Of Tabloid Literature and a New Word Order

Sokari Ekine aptly writes about ‘tabloid bloggers’ in response the ABSU rape case; her post is the finest piece I read on the issue. I had intended to respond to the fray, but I figured I wouldn’t do a better job than Sokari. Yet, I had, after a discussion with a friend, considered it relevant to write about a similar concern, bothering on the emerging writer/blogger who has access to the internet.

I’ll call it intellectual foolery (or tabloid literature), which is hard to define. Anyway, what I speak about is the failure of young writers/bloggers to define themselves, to ascertain what it is that hurts them, what exactly they are speaking about, what their individual slant and originally created perspective is. There is what is called, for example, ‘thinking outside the box.’ This term is used by many speakers, preachers, and young people as a synonym for non-conventionality and iconoclasm. People speak to me about how different they are, or want to be; why it is important not to do things the way ‘it has always been done.’ But I find that most of the time, those of speak to me about being different are somewhat copycats, having no original desire for iconoclasm; put more aptly, most of the persons I have met who preach this are not deep-rooted in their convictions. They can convince others about the necessity for ‘thinking out of the box’ but they can scarcely prove how this will mean a difference to their world, what underlying principle or idea governs their proposed novelty, and even — more disastrously — how to transmit their novelty to a coming generation. I assume that our world is according too much to creativity and little to sustainability.

Let me write in clearer terms. I am speaking of the dangers of independent access to visibility. I prefer ‘visibility’ to ‘publishing’ since the former defies the logic of ascertaining the worth and readability of the material to be put out. So, many writers (who become bloggers — or better still, many ‘computer users’, since ‘writer’ should be defined in a way that ensures discipline) can become visible simply by having a computer and an internet connection. This is good and not good. In many ways, the ease that exists now assist in granting an emerging writer a wonderful opportunity to prove his/her worth. The danger, however, is that the opportunity to ‘prove’, for some writers, swallows the expedient opportunity to be diligent and responsible. It swallows, even more dangerously, the opportunity to define oneself — if an emerging writer is carried away by the simplicity of the ‘visibility’ process.

And what do I mean when I speak of defining one’s self? As is evident from the ABSU rape blogs and tweets, it is somewhat easy for an emerging writer to get caught up in a crowd of tweeters and bloggers, speaking with their voices, resonating their ideas, and having no opinion of their idea. I cannot argue that ideas should not be plural or shared. What I am afraid of is becoming a writer whose language and thinking is swallowed in another person’s analogy and thinking.

It happens in this way: Sugabelly and Linda Ikeji blogs about the rape of a student (?) of Abia State University. Another writer, who has a blog, writes a post on the issue, quoting Sugabelly and Ikeji, repeating their speculations and opinion. It is not dangerous to quote them; what is dangerous is the absence of a different perspective and objective.

The question becomes: how soon should a thought be published? As soon as it is mine! It is unacceptable, I say to myself, to be a writer that creatively repeats the media (or a blogger). I want to speak differently about existent challenges; or, if I cannot speak differently, speak in a different voice and language. Agreed, I am given to influence. Yet, I must define my slant before finding confirmation in another person’s.

The immediate challenge is what an acceptable concern is. What should an emerging writer be concerned with, in order to define originality? I am convinced that each writer knows what is an appropriate concern. For instance, I am increasingly concerned with the question of what language has become in Afikpo, my hometown. So this concern serves as a foundation for the influences that will enhance my understanding. I will not speak after the pattern of Chris Abani, for instance, because he is from Afikpo too and is interested in what language is in Afikpo as I am.

This brings me to the battle between what I conceive as ‘a space for use’ and ‘a space as a funnel.’ The former takes the shape of a Blogger or WordPress space which an emerging writer discovers can ensure that what is written is seen. So every single thought that seems writeable is written, scarcely thought over, and posted to become one amongst hundreds of millions of webpages. But the second, ‘a space as a funnel’, is used in this context to describe a space that provides a showroom of wholesome individuality and clearly thought-out ideas.

I believe that writers are responsible to the heart of what/who they are concerned about. They are not responsible to any blogger, or to any twitterer. They are responsible to themselves, first; when they convince themselves of a matter, making it ours, they can proceed to make their concern visible for others to be convinced and concerned about.

Does this sound like some high-sounding theory? It might. Yet, I am convinced that it is important for emerging writers, given the digital age that is upon us, to avoid using the internet without an objective. The blogosphere is a tool, or a mechanism, which has ensured a new word order. It should not defeat the mandate of literature, the possibility of books, notes, posts, tweets, etc. etc., that navigate the deepest thresholds of the human spirit.