THE FATUOUS, INFANTILE AND FAUX: Sounds like injured wildlife—during sex!

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2019

The dumbnification of Slate:
It's amazing to see the things our news orgs are willing do to capture eyeballs and generate clicks in this wild west journalistic environment.

In yesterday's report, we marveled at Slate's devotion to the sheer inanity of New York magazine's embarrassing STRATEGIST site. At the home site, the inanity has reached the point where New York magazine, in conjunction with Brown University, has published this report, which doesn't seem to be a parody:
INSIDER GOODS / SEPT. 6, 2019
What to Buy to Look Like: A Classics Professor

By Johanna Hanink as told to Karen Iorio Adelson

[...]

Today, we hear from Johanna Hanink—an associate professor of classics at Brown University and the author of How to Think About War: An Ancient Guide to Foreign Policy—on the sun hats, tote bags, and posters that are popular among classics professors.
"Status can be a funny thing," Adelson writes at the start of her piece—and who knows?

It could be that Professor Hanink was misled in some way about the reason for this interview interviewed about sun hats, tote bags and the like. But given the drift of our dumbnified culture, it's entirely possible that the professor thought Adelson's focus made good sound perfect sense.

What followed was an essay so addled that it perfectly captures our current predicament, in which the academy has decamped for a bubble which lies beyond the ivory tower, while journalists bathe us in the fatuous, the infantile and the faux.

For what it's worth, the professor in question is 37; her doctorate comes from Queens College, Cambridge. Adelson graduated from Dartmouth in 2010, and is now a "senior writer" at New York in charge of tote bags and sun hats.

To Slate's apparent credit, it hasn't yet published this particular STRATEGIST feature. That said, the once-bright site seems willing to publish just about everything else. On this very morning, the now-vacuous site has sought clicks publishing this:
PICKS
This Japanese Body-Scrub Towel Makes Showering So Much More Pleasant
The cotton-polyester blend is the perfect fabric for creating a not-too-bubbly lather.
By STRATEGIST EDITORS / SEPT 10, 2019 6:30 AM
So far, Slate has skipped the STRATEGIST report about How To Look Like a Classics Professor—but it seems to skip little else. In fairness, we might mention one possible reason for all these reprints. That possible explanation, appended to all these reprints, goes exactly like this:
SLATE DISCLAIMER: This article is published through a partnership with New York Media’s Strategist. The partnership is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change. Every editorial product is independently selected by New York Media. If you buy something through our links, Slate and New York Media may earn an affiliate commission.
In this age of platform proliferation, news orgs may be willing to stoop in such ways in service to their bottom lines.

In the process, the dumbnification of the culture continues. Here's what we'll be suggesting this week:

You can't dumb a culture down in such ways without ending up with Donald J. Trump in the White House.


When did our culture get so dumb that it made this era possible? Was it when Diane Sawyer, an upper-end press corps god, asked Marla Maples if sex with The Donald was the best sex she'd ever had?

Had our culture gotten that dumb by the time, in the late 1990s, when a survey reportedly showed that young people were more likely to believe in UFOs than in the likelihood that Social Security would still exist by the time they stood to collect?

Was our fate already determined? Had the nation's economics professors slumbered and slept for so long at that point that the dumbness insured us a Trump?

We can't answer your questions, though we'll continue to puzzle them out in the next week or three. For today, we'll only note how much Slate is willing to publish to draw our eyeballs to the prize, because the inanity of those STRATEGIST pieces is just one part of the syndrome.

Given our culture's fatuous values, what isn't Slate prepared to publish to draw our eyes to the prize? For today, consider the advice columns which now litter the news org's landscape.

We'll start with Slate's sex advice columns. Those columns let us exercise our critical faculties as we ask the obvious question:

Does anyone believe that the alleged letters which describe alleged problems of alleged Slate readers are meant to be taken as real?

Slate seems willing to do what it takes to draw us lunkheads in. With that in mind, how are we supposed to assess offerings like these from Slate's "How To Do It" sex advice column:
How Do I Talk to My 12-Year-Old About His, Er, Very Specific Fetish?
It started with a Lara Flynn Boyle movie.
By RICH JUZWIAK / SEPT 09, 2019 6:00 AM

My Casual Sex Partner Technically Violated My Consent, but I Loved It
Should I return the favor?
By STOYA / SEPT 10, 2019 5:59 AM

My Girlfriend Tells Me Every Single Detail About Her Past Lovers
While we’re having sex.
By STOYA / AUG 28, 2019 5:55 AM

My Girlfriend Stopped Shaving Her Armpits
Now she’s mad that I’ve … retaliated.
By STOYA and RICH JUZWIAK / AUG 15, 2019 6:30 AM
By some sort of cosmic coincidence. Stoya and Juzwiak seem to do their best posting at the early morning hour when Trump does his craziest tweeting.

