It started at the Telegraph, moved on to the Catholic Herald, the Spectator, and ever onward: the demise of the professional "suit and tie" blogger, who was actually paid for writing his or her piece for a newspaper or website. For it was discovered that the "pyjama" or "underpant" commentators, who offered their services for free, had so much more to say, even if they were never allowed out of their bedrooms.
"Would you care to write a blog for us, your Majesty? Any old rubbish will do."
Originally designed as learned essays on matters of common interest, in the tradition of Bacon, Swift, Chesterton, Orwell and so many others, the professional blogs gradually declined, as people were invited to read them and comment on them. Would Francis Bacon have written a piece on whether James I ate too much custard? Would Chesterton have criticised Cardinal Vaughan's haircut? Did George Orwell have a crush on Judy Garland? No, these were heavyweight essayists.
Scarecrow, Dorothy (Judy Garland), Lion and Tin Man in the Izzard of Oz.
In the end, it was not necessary to write a full blog post in order to generate the valuable "clicks" that so delighted the advertisers. A simple one or two-word title, such as "UKIP" (mysteriously written "Ukip" by the Telegraph), or "Islam", or "David Cameron", or - in the great days of "Holy Smoke" blogs - "Vincent Nichols", would guarantee pages and pages of mouth-foaming nonsense, as shelf-stackers, donkey-obsessives, drunken journalists, sinister deacons, bad-tempered Australian grandmothers, mollusc-molesters, implausible priests, and perverts from Stockport would tumble over each other as they rushed to issue insults, to suck up to the blog's author, to dump the contents of their brains, to explain why the Catholic Church was damned and they alone were saved, or to tell tedious anecdotes about life in Adelaide. Or perhaps it was just one person using an army of sockpuppets.
Of course, an army of semi-literate "muddlerators" was required to keep them in order. Sometimes the blog author himself was muddlerated, sometimes rival bloggers would drop in to join the fun.
"I see they've moderated my comments about giving communion to adulterers."
Curiously, the Guardian, a newspaper that will be totally forgotten by about 2025, took an entirely different approach. To write for Comment Shall Set You Free, you had to buy into the liberal consensus, where men could become female just by putting on a dress, where an abortion was considered to be every woman's dream, where Shami Chakrabarti was actually taken seriously, where a man could marry another man - or his mother - or indeed his pet hamster, and where Keith Vaz was regarded as a saintly character of irreproachable morals. Then, any comment below the line other than "I agree with you, Fr Fraser" (or whoever the writer was) was rewarded with instant banishment and accusations of "hate crime". But nobody read the Guardian so it didn't matter.
The fate of "professional" bloggers was inevitable. The best writers went off and wrote their own spiritually nourishing blogs, in a world where deadlines did not exist, the writer was not obliged to produce any old tosh if he or she didn't feel like it, and no money changed hands. Hence there were casualties among the professional bloggers: Fr Dwight Longenecker's family starved to death when his own blog was drowned in a sea of rivals; Fr Zuhlsdorf had to sell coffee to make ends meet; and as for that huge army of brilliant Telegraph bloggers - Thompson, Delingpole, Hannan, Hough, Mary Riddell no not Mary Riddell - they disappeared without trace. Although sometimes you may see Ed West selling matches in Trafalgar Square; he still wears a suit and tie.
"You will leave the EU..." Hannan has a new career as a stage hypnotist.
P.S. Comments are welcomed. They're usually better than anything I have to say, anyway.