The Bumpy Road of a Blogger: From Gleichschaltung to Freedom

I started blogging sometime in the mid-2000s. Blogging was a new form of communication that was really nothing more than an online diary. The first blogs had impossible-to-remember web addresses like http://www.compuserve.com/user/eller-2f94e5643/. As a reader, it was awesome to get a glimpse into the minds of an untold number of people, some of whom were famous, while most we people just like me.

Somewhere along the way, entrepreneurs started to get involved in blogging. We soon started to hear stories of middle-aged guys sitting in their parent’s basement writing a blog about Star Trek that had over 100,000 readers. Someone figured out how to monetize that readership, and the blogging business model was born.

This led to the production of books and workshops and seminars and a myriad of other ways the average guy could take his little corner of the world wide web and turn it into a fortune.

Services like blogger.com and wordpress.com came along and made it simple for anyone to develop their own blog.

Eventually, there came a bunch of rules you had to follow if you wanted to build a platform. You had to select a niche. You had to write and post frequently. You had to use keywords in your titles and in the body of your text. This was all before social media entered the picture!

As Facebook and Twitter started to become players, bloggers had to develop a social media presence. In order to build a “tribe”, you had to have a community. You had to spend as much time building your community as you did writing for your blog. Oh, and blog posts (now called articles) had to be at least 300 words but no more than 1,000 words in order to attract the search engines.

Ugh.

You know what? At some point, blogger was no longer fun.

I just wanted to write. I just wanted to share my thoughts about what is going on in my head and how I view the world as I see it. I don’t really care if I ever develop a platform. That’s not my goal. I want to capture what an average guy living in the Midwest is thinking in 2018. I’m a historian. I want to provide context for future generations so when they look back on this time, they have an unfiltered, unbiased, individual perspective on life in the early-21st century. No offense, but if you (the reader) don’t like what I am writing about, there are a million other places for you to go and spend your time reading.

I received clarity on this issue as I thought about one of my favorite authors of the 20th Century: William L. Shirer. Like myself, Shirer was an Iowa-born writer who was given the opportunity to witness an incredible time in modern history–the rise and fall of the Third Reich. In the forward to his book, Berlin Diary, Shirer writes:

William L. Shirer February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993Most diaries, it may well be, are written with no thought of publication. They have no reader’s eye in view. They are personal, intimate, confidential, a part of oneself that is better hidden from the crass outside world.

This journal makes no pretence to being of that kind. It was recorded for my own pleasure and peace of mind, to be sure, but also—to be perfectly frank—with the idea that one day most of it might be published, if any publisher cared to commit it to print. Obviously this was not because I deemed for one second that I and the life I led were of the slightest importance or even of any particular interest to the public. The only justification in my own mind was that chance, and the kind of job I had, appeared to be giving me a somewhat unusual opportunity to set down from day to day a first-hand account of a Europe that was already in agony and that, as the months and years unfolded, slipped inexorably towards the abyss of war and self-destruction.

The subject of this diary therefore is not, except incidentally, its keeper, but this Europe which he watched with increasing fascination and horror plunge madly down the road to Armageddon in the last half of the 1930s. The primary cause of the Continent’s upheaval was one country, Germany, and one man, Adolf Hitler. Most of my years abroad were spent in that country in proximity to that man. It was from this vantage point that I saw the European democracies falter and crack and, their confidence and judgment and will paralysed, retreat from one bastion to another until they could no longer, with the exception of Britain, make a stand. From within that totalitarian citadel I could observe too how Hitler, acting with a cynicism, brutality, decisiveness, and clarity of mind and purpose which the Continent had not seen since Napoleon, went from victory to victory, unifying Germany, rearming it, smashing and annexing its neighbours until he had made the Third Reich the militant master of the Continent, and most of its unhappy peoples his slaves.

I jotted down these things from day to day. Unfortunately some of my original notes were lost; others I burned rather than risk them and myself to the tender mercies of the Gestapo; a few things I dared not write down, attempting to imprint them in my memory to be recorded at a later and safer date. But the bulk of my notes and copies of all my broadcasts, before they were censored, I was able to smuggle out. Where there are lapses, I have drawn freely upon my dispatches and radio scripts. In a few cases I have been forced to reconstitute from memory the happenings of the day, conscious of the pitfalls of such a method and the demands of ruthless honesty. And, finally, certain names of persons in Germany or with relatives in Germany have been disguised or simply indicated by a letter which has no relation to their real names. The Gestapo will find no clues.1

Shirer found himself living in “interesting times” as Europe “slipped inexorably towards the abyss of war and self-destruction.” I’ve come to believe that we, too, are approaching a similar time in this generation–a fourth turning. If true, then I want to capture my thinking as we travel this road. I want my children and grandchildren to understand what it was like to live during this time.

My challenge is to write authentically. I need to turn of the “politically correct” filter that has destroyed much of academia and journalism in the 21st Century. Few individuals on the political right or left can communicate truth anymore. Groupthink rules the day. The Nazis called this “Gleichschaltung,” and it was the foundation of totalitarian rule. We are witnessing this process in America today. Everything and everyone is slowly being brought into line with the consensus message.

I can’t promise you I will follow the accepted rules of blogging. Some articles may be long, while others only a sentence or two. I may forget to put subheading every 75-100 words to make an article easy to scan. My apologies. I will try to use proper grammar and spelling, but I can’t promise that a mistake or two won’t enter an article. My goal is freedom to think and to write, to capture the moment as I feel it and sense it happening.

 

Notes

  1. Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (Kindle Locations 20-41). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

    Chris Eller is a Christ Follower, Husband, Father, Pastor, Geek, Writer, Photographer, and Church Technology Consultant.