Matt asks a question:
I have a question for you I've been meaning to ask for a while. When you post a link to something written by somebody else, why do you also put the whole text also? I know you sometimes edit out a few sentences to cut down the length a bit, but still. By linking to Ezra's article, you're saying that it's worth reading. By providing the whole text, you make it possible to read the entire thing without going to Ezra's site. By posting the text in full then, you deprive him of hits. Ezra blogs for a living. If he writes worthwhile pieces that a lot of people read, doesn't he deserve to benefit from that?
The answer is simple: Linkrot.
Go, say, to a webpage of mine from the first half of the 2000s at random... Let's pick one: http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2003_archives/001202.html.
See how many of the links I include lead to "404 not found."
Would you bet that the Washington Post will keep Ezra's posts up and freely available in a decade? Or even five years?
If I want things I write to be readable in a decade, I need to quote extensively now.
Quite some time ago, Virginia Postrel wrote up what I call the Devil's Guide to Webmanship:
Dynamist.com: The Scene (vpostrel.com) for week of 5/20/02: ...FACTS OF LIFE: Eric Olsen at Tres Producers has raised a minor ruckus by noticing that Andrew Sullivan almost never links to other bloggers and generally fails to give credit where it's due. Eric might have also noted that Andrew is the rare blogger who never identifies readers who send him letters, regardless of what those readers might wish. (Obviously, some would prefer to be anonymous. But they're almost certainly a minority.) A single byline keeps the focus on the Main Man. It's a savvy media strategy.
This is the way the professional media world is. You become prominent, first and foremost, by knowing the right people and then, secondarily, by attacking or crediting people more prominent than yourself. (They stay prominent by not responding to you by name, a tactic well-honed by neocon intellectuals who almost never identify, much less quote, the objects of their criticism. Exhibit A: Francis Fukuyama.) If you must mention someone less prominent than you are, make sure it is someone much less well known, so you can be recognized for your wide reading or noblesse oblige.
In short: Promote your friends. Mention your (more famous) mentors. But don't be a fool. There is no career-enhancing reason ever to cite someone who might prove a competitor, make a cogent argument against you, or get credit for an idea you could have claimed. Andrew Sullivan is so good at this strategy that he probably doesn't even realize he's following it. (Maybe it's in the water at Harvard or TNR. Then how do you explain Mickey Kaus? He doesn't do this stuff.--ed. Mickey's a mutant whose nice-guy genes will eventually ruin his career.) I can't fault a talented writer who plays by the rules, and that's what Andrew does, brilliantly. [Posted 5/21.]
I am reminded of this because David Horowitz--rapscallion, cheat, liar, cad, and bounder--has decided to attack Josh Marshall. Congratulations, Josh! It's one more sign that you've arrived--become one of the "more prominent" whom one can raise one's reputation by attacking.
This is an odd situation to be in. If you were engaged in some approximation to a Habermasian speech situation--if there were some exchange of ideas, or some advance of knowledge, or some process of mutual enlightenment going on, then following the advice of the Devil's Guide to Webmanship would be, of course, immoral. But that's not the business Horowitz is in, is it? So I think Virginia's advice is worth taking...
If I didn't have the long quote from VP on "webmanship," this would now be totally incoprehensible.