Sunday, June 03, 2007

Steve Gilliard 1966-2007

I've been taking a brief respite from the blogosphere and plan to resume normal blogging shortly, but this weekend I heard some incredibly sad news, that Steve Gilliard of The News Blog had passed away, and I just wanted to say a few words.

Steve hated BS so I am not going to lie to you. We did not agree on much. He said the most scurrilous things about our President and he hated the Yankees, which is the finest team money can buy, and loved the Mets, a team only a Democrat could love. He actually believed that "liberal" was not a dirty word and predicted even before the War in Iraq began that it was doomed to failure instead of the great success it has turned out to be. Yes, he was wrong about just about everything.

I never met Steve and we only corresponded a few times. The first time he linked to one of my pieces his readers were most unkind, to say the least. I wrote to thank him for the link and to say I hoped he didn't lose too many readers over it. But he didn't seem to care who he pissed off. He was a graduate of the like-it-or-lump-it school of blogging. "It's really simple: I say what I mean and I mean what I say," he wrote in his very first News Blog post.

We also exchanged a few heated emails on the subject of the Great Blogrolling Controversy. I tried to explain how difficult it is for smaller bloggers to get recognized nowadays and how I thought bigger bloggers should do more to lend a helping hand. Already a grizzled veteran of many blogwars, he deflected my entreaties with bemused weariness.

Steve started out in the Mesozoic Era of blogging back when blog posts were still etched on orange cave walls lit by fire. He was The Daily Kos' first guest blogger before striking out on his own to build The News Blog into one of the most successful blogs on the Internet. Like a lot of pioneers (at least the ones you see in Westerns) he had a kind of aw-shucks arrogance that was as charming as it was infuriating. "It's not so hard to be as great as I am," he seemed to think. But it is very hard indeed.

I did eventually succeed in getting him to weigh in on the subject of blogrolling and the results were not quite what I hoped. He managed to pat me on the back and swat me down with one graceful motion. "Son, get off your knees," he wrote. "The ONLY blog you should worry about is YOURS. None of those people matter. It doesn't matter who links to you, only who reads you." I'm not on my knees I wrote to him, I'm just not as tall as you.

Then after all that, after telling me how unimportant it was to care about whether big bloggers like himself linked to me or not, and not to bother asking, he went ahead and added me to his blogroll anyway. "No petitioning needed," he said. In the end his cantankerousness was equaled only by his generosity.

Then just a few weeks later he went into the hospital.

That was the extent of my contact with Steve Gilliard. I know it isn't much of a story but that's all I have. I wish that I could have met him. I sure would have told him some things. Somehow I think he would have gotten the better end of the argument but I wouldn't have cared at all.

I hope you don't mind, Steve, if I really do get on my knees just this time, to pray for you and your family and your co-blogger Jen, to thank God for letting us get to know you just a little bit, and, God forgive me, to rail at Him for taking you too soon.

I don't know why I feel this overwhelming sadness at his loss. I really didn't know Steve at all.

If you want to know more about Steve than I can possibly tell you, take a look at these tributes from around the blogosphere: Tom Watson, American Street, Firedoglake, Mad Kane's Political Madness (featuring a short interview with Steve), Sisyphus Shrugged,, Daily Kos, skippy the bush kangaroo, State of the Day, The Carpetbagger Report, TalkLeft, August J. Pollak, Jesus' General, All Spin Zone, the talking dog, The Impolitic, Happy Furry Puppy Story, The Democratic Daily, culturekitchen, Comments From Left Field, Brilliant at Breakfast, Digby, Orcinus, Avedon Carol's The Sideshow, Meteor Blades, Making Light, Shakesville, Blog PI, Welcome to Pottersville, Galloping Beaver, Rude Pundit, The Agonist, Tbogg, Crooks & Liars, At Largely, Tattered Coat, James Wolcott, Pam's House Blend, Rising Hegemon, Majikthise, Alicublog, Driftglass, Dean Barnett, Off the Kuff, Happening Here, Balls and Walnuts, Mercury Rising, Thoughts from an Empty Head, Armed Liberal, Blue Wren, Occam's Razor, Ebogjonson, Jack and Jill Politics, Crablaw, Political Sapphire, and Ghost Sites of the Web (which inludes a generous selection of Steve's tech writing for Netslaves)

Photo from Campus Progress.

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d said...

This was fantastic . . .

Voice said...

Well done Mr. Swift --

Of all the tributes I've read in the last several hours, yours has moved me the most. . . .

Miss Cellania said...

I wasn't familiar with The News Blog, but I feel like I now know Steve because of this post and the other tributes. He had a lot of friends and admirers. He just left too early. Great post.

Avedon said...

I don't know why I feel this overwhelming sadness at his loss. I really didn't know Steve at all.


Me, too.

litbrit said...

A beautiful tribute, Mr. Swift, written with class and style. I'd expect nothing less.

(And I feel the same way--I didn't know Steve personally, but I know I would have liked him immensely and that we'd have got on like a house on fire. I am always drawn to the cantankerous and kindly among us, particularly when they're gifted writers.)

G'night, G'bless, Steve.

'Coma said...

I think this is a great tribute. Here's the thing about Gilliard,
I read him.
He wasn't afraid, probably didn't give a darn if you read him or not, but we did.
I didn't always agree with what he said, but by God, he had the right to say it and he did.
And I like that, that lack of fear or refusing to falling into line with perceived conventions. He did what he wanted to.And I found that to be pretty groovy.
I didn't know him, but I read his words because many times they resonated with me.
And, for me at least, that's important.

jurassicpork said...

Thanks for the link, Mr. Swift. That's high praise indeed, coming from one of America's foremost conservative pundits.

I was thinking of assembling later this week in my weekly blog whoring post a list of the blogs with the best tributes to Mr. Gilliard but it seems that my work has been done for me. Good job, sir, good job.

We'll all be poorer with Steve's passing and at a time when we need all the loud, elquent, impassioned voices that we can get.

jurassicpork said...

Incidentally, here's d r i f t g l a s's brief but moving tribute to Steve to add to this august list.

Doodle Bean said...

Thank you, Mr. Swift!

And thank you for your trenchant comment at that horrible all meat blog. I didn't want to comment over there since those kinds of blowhards like the attention.

Oh, and welcome back! More please!

Sharoney said...

Mr. Swift, your wonderful tribute to a man we all loved and admired is an example of why this unapologetic liberal has blogrolled you as one of the few conservative bloggers on her tiny little website.

Well done, sir.

Pamela said...

As always... well said Jon. Thank you. He touched all of us whether we knew him or not.

flawedplan said...

Top-notch as usual. Don't wander too far man, you're needed.

jimbales said...

My Dear Mr. Swift (or should I say, Dean Swift),

I have sorely missed the piercing gaze of your conservative insight upon this mad world of ours, and I was delighted to see you had bestowed upon us a new posting of your wisdom.

Until I saw what had prompted it.

With all due respect, Dean Swift, I wish you did not have cause for your extraordinary tribute.

Now I seek that other Dean-turned-blogger, John Donne, who, is no doubt posting his own tribute to the late Mr. Gilliard, entitled, I suspect, "Meditation XVII."

Taking this opportunity to express my heart-felt thanks to you for your moving words, I remain,

Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant,

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I feel this overwhelming sadness at his loss. I really didn't know Steve at all.

I didn't read Steve a lot either, just followed links at times. But it's the photo on the home page; when I see it, I see a monument. And then I found your post, Jon, and those two sentences, and I wonder if there's something in the photo. Why do I feel the overwhelming sense of loss when I didn't know him at all? Thanks for being that genuine.

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