No—I’m not referring familiarly to the Gulliver’s Travels guy. The Jon Swift of interest here, I’ve learned recently, was a legendary figure in the blogosphere. There’s a connection between the two, of course. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In early December, I received an email from a man named Batocchio, with a lovely invitation. Would I be interested in submitting my favorite post from my blog to The 2020 Jon Swift Roundup: “The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves”?
Batocchio, who blogs at vagabondscholar.blogspot.com (which is well worth a visit), provided a link so that I could see what this project consisted of and the kinds of posts that had appeared the previous year.
When I opened the link, I realized that I was being offered a possible place in an honored blogging tradition. I went through my posts, selected “Why I See Kamala’s Racial Attack on Joe as a Positive Seminal Moment for Our Country,” emailed it to Batocchio, and waited to see if it passed muster.
The next day, he thanked me and told me that my post would appear with the other selections shortly after Christmas. Based on experiences from my freelance writing days, such a quick turnaround and acceptance would have brought on whatever today’s equivalent of the vapors would be. (The fact that no money was involved was irrelevant.)
You can find Batocchio’s description of the program’s origins and links to the 2020 bloggers’ entries here. (And while you’re on Batocchio’s blog, I hope you’ll also read his important commemorations of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday and today, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Both posts carry a new urgency now.)
Apart from my pleasure in being part of this endeavor, I was intrigued by the story of the Jon Swift Roundup. Batocchio, bless his heart, is keeping up a tradition that had been created and nurtured by a man who had died. The originator, the eponymous Jon Swift, was—not surprisingly—not Jon Swift at all.
His name was Al Weisel, though his identity was not revealed until after his death in 2010, tragically, at the age of 46—even more tragically, as he was on his way to his father’s funeral. The news of his death was reported to his admirers on his blog by his mother, who wrote that she was “outing” him from his well-known pseudonym.
Swift/Weisel had adopted a persona that appears to be the blogging equivalent of Stephen Colbert’s original character on “The Colbert Report.” He was a liberal who wrote tongue-in-cheek pieces about the world from a faux-conservative viewpoint. Thus, he was a satirist, like his adopted namesake. “Modest Jon Swift,” he called himself.
I’d hoped to bring you a sampling of his work; there was a pungent piece about a brouhaha created among conservatives when it was found that a homeless man had a credit card.
I found the post funny, sad, and realistic, filled with feigned righteous indignation interspersed with occasional subtle possibilities (eg, could it have been a debit card so the man could be reached if a job interview came through?).
But then I learned that there’s a time limit on visits to the web archives. I had exceeded it and was unceremoniously dumped on my next attempt to access the posts. I’m sure Jon Swift would have had a good time with that development. Entry has been erratic since then; for the most part, all I’ve reached have been ads that seem to be for the online real estate Swift’s blog occupied.
UPDATE: Fellow blogger Infidel753 informs me that if you click on the links to Jon Swift’s posts that appear on Vagabond Scholar’s blog, the posts do–slowly but eventually–appear. Alternately, you can go to Comments below, where Infidel has kindly placed a functioning link. My subsequent visit was successful. As I noted, I felt reading Swift/Weisel’s take on life was time well spent.
Before my apparent mini-felonious assault on the archives, I was able to grab Swift’s terse self-profile:
“I am a reasonable conservative who likes to write about politics and culture. Since the media is biased, I get all my news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Jay Leno monologues.”
And I found one of his introductions to the tradition he’d begun; this one preceded the Swift collection that appeared 13 years ago. If you’re lucky and the web archive timeout algorithms are sleepy, you may be able to access it here. You’ll also see the entries from that year, though I found the hyperlinks inoperable.
But in case the link disappoints, I’ve included the material below (without the links to the individual posts, which were numerous.)
Swift printed this intro as a single long paragraph, but I’ve broken it up for readability.
I love his closing line.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2007
Best Blog Posts of 2007 (Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves)
“Just as nobody anticipated the levees breaking in New Orleans, according to President Bush, I don’t think anybody anticipated the overwhelming response I would get when I asked the members of my very extensive and eclectic blogroll to send me links to their best posts of the year.
“Not even Condoleeza Rice could have predicted the shock and awe you will feel at the sheer magnitude of the talent out there, of which this is just a small sampling.
“These posts were not chosen by a panel of experts or TV viewers, but by the bloggers themselves as each blog’s best work of 2007.
“There are posts on politics by liberals, conservatives and moderates, posts on movies, music, television, books, economics, health care, science, sports, religion and history, personal stories and slices of life, poetry, prose, pictures and video.
“Some are very funny, some are quite serious, some will make you angry and some will make you say ‘Huh?’ Go ahead and click on a link that sounds intriguing or from a blog you haven’t read before or check in with an old favorite.
“You may not agree with what someone has written, but contrary to popular belief, there hasn’t been a single documented case of anyone’s head exploding from reading a post he or she disagrees with.
“I certainly don’t agree with everything that is linked to here, but I do believe, like a real conservative, in the marketplace of ideas, in letting 1,000 flowers bloom (as Chiang Kai-shek once said), that more discussion is better than less, and every one of these posts is worth reading.
“So come back anytime and check out what these bloggers have to offer because they all deserve your support. I think this round-up reflects what is best about the blogosphere — that it gives so many talented people a chance to express themselves and makes it so much easier for the government to know who to arrest first in case of a national emergency.”
As Al Weisel, he had an extensive freelance writing career, with articles and books to his credit. Knowing that, I find his devotion to providing a platform for his less well-known fellow bloggers even more impressive.
Jon Swift/Al Weisel’s untimely death generated shock and a great deal of mourning among his loyal following. He would have been only in his late 50s today, regaling us with his witty and insightful commentaries.
But we are fortunate that Batocchio has picked up the blogging baton and is putting in the time and effort to continue this fine tradition.