Ben Sen's Blog

Politics, Culture and Religion Without Projections

Ben Sen

Ben Sen
New York, N.Y.,
December 31
I'd rather be judged on the basis of my posts than anything written in my bio. It's put down and gathered as a record of my experience and a response to what I see as the important issues in the world today. I don't pretend it's anything other than subjective. The purpose is to analyze, interpret, express opinions, challenge the status quo, open a few doors, and entertain. I heartily welcome ratings, comments and dialogue. That's what makes this media unique and valuable. It also keeps me honest and encouraged since I'm not getting paid. Take a risk and say something; it feels better. A "conversation" is essential for the growth of the individual and the collective. I have faith it extends beyond the confines of what is said here. "For it is necessary for awake people to be awake, or a breaking line may discourge us back to sleep, the signals we give--yes, no or maybe--should be clear: the darkness around us is deep." From A RITUAL TO READ TO EACH OTHER by William Stafford


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JANUARY 29, 2013 1:08PM

A Manifesto: Blogging Again

Rate: 24 Flag

    I started blogging on Salon during the primaries in '08.  Before that I was a journalist who once had a card that said, "As long as it's in English," to introduce myself.

     Salon had a system where they gave you a "star" if they recommended a comment.  My wife was sick and dying at the time, so I began every day with a post to entertain her, and then she would guess if it would get a "star."  This was a good exercise.  She almost invariably guessed correctly, so I followed her advice.  I got a lot of stars.

     I think I began like a lot of bloggers.  The freedom is a drug if writing is the dis-ease.  It gives you all the rope you need to hang yourself, and I fear that I did.  Then, I realized there were real people listening, and the task became more one of representing myself as I chose while exercising responsibility.  There is a thin line between personal exploration and public debate, but that is where I like to work.

     When OS started, Joan Walsh, then editor-in-chief, referred me to the "beta".  This presented a new challenge.  Now, I was really on my own--no editor--no middlemen--no ass to kiss, and a whole bunch of stuff all backed up that I wanted to say.  Ah, those were the days.  Like many, I spilled my guts, deleted what later was embarrassing, and devised a plan.

     I'd write what "stuck," not necessarily what entertained, and not what has a shelf-life of nano-seconds.  Blogging is a place to experiment, but it's also a place to leave a trace where none has been left before, unlike other media.  It's all still there at your fingertips.  I tried all sorts of forms--essays, book reviews, memoir, movie reviews, poetry, excerpts from my novel, even a "process" or two.

     At first, I was reluctant to move full force into politics since many of my views are unconventional.  I call myself a "radical moderate," and that pits me against the fringes, who, in case you have not noticed, rarely take prisoners.  I've had to accept being called anti-Semitic because I'm against the right wing government of Israel, but that's worth all the abuse they throw at me.

      But this is also where the most learning has taken place.  It's mostly a free for all, let's face it, and the requirement is basically to hold ones own.  I can't begin to tell you how much I've learned.  There are bloggers who are interested in communication and those who haven't got a clue how to communicate if their life depended on it.  I think I've seen cases where it has.

      I call the worst the "dumpers."  That's why they're here--cheap therapy.  You can feel the anger seething from every line and comment.  They'll make an enemy of you for no other reason than the attention it provides.  Nothing will assuage them, the sad fact is they destroy their own credibility and in the end usually leave in a huff with a goodbye blast.  I tell them don't forget NOT to write.

     There are others so competitive they wouldn't acknowledge a post if it was an advertisement for themselves.  They are the folks I tell when rating to at least make them feel like the misers they are.  It feels childish, sort of like telling them not to cheat, but what else are you going to do?  Why should writers be any more generous than say...clowns or alligator wrestlers?

     I'm convinced the anonymity encourages more open discussion, even if it often results in acrimony.  It's not like standing around the water cooler at work with people you have to live with.  The opportunity is to really find out where peoples' assumptions (including my own) take them, and what are the bottom lines.   It's an "interactive education" leaving open the question of where it will lead. 

