Today’s Hipsters, Tomorrow’s Asshats
Is Adbusters the single most obnoxious magazine on the face of the earth? If their articles matched their headlines, and their execution matched their ethics, they’d be a valuable cultural resource, as well as a kickass read. I would be willing to bet that on a checklist of political positions and beliefs, Adbusters and I would agree about 98% of the time. It’s not their politics I object to. It’s their holier-than-everything-all-the-time posturing, combined with the fact that their articles read like the diary entries of intelligent but under-achieving 8th graders. Also, their high-gloss “I went to design school but I’m still punkasfuck aren’t I please tell me I am oh tell me please” aesthetics. It’s Disneypunk, and I just can’t figure out how the people who produce it live with themselves, or why they don’t use all their energy to do something useful for the causes they champion, instead of striving to be the vapid polyanna incitement-jockeys of the blinders-on knees-jerking nobody-likes-you-and-there’s-a-good-reason-for-that Left.
When Tao lived here he had a free subscription, I think because he was in it once, and the issues still show up. I usually just let them pass me by, but I flipped through the most recent one because there was a cover story about the ubiquity of what we’ll call porno-culture, and I thought that might be worth reading (it’s also online). Boy was I ever wrong. See if you can get through the whole thing. I’ll wait here…
… I mean, WOW, right? Was that not THE most pretentious, condescending, poorly-organized thesis-vacant piece of shit you’ve encountered in a long, long time? It’s like Lewis Lapham at his absolute worst, except that it’s actually making you stupider while it’s boring you. Pretty much anytime an article starts with “if Orwell were alive today,” you know you’re dealing with someone with about as much intellectual integrity (and, probably, about as much actual intellect) as your average FOX News talking head.
If you make it past the ponderously vapid beginning, and through the “thems was the days” recollection of the author’s first porno-viewing, you’ll eventually get to the part where he decides to “interview” Sasha Grey (famous hardcore actress with viable mainstream crossover prospects- see above) and Virginie Despentes (who wrote Baise Moi). Basically, he gets them on the phone and lets them run through their talking points about sex, sexuality, and porn, all of which you can take or leave, based on your own already-existing opinion(s) re pornography. I’m mostly inclined to take them, albeit with a few grains of salt, but the point is that you’ll learn nothing new here.
The conversations are boring because the author doesn’t have the guts to actually talk WITH these women about what they do, why they do it, who they (think that they) do it for, what it all means, or any of the other things this article is ostensibly “about.” Though he himself seems to feel that porn is a pox on society, and both of these women therefore in some sense culpable for whatever exactly he thinks is wrong with our culture (which he seems to feel is more or less everything) he doesn’t confront them with his concerns about the “message” their work sends, the “harm” it may or may not be causing, the nature of that harm if in fact such exists, or whatever his problem is. (He seems to be concered about decreasing sperm counts, something about The Matrix, and capitalism in general. Join the fucking club, Jack.) So, instead of talking WITH them, he lets each woman sort of talk AT him, and then he mocks them in his article, once they’re safely off the phone.
It’s an incredibly dismissive way for a man–who would doubtless insist on his own militant feminism–to treat really-existing women: basically, the implication is that what Sasha Grey believes about her own work and about sex work in general is irrelevant, and the authority of her personal experience doesn’t matter, because she’s had a dick up her ass and he can watch a video of it any time he wants to– even while he’s on the phone with her!
What it comes down to in the end, is that this “critique” of porno-culture trades in EXACTLY the same currency of titillation that porn itself does. The “investigation” is nothing more and nothing less than an excuse to participate, and all the histrionics about the fate of the world are just so much colon-massage for the Liberal conscience.
The saddest part is that if you read all the way to the very, very bottom (you don’t have to actually do this; I wish I hadn’t) the guy eventually gets around to saying some things that are worth thinking about–or might be, if someone with any credibility left were saying them. Yes, pornography of all kinds is now instantly available all the time in a way it never was before (though isn’t even this observation nearly a decade old?). That HAS to have an impact on the culture–on the way children first come to understand sex, probably to some degree on how adolescents are given to understand their own sexuality, how they’re initiated into its pracitce, on how we (adolescents as well as adults) think and relate to each other, on the way we understand sex and its place in the culture, and on the way we actually have it with each other. (In all his talk about porn as “fake sex,” the author never once points out that porn isn’t, actually, a simulation at all. It’s not a dirty drawing or a stroke-book. Actual are people are having actual sex–they’re just not you.)
ANY of those topics would have made more than adequate fodder for an essay, or a book of them for that matter. It’s important stuff, and fascinating besides. But the few bits of thought-provoking analysis in this enormous jerk-off of an article are buried under so much idiocy, pretension, posturing, digression, and shrill fearmongering, that you can’t help but wonder if what you’re seeing is more like “monkeys with typewriters” than anything else.