That said, are Slate readers supposed to believe that somebody's girlfriend stopped shaving her armpits and is now angry about her partner's retaliation? Are we supposed to believe that some 12-year-old's alleged sexual fetish was caused by Lara Flynn Boyle?

Are we supposed to believe that this bullshit's for real? How about these earlier columns, exactly as thumbnailed by Slate:
I Don't Trust Humanity Enough to Have Sex With It

My Boyfriend Sounds Like Injured Wildlife During Sex

My Husband Says I'm "Withholding Sex." He Hasn't Bathed in Two Weeks.
Were Slate readers supposed to believe that those alleged letters were real? Or are we supposed to know that we should take those letters "seriously but not literally," as The Others do with Trump?

Slate's sex advice columns test the credulity—and the inanity—of the site's sought-after readers. That said, the site has also broken new ground through the efforts of Nick Greene's frequently implausible "pet advice" columns.

We'll be honest! Until last weekend, we thought Greene was just a guy who was very unlucky with pets. We'd never clicked forward to one of his posts. For that reason, we didn't know that he was writing a column, "Beast Mode," which is devoted to solving pet problems of others.

Perhaps a bit pitifully, that's what he's actually or allegedly doing. And maybe this is what Slate has to do to get us to chip in with clicks:
How Should I Tell People a Shameful Secret About My Dog?

My Hump-Happy Chihuahua Embarrasses Me

How on Earth Can I Potty-Train My Deaf Dog?

My Cat’s Autoeroticism Is Making Me Uncomfortable
Between all the humping, pooping and self-pleasuring, Greene's life had long struck us as a version of hell on earth. But as it turns out, he's just giving advice! This seems to be what Slate has to do to get us droogs to donate our clicks, thereby letting advertisers know that we're dumb and we're there.

Slate started its life as a fully intelligent, conventional news-and-analysis site. Based on appearances, the dumbnification of our culture, and of our tastes, has forced its editors to offer us an endless array of silly, faux and infantile foolishness, designed to meet us where we live.

In our view, the dumbnification of our culture inevitably led us to President Trump—though within our own tribe, we know this is wrong. It was really The Others' racism!

That said, is the culture's spectacular dumbnification really the fault of silly-bill "tramps like us?"

Or could it be that the classics professors, and perhaps the economics professors and the logicians, have, through their refusal to serve, led us to this resting place?

Tomorrow: The New York Times spots a "philosopher!"

27 comments:

  1. Is it dumb to buy a tote or a sunhat? Somerby may have no use for such items, but it seems wrong for him to condemn others, mostly women, who have use for them. After all, skin cancer is a real thing and women's clothing doesn't typically include pockets.

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    1. It may be important to note that over the last thirty years, adjusted for inflation, the median household income has risen 14%. That sounds bad, but over the same time period, adjusted for inflation, both housing and public college tuition have risen around 300% and healthcare has risen 50%.

      Oof!

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  2. "The dumbnification of Slate"

    They're not dumb. They're just doing their job, zombifying people. Their bosses need more zombies.

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    1. Zombies don't need sunhats or totes.

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  3. Here we get to the actual purpose of Somerby's post:

    "Or could it be that the classics professors, and perhaps the economics professors and the logicians, have, through their refusal to serve, led us to this resting place?"

    Another swipe at professors, as if classics professors (who study ancient cultures and teach dead languages) are supposed to prevent Slate from supporting itself by selling crap.

    Refusal to serve! What, dinner? Somerby has some role in mind for professors that is explicitly NOT part of their job description. The women Somerby attacks here wrote a book on ancient warfare. Isn't that enough? It probably got her tenure. What does she owe to him or anyone else beyond that? Must she forever after eschew sunhats and somehow prevent Trump from being shoved into office by Comey and Russia? How exactly is she supposed to do that?

    Somerby is such a spectacular ass today!

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    1. Somerby too refuses to serve. Just like Republicans in Congress.

