Wednesday, June 08, 2016

SOCIAL MEDIA AT THE VANITY FAIR

I read "Pilgrim's Progress in the 8th grade.
Haven't made a lot of progress since then.

My new Vanity Fair came today.  Of course, like Playboy readers, I only read the serious pieces.  But since I had medium.com on my mind, this quote from an article called “Zuckerberg Unbound” caught my eye:

“With Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg built more than a business: he created a culture, combining the ethos of subversive hackery and the fervor of a messianic cult.”  The evolutionary sequence goes Facebook/Twitter/Medium with a few other steps in between — the same people reinventing their carnival wheel.  I warn people all the time that Facebook is a scam, an invasion of their privacy, building a dossier against them, and selling out to peddlers of junk.  They laugh, tell me I’m paranoid, and claim they’re only on it for family photos.  

And, they say, they have nothing to worry about being revealed — what could they possibly being doing wrong that should be kept secret?  These days no one minds being outed.  Who cares if people know they have cancer?  Of course, they’re not married to the person they live with, they don’t declare everything they buy in Canada, and they rat out friends sometimes because who would even know?  It’s just on the Internet.  Why should the government worry about which books they buy from Amazon?  Come to think of it, why are other countries upset by Facebook?  If you say,  “What if the culture changes and something you think is fine becomes criminalized?”  They laugh — there is only one culture: theirs.


Antonio Garcia Martinez was Facebook's Ad Exchange Director 
at the time this photo was taken.

Antonio Garcia Martinez’s article (one of three on social media in this issue of VF)  says, “Facebook wasn’t some measly social network like MySpace but a dream of a different human experience.”  “Engineers ran the place.”  “Famous and rage-filled engineers.”   “If you could get shit done and quickly, nobody cared much about credentials or traditional legalistic morality.  The hacker ethos prevailed above all.”  Numbers are what gets sold -- that's why magazines sometimes offer incredibly cheap subscriptions: so their numbers go up so they can sell advertising.  They don't give a flip about what the content is or whether it gets read.

Don’t send grandma photos of your kids in the bathtub.  They really bring in the numbers on pedoporn sites and anyone can pull them off Google Images.  I should probably be more cautious about looking up definitions of street slang, but I don’t know how subversive the words are until I look them up.  To literal-minded nannies, no doubt I seem dubious.  

I suppose that’s why my email gets block-listed all the time.  That means a private contract company your internet provider covertly uses to stomp on naughty people without being held responsible has put you on a list that turns away messages without you knowing.  They don’t seem to be quite in touch with contemporary culture, which has no boundaries.  

No book I’ve written that is on a PDF or printed by www.lulu.com or published by a university press is NOT available in a hijacked version on the Internet.  Hijacking IS publishing.  When I checked my Twitter account just now, I discovered that two versions of Spongebob and a “Trump for Pres" committee had invaded my list of followers.  Ack.


The big name social media have got contemporary down to a religion.  Product loyalty, karoshi  (Japanese word for overworking oneself to death), self-imposed slavery, and high school fervour for sports teams, disguised with Latin slogans.  This is a culture, the one that creates a product and then embellishes it to the point of it dropping of its own weight.  Sort of like Christianity.  Which crucified its leader.  But there are so many great artifacts left to buy.

There are other cultures: the “subversive hackery” one that creates the companies in the first place and that somehow makes their founders and CEO’s into unsustainable gods, worshipped today, fired tomorrow.  Eventually crucified upside down like Peter. 

Then the cultures of the consumers.  I don’t think I can describe them all.  They tend to be even MORE subversive in goals, but entirely exposable by your local CSI team headed by McGee and Abby.  All about sex and money.  Maybe a little blackmail.  Or extortion like the parties who just hacked the U of Calgary internet and restored it again for a mere $20,000.

McGee (halfway between Jimmy Stewart and Nick Cage)
but smarter.

More than that, there are people who gather in a place like medium.com to pretend they are devoted to fine writing or some such (they assume it equates with celebrity which everyone knows is honorable), which allows other folk to attach to them in comments, so that a post with some appeal to it will accumulate a list of comments that sounds like blurbs on the back of a trade paperback.  

The contrast between the post and the comments is sometimes so marked as to be funny.  Genre writers (mysteries, Westerns, Sci-fi) do this blurb thing among their friends and fellow members of whatever promotional societies they attend.  Western Writers of America and so on.  (Nice folks, by the way.  Smart and funny.  A little long in the tooth.)
Larry McMurtry

I often say that around here the local culture consists of someone doing something a little new, and then everyone telling them what’s wrong with it.  Often, the wrongness is only about not being cool, which is a consensus concept.  It’s pressure towards conformity.  More high school.  "Round 'em up, roll 'em in."  

But then there are the mommies, often using pseudonyms and eager to comfort someone or give them something nice.  They “top” by helping.  They’re full of praise, clearly accustomed to admiring crayon masterpieces by taping them onto the refrigerator.  They are sure that if you really want something, you can get it, do it, whatever.  Be a genius.

They like the therapist role, too.  They’re eager to pry out every detail of someone who might be important and exotic, but those are exactly the people (or the people who manage them are) determined to protect themselves with misleading bits and impenetrable walls.  Last night I watched “Tab Hunter Confidential” (Netflix).  Because of profit-protecting dynamics, we all totally mistook this honorable man and made his life a horror show.  Literally.

Tab Hunter

Any whisper of sex/love and the Harlequin comes out in the mommies.  They’re worse than Noah for pairing off, except that secretly they believe they are the better half of every pair.  They’re the woman behind the throne.  The prostitute who has contempt for all but her most famous clients.  It’s not just a gender thing — guys, too.

But these are mild phenomena.  The real devastation is described in James Wolcott’s article about Twitter tweets carelessly tossed off and converted into napalm by the same forces that produce witchhunts, lynchings and kangaroo courts.  Wolcott’s money-shot last comment is “the occult theory that Donald Trump is a comments section brought to life — the Golem of our grossest utterings.”  (Did the Jews say that Wolcott was entitled to use one of their figures or is he a Jew?)  Trauma warning.

1 comment:

Chas Clifton said...

Trump as golem. That is truly original.