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Techno-Triumphalist Takedown

Ezra Klein offers a good reminder: The internet only goes so far. The source post he links to is pretty sharp, too.

December 5, 2006 / Uncategorized


Okay, that’s a bit too many levels of indirection for this post: This post -> Klein -> Jarvis -> NYT. But I’m a bit lost, here — the NYT is writing about an underprivileged woman who got pregnant at 13 and works the graveyard shift in fast food. Jarvis is saying on his blog that we don’t care. Klein points out that Jarvis needs some empathy, which in turn was the point of your link. But does that mean you’re saying that the internet only goes so far, but that good ol’ paper institutions like the NYT go the last mile?

I’d link you to the original NYT article, just to bring this full circle and prove my point [that is, the one that says that it’s not the medium that’s the problem, it’s some people using the medium], but now it’s behing a TimesSelect wall. Bah.

Ah hahahaha. Good point. It’s all very meta.

I guess I was actually mostly ignoring the layers of Jarvis, NYT, etc. and agreeing with the (obvious) sentiment that the blogosphere is supercool but not yet a solution to any Real Problems.

That is to say: I have no comment on, and indeed very little interest in, the underlying NYT article.

Print-only newsletter for the elite and the elderly, y’all 😉

Robin, I opened up your post this morning. Then I opened up Klein’s, Ankush’s, Jarvis’s, posts, plus the NYT article. Then I read them on the train without any internet. Then I spent all day at work. Then I went to a holiday party with Gigaom and freakin’ Chad Hurley and people who kind of, um, love the internet and make lots and lots of money off of it. Then I tried writing about it on the train, again, with no internet. Then I stopped, briefly, connected, to see your blog again. (When Snarkmarket finally puts out t-shirts, make sure to order small for me, eh?). And ohmigod you’ve short circuited my brain with thought.

The reason why this is a prime example of the internet not working is that a) no one is understanding anyone else and b) no one is actually thinking about how their words connect to the real world of atoms. (Bits to atoms people! bits to atoms!)

A) Kind of sappy cliched profile that had a lot of potential but neither caught truly stand-out scenes nor explored its subject’s situation in any real depth nor made any deep connection with larger phenomena. Writer not really succeeding in understanding their subject, or communicating that understanding to us. NYT, -1.

B) Kind of stupidly sarcastic snark seems grounded in above author-critique–with validity!–but completely fails to explain what would have been preferable, leading readers to believe that the mistake was with the choice of subject and not the execution of the profile. Sarcasm, unsurprisingly misdirects, and idiot commenters feel free to make all kinds of bizarre and sweeping generalization–again, bizarrely aimed at the subject of the profile.

C) Without pausing for one second to consider that the writer in B is a J-school professor and might have a (bad!) habit of being sarcastic, snarky, and Socratic to “make people think,” poster assumes that all the bile in (B) is directed at the innocent and troubled subject of (A) and fully eviscerates this person’s humanity.

D) Jumps into the evisceration pileon, amplifying effect.

Does any of this bring us any closer to a world where 13-year old girls have better ways of dealing with mistakes, one way or the other, where workers get a iiving wage and health insurance, where young mothers can go to school more than once a week and the easiest breakfast for a kid isn’t fast food? No. Every white male (and perhaps one brown one? Or female?) in this chain wildly missed their mark.

LeDuff could have written a better article. If it was worth sending him to Dallas, it was worth spending a few more days, picking one of the troubling issues in Ms. Castillo’s life, finding out why they were messed up on a national level, and then connected that phenomena back to her efforts to live okay. Really, that’s probably the Times’ fault.

Jarvis could have been more imaginative, positive, and constructive in his criticism, making it clear it was aimed at the author and not the subject (maybe I’m totally wrong and he really is a jerkface, but considering my main interaction with the guy is trying to discuss methods to help poor people deal with emergencies, I can’t quite believe that)–sacrificing cleverness and drippingly joyful sarcasm for clarity and earnest discussion focused on progress.

Ankush could have paused before eviscerating, and been a little less enthusiastic about eviscerating and a little more enthusiastic about, say, providing his own probably excellent insight into the article.

And ditto for Klein.


And yes, here’s what I want to know—how did the Dallas rep vote on living wage rules? What kind of regulations and loops are in place to make people who are willing to go to school on saturdays despite working hard all week improve their lives with less crazy effort. To me that single detail was worth the whole piece, the crux of it, the important part–and yet it got totally ignored by EVERYONE in the chain. How do I help this woman go to school more and flip burgers less? where do I send a check? Can I volunteer? Make that national policy /sociological connection for me! PLEASE. Somebody.

/okay, time to stop ranting. And damn you for deleting the preview button. 🙂

Hmm, and Robin of Snarkmarket clearly as (D) in above and yet somehow escaping the direct line of fire. No need, I’ll take it — I didn’t even read the NYT article! This is like a case study in blog-o-dynamics!

Nomination for best Snarkmarket comment ever.

Even if I am kind of suspicious Saheli was slightly drunk while writing it.

NO! D was Ezra Klein! You were the only person who was right! Sheesh. :-p

I have actually never managed to drink and blog/comment. But I have a sneaky suspicion I left a lot of drunken bloggers behind when I left early to go home tonight. 😉

Ah, of course… I can’t count.


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