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  4. Haven't advice columns always been made up, even back in Dear Abby days? Haven't they always been a source of entertainment for readers? Why is entertainment a crime?

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  5. We need deadrat to call out Somerby for secretly loving Slate and what it reports, or he would have already stopped reading it.
    Unless deadrat is still falling for Somerby's ridiculous "media criticism site" schtick.

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    1. We need deadrat to call out Somerby for secretly loving Slate….

      I was so thrilled to read the first three words that I almost stopped reading. Vivo ut serviam.

      I’m the guy who tells people to take TDH’s arguments at face value and stop reading their own personal prejudices into them. So why would I “call out” TDH for loving Slate when he says he hates it? I think his preoccupation with the trivia in media is obsessive, but then he’s obsessive about most things he writes about.

      Unless deadrat is still falling for Somerby's ridiculous "media criticism site" schtick.

      No ‘c’ in shtick.

      I read this to mean that it’s ridiculous to consider that TDH is a site that criticizes the way media covers things instead of covering those things itself. If that’s so, join the club of commenters who can’t read for comprehension.

      On the other hand, you might have meant that TDH’s criticism of media is ridiculous. In this case, I’d have agree about his tilting against click bait

      ————
      We hope you enjoyed this example of uncultured impudence and lower middle class ignorance™

      Delete
    2. Just because Somerby says this blog is about media, doesn't mean it is. That's the problem with literal reading -- you miss anything related to human ulterior motives, including psychodynamics (Freudian stuff), expressions arising from the unconscious, and habits outside the writer's awareness. You miss the embeddedness of human experience and the ways in which a person cannot help but express unexamined cultural tropes. You miss way too much by being literal. And then you accuse of poor comprehension those who can and do see this "baggage" that accompanies every post Somerby writes. You would have failed any English class, since interpretation is the whole point and face value gets you nowhere. Any person who speaks (or even exists) reveals far more about themselves than what you see on the surface. It is why people and their writings are so fascinating.

      Trump is entirely self-unaware. So is Somerby. I think perhaps you may be too but I don't know whether this stuff you write is your shtick or you are really that guy.

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    3. ***PSA***

      deadrat has limited cognitive abilities that can not reach beyond his overinflated (Trumpian) sense of himself. As a result, deadrat is both the least interesting and most disliked commenter - granted there are only about 5 commenters here.

      Want proof? Read his deathlessly empty response.

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    4. Hey! It's my own personal troll, back again to see if I'll rise to the bait. Once again, let me get out the troll repellent:

      You may think you're my toughest critic, but bitch, if you have to hang on my every comment, then you're really my biggest fan.

      Now, begone.

      Delete
    5. Just because Somerby says this blog is about media, doesn't mean it is.

      Of course not. The blog is about media if Somerby writes about media coverage of events; if he writes about the events themselves without much reference to others’ coverage, then the blog isn’t about the media.

      That's the problem with literal reading -- you miss anything related to human ulterior motives, including psychodynamics (Freudian stuff), expressions arising from the unconscious, and habits outside the writer's awareness. You miss the embeddedness of human experience and the ways in which a person cannot help but express unexamined cultural tropes.

      I actually agree with you when it comes to fiction, with the caveat below. Up to the point, anyway, of “the embeddedness of human experience,” which is simply meaningless horseshit from sociology.

      For instance, knowing that Malcom Lowry was an alcoholic Englishman whose wife left him for another man while he (Lowry) was drunk in Mexico may well inform our reading of Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano, which is about an alcoholic Englishman in Mexico whose unfaithful wife leaves him but returns to him.

      But very little of this external knowledge is of any use with non-fiction. TDH examines the trivia in the media and concludes that this kind of reporting helped give us Trump. Can TDH make a reasoned and convincing case that his position is correct? That’s as may be and as may be in the reading eye of the beholder. But his case doesn’t become stronger or weaker should we find that his mother used to read The National Enquirer to him when he was a baby.

      Even if TDH’s ulterior motives, unconscious, and psychodynamics were useful in evaluating his argument, we simply have no reliable access to them.

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    6. Trump is entirely self-unaware. So is Somerby. I think perhaps you may be too but I don't know whether this stuff you write is your shtick or you are really that guy.

      The stuff I write is my shtick, as you call it, but I'm not really "that guy." I'm far more unpleasant in person.

      But look what you've done: you have absolutely no idea who I am, how I conduct my life, and what unconscious forces shape my psyche, but you think I might be self-unaware.

