Yesterday, “The Editors” of n+1, the self-appointed journal of the “intellectual situation,” expressed concern about the way “we” are all preoccupied by internet rage click-bait. As it seems the first-person plural is a mark of seriousness, we’re trying it out here. And let us say: we’re touched by their concern! Flavorwire even got mentioned in the list of publications that included The Atlantic and Slate. We enjoy feeling included. Even if we are included in what amounts to an excessively outraged editorial about excessive outrage, and one not terribly self-aware about the irony of that.
For one: We wonder whether these collective “Editors” are familiar at all with the history of journalism. We recommend reading up on it, because it is edifying and fun. Journalism, as it turns out, has been accused of unnecessarily fomenting outrage since just about the dawn of print capitalism! Today, the term for the brass ring is “pageviews,” but once it was the sale of that magazine on the rack, or those ancient-looking broadsheet things that the movies tell us “newsies” were always peddling on street corners.
Here is our main point of agreement: The creation of disproportionate excitement around a topic is, in the best-case scenario, the unintended side effect of dogged reporting about an important topic. But other times, yes, it is the product of what the writer Maura Johnston sometimes calls “trollgaze,” defined as “those pieces of pop culture as designed for maximum Internet attention as they are pieces of art that can stand (or at least wobble) on their own.”
Does that suck? Indeed it does, sometimes, though trying to legislate that only “important” work be discussed seems like a serpent eating its own tail, to us.
Are today’s controversies even stupider than those of years past? Possibly, though stupid not being an empirically measurable quantity, it’s hard to say. We can agree with the n+1 “we” that the accelerated pace of this is dizzying, and frustrating. But we don’t make the rules. And we’re just trying to hold it together in a bad economy and worse cultural climate, like everyone else.
It is pretty easy to figure out just why we do it anyway. The editors here at Flavorwire are not independently wealthy. And not having gone to Harvard or Yale or (cough) Brown, certain avenues of more respectable media employment were shut to us from the get-go, and our attempts at freelance intellectualism were less credulously received by well-paying print publications. Also, many of us couldn’t bear the long slog towards dubious employment prospects that we collectively call “graduate school.”
So here we are. We must sing for our suppers. For a rag which sells itself as the last standard-bearer of (eight-o’clock-cocktails-in-brownstone-Brooklyn) Marxism in our time, they often seem terribly ignorant of the workings of capitalism, that “we” over at n+1. People in capitalist economies make compromises, one of which will be weighing in on what people are talking about because people are talking about it. And by no means are all of these conversations as silly as 300 Sandwiches. There are worse things, like marrying borderline-criminal I-bankers to support us while we toil away for ten years on our precious literary novels. Or writing soul-killing copy for the magazines of the extremely, fabulously wealthy. Or working in a corporate law firm. When “The Editors” have been writing professionally for a little longer, they’ll understand this. In the meantime, we salute their idealism, we guess!