Posted on | August 30, 2013 | 31 Comments
Aficionados of Blog-Fu will some day recall Thursday’s AOSHQ beatdown of Slate the way boxing fans remember Clay-Liston:
What he’s pointing out is that the “counterintuitive”-style article, or the rant that deliberately takes aim at conventional sensibilities in a cheeky pseudo-iconoclastic fashion, is just trolling for reaction, rather than doing anything intellectually valid or useful.
This has become as cliché as the BuzzFeed cute-kitty slideshow or the Think Progress look-at-this-stupid-thing-a-Republican-said outrage piece. (Partisan oppo-research as “investigative journalism.”)
Producers of this assembly-line erzatz intellectualism know their intended readership, and there is a certain art to producing their stuff, in the same way that Brill Building songwriters required skill to crank out a reliable commercial product. But it’s lightweight, and any pretension to seriousness is like the Monkees when they tried to rebel against Don Kirschner and prove that they were a “real” band.
Uh, no. No, not really. No, not at all.
Slate has not yet descended to the level of Salon.com, but it has definitely begun slouching toward Middlebrow, except that one could make a (counterintuitive!) defense of 20th-century Middlebrow literature as something better than any of the cheap dreck being cranked out by Matthew Yglesias, et al., in the Obama era.
Notice how Ace goes from calling Slate an “Amateur Online Webzine” to calling it a “Group Blog,” then just “Blog,” because this is what the folks who market Slate don’t want to admit: This low-investment, don’t-have-to-pick-up-the-phone, just-pull-it-out-of-my-ass stuff isn’t any more legitimate as capital-J Journalism than anything published by scores of people who are Just Bloggers.
Publishing blogs under a “magazine” banner doesn’t make you any better than anybody else, and if institutions of capital-J Journalism can’t do any better than this lame crap, they deserve to fail.
Where Ace really nails it is deep into the third post, where he describes Slate as “something that once sort of tried to pretend to be a ‘smart’ alternative to real media.” DING! DING! DING!
Maybe our nostalgic fondness for Michael Kinsley-era Slate is like most other nostalgic fondness for things that always seem better in memory than they actual were at the time. Counter-intuitively, however, I want to claim that the decline of Slate is quite real.
These kids are just so lazy or, in the case of Allison Benedikt, so hopelessly ignorant that they are incapable of good writing.
Also, it’s much more Team Player these days, isn’t it? Grant that Slate has always been a liberal publication, but hyper-partisanship — by God, epistemic closure! — has warped the whole project. Maybe the tedious predictability of Slate’s political slant is a marketing strategy, but this is now an editorial team so completely trapped inside such an ideological bubble that it’s not even interesting liberalism.
Maybe they know what they’re doing, in terms of a business model, and are satisfied with their readership trends. Whatever.
Not a damned thing Slate has published in recent memory, however, is as good as Ace’s thermonuclear destruction of Allison Benedikt.
A true classic, Ace. Integrity like Paul Fucking Anka.