      Based, presumably, on the fact that you disagree with me.

      How self-aware is that, Sparky?

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    7. When you repeatedly and consistently refuse to look any deeper than the surface literal meaning of whatever Somerby posts, it suggests that may be your preferred way of processing the world. That suggests you are no more likely to examine below the surface of your inner life, your own motives and feelings.

      So, you are either playing a word game or you are unable (unwilling) to look deeper at anything that hints at the layers of meaning inherent to all human consciousness. You might be on the autism spectrum or you might be psychopathic (like Trump and many internet trolls who enjoy manipulating others) or you might just be protecting your privacy and avoiding things you find unpleasant to think about. But you are very definitely limited to superficials and that is a giveaway that you don't want to engage in any real discussion with anyone here.

      I don't have to know anything more about you to tell that. It is inherent to every comment you write here.

      Your idea about psychodynamics is limited to the past. Childhood isn't the only influence on current behavior. One's current motives are also relevant. You don't have to know details of a person's past to analyze such things. You only need to see patterns. So your claim that we can't know anything about Somerby without knowing the details of his life is not strictly true. He has given us a huge writing sample and patterns do emerge and they are worth analyzing, if you want to know about Somerby. Not worth much otherwise, in my opinion.

      You think I am just disagreeing with you. That isn't true either.

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    8. Let’s start at the end:

      You think I am just disagreeing with you. That isn't true either.

      Please stop telling me what I think. You literally have no access to my thoughts. I take it that “just disagreeing” means that you gather that I think you’re disagreeing just to be contrary.

      I don’t. Although I can’t prove you’re not a troll, I grant you the courtesy of thinking that you’re sincere.

      When you repeatedly and consistently refuse to look any deeper than the surface literal meaning of whatever Somerby posts, it suggests that may be your preferred way of processing the world.

      Suggests that it may? I cannot refute what possible things suggest themselves to you. This is simply too weak a claim to contest. I can only urge you to recognize that it is also far too weak a claim to lead to any solid judgment.

      [Y]ou are unable (unwilling) to look deeper at anything that hints at the layers of meaning inherent to all human consciousness.

      Or I don’t believe your claim that a daily blog gives any reliable clues to the things “inherent to all human consciousness.” (I’m now beginning to doubt my judgment on trollishness.)

      Can I play, too? You are unable to confront direct evidence in an argument, and your insistence on speculation on the consciousness of the author betrays a neurotic need for avoidance of important societal issues.

      But you are very definitely limited to superficials and that is a giveaway that you don't want to engage in any real discussion with anyone here.

      This isn’t real enough for you? I’ve been known to research relevant court opinions and the text of the United States Code. Still not real enough?

      I definitely want to limit my discussions to the claims that TDH makes. They seem interesting enough on their own without indulging in guesswork about someone I don’t know and whose interiority I have no way to plumb. Now, you don’t have to know anything more about me to tell that. In fact, I’ve told you that, and all my comments are consistent with what I’ve told you.

      One's current motives are also relevant.

      Bold claim. Why? TDH claims that an obsession with trivia has led directly to Trump. That claim stands or falls on the evidence for and against it, regardless of the writer’s motives, which are, in any case, opaque to you and would be even if he were to declare them.

      You only need to see patterns.

      We are evolutionarily designed to see patterns. Seeing patterns is easy. The trick is to discern meaningful patterns from the ones you impose.

      He [Somerby] has given us a huge writing sample and patterns do emerge and they are worth analyzing, if you want to know about Somerby.

      Again, why? If I want to know somebody, I don’t pore over almost 25 years of their blog posts. I’m interested in Somerby’s ideas as expressed in his blog. Why aren’t you? I don’t really want to know about him. Why do you?

      And why do you think you have any insight into who I am because we disagree on what’s interesting about a blog?

      Delete
    9. 12:43

      I see your point; however, I think this is a case less about an overinflated sense of himself - although that clearly plays a significant role - and more about what 10:46 hints at, although more likely Asperger syndrome than autism.

      Notably, the subject thinks others can not discern what or how they think, even though ample evidence is supplied. It is also striking that the subject completely missed 11:15's point, hilariously asking "So why would I “call out” TDH for loving Slate when he says he hates it?"

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    10. "TDH examines the trivia in the media and concludes that this kind of reporting helped give us Trump."

