5. Shel Silverstein
Just imagine if the author of The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends was still alive today and updating his blog with periodic poems and illustrations. While Silverstein’s current website hosts the latest news about the late artist’s works, I think his subtle and oftentimes illuminating sense of humor would work phenomenally well in today’s blogging climate.
Why he’d be awesome: XKCD vs. Shel Silverstein. I wonder who would win that battle. Dubbed as a modern-day Renaissance man, Silverstein’s work affected other mediums aside from poetry. He wrote the song A Boy Named Sue for Johnny Cash, for which he won a Grammy in 1970. He was nominated for an Oscar for his music for the film Postcards from the Edge. He also published over a dozen books between 1956 and 1998 with posthumous releases in 2005 and 2008, before his death the weekend of May 8, 1999.
Now, imagine that kind of talent applied to today’s internet, which often seems to blend multiple artistic mediums as one. I think “Uncle Shelby” would have created further masterpieces with the tools of the internet at his disposal.
4. Bill Hicks
Irreverent, obscene, but oftentimes breathtakingly insightful. His career may not have lasted that long, but the atheistic arguer who could have been George Carlin’s long lost son, certainly made his impact in the world of comedy by blending religion, politics and personal stories with his own brand of humor. Sadly, Hicks died in 1994 of liver cancer after the disease spread from his pancreas.
Why he’d be awesome: Before his untimely death, Hicks managed to land himself in controversy numerous times. Most famously his entire bit was cut from the Late Show with David Letterman after the producers found it too offensive for audiences. Hicks then wrote a 39-page letter to John Lahr of The New Yorker expressing his feelings of betrayal. The whole incident passed without audiences realizing what had happened, and how CBS had blatantly censored a comedian who’d appeared on Letterman eleven times at that point. But what if Hicks had posted that letter to his own website? Or directly on social media? Imagine the immediate outcry from people all over the country. It’s one thing to write a letter that appears in print a few weeks after the fact, but a blog entry is immediate. It probably would have forced the Late Show to release the segment of Hicks at the very least on YouTube or something.
There was also the time when Hicks declared to a heckler, “Hitler had the right idea, he was just an underachiever!” Hicks later clarified his statement as a reflection of his disgust with humanity in general, but not before charges of anti-Semitism were levied against him.
Over his career, Hicks frequently challenged the censors, challenged conventional thinking, and more often than not tore apart anyone who harassed him on stage. He was a comedian in a time when large corporations and behemoth monopolies solely controlled the dissemination of art. Now, anyone with the right tools and know-how on the internet can entertain their own audiences without censorship and without corporate oversight. The internet has brought artists and their followers closer, and has leveled the playing field in favor of those who desire to create their own material. This is the kind of environment Hicks would have thrived in. He would have had full control and been able to influence a much greater range of people than ever before.
Besides, how many comedians or humor writers are successful on the internet today? Very few. This is where Hicks would have been a stellar exception, and I can only imagine the kind of tell-all material he’d post from the sordid world of comedy.
3. Ayn Rand
If the continued popularity of Ron Paul and his perfectly-named son Rand over the past few years is any indication, there is widespread interest throughout the country in the ideals of the free market and capitalism. People are fed up with a government growing out of control, absorbing more of their tax dollars, and eroding everyday freedoms through such overreaching laws like the Patriot Act and the wasteful wars of whim in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But there’s a problem. There is very little mental muscle nowadays devoted to defending the principles that Ayn Rand espoused in her philosophy of Objectivism. Politicians are mostly divided between the heavy-spending warmongering Neocons of the far right, and the heavy-spending liberals of the far left. That’s not much of a choice considering neither side is devoted to upholding the Constitution or private property rights. If it wasn’t the War on Terror, it’d be the War on Global Warming. Then Covid came along, causing government spending to skyrocket to unprecedented levels.
Why she’d be awesome: Ayn Rand articulated the values of capitalism and private property rights in a way that no one had ever done before, at least since Adam Smith. She took abstract values broadly defined in the Constitution, but bandied about by fast-talking politicians as mere matters of individual opinion, and made them issues of moral certainty. Her books Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead took the abstract and made it concrete.
Imagine a powerful voice like that cutting through the rhetoric and nonsense of today’s 24/7 media. Whether you agree or disagree with her philosophy, she’d certainly have a blog worth reading.
2. Truman Capote
If you think Perez Hilton is a shameless, self-promotional media sponge, you haven’t met his intellectual superior and gossipy predecessor, Truman Capote. Famous in the literary world for his classic books Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, Capote was also well known throughout the media and intelligentsia as a true-blue eccentric.
Why he’d be awesome: Capote frequently claimed all sorts of wild things over the course of his literary career. Things like having gay relations with all sorts of Hollywood actors perceived as strictly heterosexual (Errol Flynn, for one), and knowing certain celebrities like Greta Garbo that in actuality he had never met. Known for his saying, “All literature is gossip,” Capote riled his adoring public with frequent stays in rehab clinics, drug addiction, and chronic mental breakdowns. One time, while extremely drunk, he confessed in a live-air interview that he might kill himself.
And all this behavior from a guy who was 5’3”, openly gay, and spoke in a high-pitched squeaky voice. Just imagine the kind of gossip a guy like Capote could spread across the web with his kind of writing and Hollywood network. I doubt there’s a single internet entity alive today whose eccentricity wouldn’t be readily eclipsed by this ingenuous master of absurdity.
1. George Orwell
1984. Animal Farm. Two famous novels that boldly warned of the perils of a totalitarian state. But aside from novels, George Orwell also wrote scores of essays, opinions, book reviews and memoirs on everything from politics to the English language. Such material would more than fit into today’s blogging atmosphere.
Why he’d be awesome: Similar to Ayn Rand, George Orwell’s presence on the web would lend incredible intellectual strength to the principles of limited government and personal liberty.
With our nation on the brink of insolvency due to a devalued dollar, deficits, higher taxes and higher government spending, and everything Covid has unleashed, we look around and wonder how it all happened. How our government managed not to stay our friend and helpful neighbor, but become a fearsome uncle, or Big Brother as Orwell would say, that slowly takes our rights away rather than defending them. But is any of that a surprise when our media is unwilling to discuss the real issues during an election period? When the slightest gaffe or misspoken word is enough to send the press pirates into a frenzy as though something of substance actually happened? Who cares whether so and so would raise taxes or accelerate a war, the real issue is does he seem like the kind of guy you could have a beer with?
Like Socrates, any nation is meant to have its own gadflies standing atop a bedrock of reason and willing to call out corrupt officials no matter what the cost. Breathless pundits and self-absorbed experts don’t cut it. A writer like Orwell would matter immensely in today’s blogging world because words matter the most when it comes to motivating people. How is it possible to keep the public informed when there are no intellectual heavyweights around to cut through the thicket of rhetoric?
After all, down through history, it has been the written word that has inspired people. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense inspired thousands of colonists fighting during the American Revolution. Karl Marx provided a philosophical foundation for socialism in his Communist Manifesto. And who could argue about the effects of the Bible, the Koran, and countless other religious and political texts around the world?
Words matter. Whether they are in book form or blog form, fictional or nonfictional, words motivate, change, alter, shape and modify human behavior. It’s all in who writes them, and what they are saying. And the above folks really matter. Sadly, they all passed before being able to fully access the kind of audience the internet can provide today. Their words, though written in decades past, still reverberate. Were they still alive today, imagine how much of an impact a current blog of theirs would make.
My novel Nemesis, a psychological thriller, is available to buy on Amazon.