So it seems Snakes on a Plane failed to live up to “an unprecedented tsunami of internet hype” and slunk to… well, #1 at the box office, but not as #1 as some people had predicted. Of course, this cued a bullshitload of stories all with the same premise: the Internet didn’t live up to its reputation as a cultural barometer.
Seriously, when are people going to stop writing these pieces? When an “online phenom” doesn’t pan out, so-called “real” reporters relish the ineffectiveness of the Web – and when someone like Ned Lamont wins the Democratic primary in Connecticut, the same reporters say it was masterminded by the “angry left” clacking away on blogs and liberal forums.
Either tack is completely reductivist and marginalizing to the power of an internet community. When are these journalists going to learn that the internet is not substantially different than any other mode of communication, and it’s mostly full of normal people without an agenda? There was no vast online excitement generated for “Snakes on a Plane” other than the natural rancor reserved for something so stupid. People talked about it because the title itself was the entire pitch for the project, which inspired equal parts rejoicing and shit-talking. It was just parallelism in action; nobody actually had a dog in that fight.
Likewise, journalists like to mystify the Lamont victory, but it had virtually nothing to do with some online cabal. As Susan’s plea to newspapers editors says quite well (conservatives, shield your eyes):
***Get over us, for crying out loud. Cut loose with a minimal travel budget for a reporter for a day or two – enough to cover meals at Denny’s, a night at Motel 6, a rented Taurus and admission to a county fair – and go talk to some “real Americans.” Surprisingly, they’re going to be saying the exact same things that are said in tens of thousands of comments and diaries here each week: We’re sick of the status quo and we want something done about it, damn it. And I guarantee you, not one in 100 would have heard of Daily Kos or MyDD or AmericaBlog. Yet they somehow managed to vote out an incumbent senator anyway. Go figure.***
There was a day when the internet was nothing but spasmodic computer science majors swapping DOS files; that was called 1979. There was also a day when the internet was 85% yucky guys trading Star Trek fan fiction on Usenet; that was called 1992. Now my Auntie Donna is reading this blog in Pleasant Grove, Utah at the age of eighty-seven, wincing when I use swear words (sorry, A.D.!) And let me tell you, my journalistic friends, if Auntie Donna is reading, the internet is now America.
I’ve got a word for you, newspaper writers: you’re a bunch of mediumists. You think there’s only one or two respected ways of disseminating information, and the internet remains this Wild West of crazy YouTube videos featuring suicidal Russian urban gymnasts and bloggers wearing nothing but disheveled underpants. What you don’t realize is that your stories about how the Internet is a marginal place… is mostly being read on the internet.
The day will come when it will be considered criminal to fell trees for reading material. All books and periodicals will be on a screen of some sort, the kind you can unfold from your pocket and stretch out to the size of Interview Magazine. I’m proud that folks like Jerry Salley and I wrote the first words some people in the South ever read on the internet, and never looked back. I used to love the feel of a magazine, and the black oily ink of a fresh newspaper, but like a lot of nostalgic habits, I’m moving on.