There once was a man who, through creative, thoughtful and forceful writing, took the internet and blogging, gave them a solid squeeze and set a standard one day we can all only dream of achieving.
I never met him. I did, however, know his writing; sensed his energy; and, understood his passion.
He was prolific yet measured. He had the uncanny ability to read the personality of those in power and predict their actions. And he did it with surgical precision.
He was never anything less than a fighter. I'm told he was a quiet, studious man, and one helluva reliable friend. He believed he could right the wrongs of his country and he set out to do just that.
Whether he set out to become the example for others I do not know. But that is what happened. He made the powerful pay attention, not to him, but to themselves. And he showed us how intelligence, wit, research and focus could come together from the keyboard to create a force. He was, whether he wanted to be or not, a leader and a mentor.
On April 3rd, 2003, before Iraq had become the shambles it is today, he wrote this:
The US could easily win the war and lose the peace. It does no good to beat Saddam only to have to fight Shia guerrillas weeks or months later.If you recognize that line then you know of whom I speak.
Steve Gilliard. Gilly to his friends.
The Gazetteer calls him The best he's ever seen. The blog was his instrument. It was through his postings that we were exposed to his mind and his unyielding determination to stand by his position.
James Wolcott aptly sums up the feelings of many, me included.
Of all the losses in 2007, Steve's death is the one that suspends lowest from the ceiling, pressing downward force. Other deaths were saddening--Norman Mailer's, Hilly Kristal's, Elizabeth Hardwick's--but they led full, productive lives and left complete inheritances of accomplishment. Steve was still a mind in motion, a power transmitter still extending his reach, and to be deprived of his voice is a neverending series of what ifs and what might have beens and what would Steve have said about this? A sense of incompletion will always nag, in part because no one has been able to fill the role he left behind and probably no one ever will--he left so much behind, but he took so much more with him.Because Steve Gilliard, ever the fighter, always able to address issues with a clarity most cannot achieve, lost one fight. And the world lost, not just the best blogger, but one of the best minds of our generation.
His legacy was to create a challenge. For all of us. He lives on in our memories and those who knew him best continue to reach for the bar which he set so high. Even the obituary in the New York Times magazine needed to be addressed and the record set straight. It's too bad that even in death, it had to come down to this.
Steve Gilliard deserved so much better. He would never have been so careless. Those who knew him best know there is a much higher standard and it is achievable. Steve proved it.
Luckily, Steve wrote. That was what he was all about. Observing, thinking, analyzing, organizing it all and then writing it out in clear, concise terms which left the reader with no doubts about his point.
If you haven't had the pleasure of Steve's writing, those who are carrying on in his name have generously provided the primer. As Jesse says, consider it an education in real journalism.
We'll miss Steve Gilliard. We will always have what he wrote and we will always have a moment of reflection wondering what more would have come. He left a void.
The best leaders always do.
Update: Brilliant at Breakfast has even more including a link which underlines what the right-wing camp thought of Steve.