      In commenting, I follow the "add on," rule.  If I have nothing to "add on," I don't comment, try not to, or if I do, and am repulsed, I have fun.  It's what makes blogging unique even if it scares off the faint of heart.  You can't converse with a weasel but you can play with them, and at least it can be worth a few laughs. 

     I especially despise ideologues, as anyone who has read more than two or three of my posts or comments can attest, and they, dear friends, unless they are so berift of insight they don't understand the term, hate me.  (If it's all you can get, I'll take it.)  Politics is only a dirty business to the spoiled and the loosers.

     Dogmatism has no defense in my playbook, especially when it is unexamined or based on pretensions that have nothing to do with the interests of the propagandist.  If you ask: What value does this view have for you personally, and you receive no response, you get a star.

     If there is a "art" of blogging, unique to the media, it is expanding ones point of view in response to the interchange that occurs.  That's true for everybody who takes it seriously.  In the old days, you wrote an opinion piece and didn't have much of an idea who agreed or disagreed.  A blogger has no such illusions.  If we get it wrong, somebody will tell us, but when we get it right we learn who agrees.

     I am especially proud of my posts where I turn book reviews into commentary on current events.  I feel it is an essay "form" of my own making, and the amazing thing is that they have received the most readers. 

     Also, the excerpts from my novel, and posts about my life as a writer keep registering about a hundred readers a month, which does nothing less, as we used to say, than "blow my mind."  I'm not sure who you all are, but hope you're enjoying yourself.  When the book comes out, I also hope you will buy a copy.  (I won't, however, be publishing it myself having left instructions for my girlfriend and daughter to burn it.)

     I'm sure I am not taking proper advantage of the media.  I don't send my material to other outlets, it's both beyond me technically, and I'm not sure I get the point.  What's the difference between those readers and the ones here?

     If somebody paid me, perhaps that would change.  I'm probably just as capable as the next guy of becoming a hack, but so far I've been lucky.  It irritated the hell out of me when OS was taken over by the spammers, but just last week I was deemed a troll!

     Ah, ain't it grand--blogging again!




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It is grand to have you back and OS rolling again. It is all just for fun. Right?
Good to see ya doing it, Ben.

I enjoy blogging for blogging's sake. I've given up hope of ever changing the minds of people with closed minds...but I try to come away from those kind of people with a lesson: Don't close your own mind, Frank.

And it works.

Been doing this kind of thing for 15 years now...and it is ever so much more rewarding than the op ed/letters-to-the-editor life I lived before.

Having one's say, in my opinion, is one of the finer things about a democracy. I have strong reservations about the entire "democracy" idea...but not about this aspect.

Keep on truckin'...and fighting the good fight!


No, it's not always for fun. I fear if nobody stands up to the dumpers they walk away thinking "these fools will buy anything." I've been known not to be nice, and have seen you dive in too.

Sometimes it's hard not to give the sanctimonious new orifices, and to keep an open mind. But that is the discipline, even when we fail at it.
Now that things seem to be working again, this could be an interesting Open Call: My History with OS. Just sayin'.
Hells Bells:

Go ahead, ring it. I'll read it and may even give you a rating.
I guess one could call me an "anonymous" reader/rater as I rarely comment ... it's not that I don't have an opinion but rather I more often than not am clueless as to how to convey my thoughts. You, kind sir, were the very first person to comment on a blog of mine almost two (2) years ago ... I've been following you ever since then. I find your "blogging" extraordinary, and if any encouragement from my peanut gallery will keep you on the boards, you've got my attention.

I learn something from most everything of yours I've read ... (I even went out and bought a Memoir that you had reviewed a while back.) I appreciate your direct voice and look forward to seeing your avatar amongst the new posts as well as in the comments of other writers here.

Anyways ~ thanks for being here.