      How hard is it to point to the NYT pretending to care that Republicans pretended to care about Hillary Clinton's email protocols?
      How hard is it to point out the media is owned by corporations, so they lean Right?
      The rest of TDH, is chiding powerless citizens for not having as much sway over the direction of the corporate media as ownership.

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  6. Whenever there is no current story containing the word “segregation” showing up in his copy of the Times and no rational way to defend Trump from any of the current coverage of him, Somerby goes to his Rolodex and pulls out this rancid routine: write an entire post mocking one of the billion trivial stories out there and lard it with faux philosophical significance.

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  7. To Somerby, this stuff isn’t just mercenary clickbait, but more of the tribal community building that he sees as being our species’ myth-based distraction from reality.

    Aristotle never said that men were only rational, or even largely rational. Thank goodness, we aren’t. You might as well shake your fists at the gods in bemoaning the tribal context that we endless bestow upon our surroundings.

    When I see the puff offerings at Slate, I consider them to be the left wing version of the old warm and fuzzy vignettes of the Reader’s Digest column “Life In These United States”.

    Rather than the humorous (and obviously eye-rollingly idealized) recounting of the pitfalls of “helpful” family members during wedding planning, we get the excruciatingly contrived exhibitionist scenario of the bride’s nipples and bottom popping out to flash the hapless wedding guests during the lesbian couple’s wedding dance.

    Instead of a sweet, lovable and seeming innocuous aunt
    hilariously confounding the entire family with an insightful and arch literary take-off on family members, we get a glimpse of the very dark twistedness of what ‘really’ lies at the heart of our familial construct.

    Being often irrational and tribal isn't the biggest problem in our species. It’s one more piece of our humanity that we tend to utterly corrupt. THERE’S our trouble.

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    1. Sorry I can't derive any sense out of this goofy word salad.

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    2. Sorry I can't derive any sense out of this goofy word salad.

      Check the receiver before blaming the transmitter.

      Have you been reading TDH long enough to recognize the blog owner’s obsessive (naturally) concern with media’s catering to dumb trivia (aka “mercenary clickbait”) and his despair that we act tribally instead of “rationally”?

      Cecelia claims that the dumb and irrational part of our natures is innately part of our species and not necessarily a bad thing when we celebrate the happy (i.e., “the warm and fuzzy”) side of that nature. Where we go wrong is when we dwell on the darker side, as illustrated in that “excruciating” wedding scenario.

      Now, that’s as may be, but it’s hardly a goofy argument. Even if you don’t like the argument, the presentation is hardly murky.

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    3. Deadrat, I'm not inclined toward the warm and the fuzzy. My peace with our species' irrationality is derived from the part of Aristotle's description of our being animals.

      If the Slate vignette had been about a groom trying to hold his bride's dress together as she was exposed to a crowd, most of us would immediately feel ill used by that attempt to grab our attention. We'd feel that an appeal had been made to a part of us that isn't the best of humanity. Well, this is the case with the actual Slate scene too, though that motive is both obscured and simultaneously burnished in the woke scenario of a lesbian marriage. Its appeal is both prurient and a bad faith gesture of seeking to pique certain sensibilities, while thrilling other sensibilities that some people might be piqued.

      The most hackneyed warm and fuzzy story is more worthwhile by a mile.

      The irrationality that I'm bending your ear defending is the sort we see when people die because they refuse to leave their pets behind as life threatening weather comes upon them. We so dearly regret that they didn't decide to get out. It's a kick in the gut to hear about it, but even still, in the back of our minds, we're thinking, "Oh, goddamn it, I wouldn't leave my fur babies either!"

      That's not rational. More importantly, neither is it the stuff of the animal.

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    4. Cecelia,

      I hope my previous post adequately defended your point of view. Reading your last comment, I think so.

      The scenario with pets isn’t rational, but I think it’s exactly the stuff of the animal. I believe this empathetic behavior has been evolutionarily built into us. And the characteristics that trigger the empathy, both physical and behavioral, have been built into those species we keep as pets.

      Evolution says that it’s better for a social species to have an ingrained sense of empathy, even if a few of us die in hurricanes because we can’t leave our pets. (“Better” in the sense that with empathy more members of the species survive to reproduce than would otherwise without.)

      And I also believe that Aristotle was a prattling fool.

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    5. Your defense of my point was on the money. I appreciate that.

      I appreciate your wonderfully astute and cogent and nearly ale ways hilarious forays against the blog's trolls too.

      Those forays are almost as good as the blog.


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