hari's profile of Andrew which helps explain how this very English fellow became such a good and even great American.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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