You made my day. Keep me informed of your work.
It is indeed good to see OS up and running again and to see many old hands such as yourself back in here and writing. I've been blogging for ten years now and March will be four years on this site and I love it. Of course I don't venture into the political realm but just write simple stuff about life on the farm. I took to heart the old axiom: Write what you know.

I wish I could be as wise as you, but the madness is more than I can take, and silence is not my last resort.
Ben - It's good to see you here again. Glad you're one of the ones who came back.
It is indeed grand. Welcome back. Oh. And I'm a technophobe too but have started sharing my posts on FaceBook. They do seem to find more readers that way.
I've missed reading you, Ben Sen. You have always been one of my OS favorites. Glad you're back to writing.
Glad to see you and this site back in the saddle Ben. I agree with most of what you said, especially the part about adding on re comments. I seem constitutionally incapable of something like "No words, just Wow!"

They don't seem to have stopped the spam from getting in here but I guess the new guy they hired has found some way of getting the pages to load and sending notifications for comments.
Glad to see you blogging again. I wish I could say the same for everyone, but life's like that, isn't it?
Great to know someone of your caliber is back and writing. I've always admired your wisdom, even if I disagree. If one is not open to idea of others what is the point?

My God, wouldn't it be boring if all we sought was agreement? There has to be something of a higher priority.
I started blogging on in 2005. They had a contest--"Who will be the next great sportswriter?--where they actually awarded a job writing on the site to the winner. I got past the first round but sports fans take themselves very seriously, and I couldn't help but make fun of it all. A guy in Italy threatened to come to America and kill me over some joke I made about soccer. OS is like playground by comparison.
So glad to see you back. I value your posts and your opinion of mine. Viva OS!
Good to see you back!
It's great to have you back and blogging, Ben, and you've penned a wonderful "manifesto" for the rest of us crazy enough (and commendable enough in my book) to devote so many grueling hours to such a difficult task where nobody pays you!

Ideologues and dogmatists are on my short list of people to despise as well and I hope I never become so full of myself that I become one.

With great power comes great responsibility and the idea any one of us might actually have the power to change minds or influence what other people think should fill all of us with humility at the implications of such an awesome responsibility and give each of us the extra incentive to get it right or at least keep it honest.


I don't understand. What's good for me?
I have no words....just WOW. No wait, I have words...what were they? Oh yeah. Your Manefesto, and the call of Hells Bells, brings me back to my earlier days of serious blogging on this site. Dear Ben, thank you for coming back bringing with you the joy of seeing other "friends" again on OS. Many of us keep up with each other on Facebook, because we are truly friends even when we haven't met. But some I have met. It was like a reunion. No awkwardness of strangers, just recognition on learning their avatar. This feels like a reunion. I'm happy. And ready to jump in. Watch for me! Carol
"I'm convinced the anonymity encourages more open discussion".


You are direct, I'll give you that. I do feel open discussion and choosing to fight a winless battle splits hairs a bit. Once I know nothing I have to say will matter in anyway whatsoever, and nothing positive is likely to result, I go home. I do pick my battles, yet make an attempt not to deliver fatal blows in the ensuing kerfuffle.

But back to the initial comment... anonymity encourages discussion, but I would add "as well as flame wars with annihilation as the intention of some of the participants". Good to see some of the old folks at home.

So here's the thing: if it is really all nicey-nicey is that any fun, and of course if it's only ego war that ain't it either? The fund can sometimes be kicking ass, but there is a limit. I ain't no saint, but I ain't no pussy either, and either are you, to your credit in my book.
lol. In a war of words, the clever, the witty, and the thick-skinned survive to battle another day. Those less inclined generally don't participate and/or flounce out. I don't miss the petty, uninteresting, degrading private wars and fatwahs. So boring... as are the fawning comments, the echo chamber, the back scratching ... it's not for me either, so I hear you. However, that is ubiquitous on any blog site. It's nice to have a few pot-stirrers in the bunch ~ good to see you.