qwertylicious

8/20/06

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.

0 thoughts on “qwertylicious

  1. DFB's&T's

    Ian, how many chickens did you count while writing this? Did it affect your math that the chikens had not hatched yet?
    Lieberman is polling significantly ahead of Ned. Personally, I would hope the Republican wins because an “Independent” Lieberman is still not a Republican, but I find the whole thing interesting.

    Reply
  2. Season

    Lamont is still far behind in the polls, most Connecticut residents don’t believe a thing that comes out of his mouth, we all know he goes home to a $30 Million mansion and a fleet of SUVs.
    Also, how come Ian won’t talk about the news that came out today detailing how the 2006 Tropical Storm season is well below normal??? Would that not be good for his agenda, so he doesn’t talk about it?

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  3. CL

    Good entry, except for the part about being done with print media. There’s room for all of us!
    We still need a lot of print media, mainly because most of the bloggers do not have the level of accountability that reporters do, as if we write something incorrectly, we can’t just go into a program and change it right away: It’s there in black and white, permanently.
    Of course the internet is a presence, and obviously will be more and more so. But the fact that newspapers across the country are combining or dying and there is less manpower means you get more of those stupid stories you are talking about in the first place.

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  4. Susan

    I’m with Beth…no way I’d choose a machine over a book or magazine. There’s just something about cracking open a brand new book or turning the pages of a well-worn one that can’t compare to pushing a button and reading off a screen. Same goes for my daily newspaper.

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  5. kent

    The first wide area TCP/IP network was operational January 1 1983. Back then it was called Darpanet.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet#Creation_of_the_Internet
    Before access to the Internet became available to non-military, non-academic users in 1985, there were two ways for communicating — uucp, which was a unix-based mail and file transfer network set up over phone lines, and fidonet, the dial-up BBS systems. That would be where we were trading DOS files, but in 1979, DOS had not yet been released. At that point CP/M80 and AppleDos (and TRSDOS and OS9) ruled the land.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidonet
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uucp
    I think you’re right though, that blogs & such represent Vox Populi, and as such is nothing new. Of course, since it’s something people do, it occasionally becomes the story. Occasionally the bloggers get out ahead of the mainstream media.
    Print newspapers may go the way of the 8 track tape at some point, but the fact that you can report, edit, and print a newspaper even if an EMP bomb has zapped every computer in town should give you pause. Computers are at the top of a technological support pyramid that wouldn’t survive just one of its supports being damaged. What will future historians do when books and government documents are all in digital forms on obsolete formats?
    I’ve been an early adopter my whole life. Not as early an adopter as our brother Steve, but close. I still think low tech solutions are valuable, and until they make a computer that can sit in a cave for 1900 years and then give up its secrets (see: Dead Sea Scrolls), we shouldn’t be so proud of our shiny digital future.

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  6. Zel M.

    Forgive me for being dense, or it may just be a result of me being a knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing neanderthal with a 1200cc brain, but I had a hard time following this piece.
    Is the internet a force, or isn’t it? Did the blogosphere have something to do with Ned Lamont, or didn’t it? Internet good, print media bad? Help me see through today’s gobbeldygook.
    As for the comments, I agree with CL that there should be a level of accountability for the professional media (Jayson Blair and the Reuters photographer not withstanding). And to latch onto Kent, the internet is powerful as both Vox Populi and yet another layer of accountability for the professional media (e.g. the Bush Air National Guard farce).
    But as many on both sides of the aisle are quick to confront talk radio, both the internet and the blogosphere are also fertile ground for kooks and nugget-heads. Just like I have always asserted there should be an IQ test to vote and to reproduce, there should be a similar test to use the internet.

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  7. Matt

    “Yet they somehow managed to vote out an incumbent senator anyway.”
    “DFB’s&T’s” got to this one already. Not even a third of registered CT voters are registered as Democrats, so they couldn’t vote in the primary. Lieberman is not going anywhere, if his 12-point lead in the latest poll is to be believed. Odd though, isn’t it? That the Kos crowd’s only election victory thus far has come against a …..Democrat.
    “Season” must be referring to this article:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060820/sc_nm/weather_hurricanes_dc
    “So far this year, only three tropical storms have formed — Alberto, Beryl and Chris. Strong wind shear — the difference in wind speed and direction at different levels of the atmosphere — has disrupted some of the tropical weather systems that eventually become cyclones.
    “Mayfield expressed puzzlement as to why the season hasn’t been a little more active. ‘We’re actually not sure why some of these are not developing,’ he said.”
    What kind of anti-science clap-trap is this? Everyone knows that anytime weather patterns can’t be explained it is due to GLOBAL WARMING.

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  8. Matt

    I’m sorry, Ian, but to what are you referring? The fact that Lieberman has not been “vote[d] out” or my obvious teasing with regard to GW?

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  9. xuxE

    i love reading on the internet. i could easily see myself getting completely free of hard copy news and stories and into pure internet reading, especially because of the embedded links which can take you off in all different directions and provide immediate backstory and context. love it.
    i would still read some print media, but it would really have to be visually captivating. i find myself more and more attracted to stunning images and design that enhances the story. not that you can’t have some of that in electronic form, but i don’t think i would ever move on from visual design and images on paper.
    but anyway, i get all my news from ian’s blog, so what more do i need?
    on a completely unrelated topic, i just made a reservation at the carolina inn – i have to go to chapel hill one day in september for work. just had to mention it over here because honestly, i have to admit, i wouldn’t be nearly as excited about the trip it if it weren’t for ian and the blog posse. much thanks.

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  10. eric g.

    xuxE: As the proud holder of one of the longest tenures as a Carolina Inn waiter in the history of the place, I must applaud your choice of hotel.

    Reply

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