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    Not necessarily the news

    Reason has an entertaining interview with fark.com founder Drew Curtis about how the site developed and what it says about the future of the Internet. Like other commentators I’ve seen, he thinks that some sort of personal-shopper model is what’s next up, since we’re all swamped by the amount of information available.

    I like Fark. My only problem is that frequently the funniest tag lines lead to the least interesting articles. My favorite example from this week:


    The link takes you to a decent but decidedly non-fabulous piece arguing that presenting a well-groomed, pulled-together image is good for your career. Yawn.

    Reason also–I assume this month is some sort of media issue, but I’m too lazy to look–has this piece defending The Onion in terms I very much agree with:

    Most dailies, especially those in monopoly or near-monopoly markets, operate as if they’re focused more on not offending readers (or advertisers) than on expressing a worldview of any kind.

    The Onion takes the opposite approach. It delights in crapping on pieties and regularly publishes stories guaranteed to upset someone: “Christ Kills Two, Injures Seven In Abortion-Clinic Attack.” “Heroic PETA Commandos Kill 49, Save Rabbit.” “Gay Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years.” There’s no predictable ideology running through those headlines, just a desire to express some rude, blunt truth about the world.

    One common complaint about newspapers is that they’re too negative, too focused on bad news, too obsessed with the most unpleasant aspects of life. The Onion shows how wrong this characterization is, how gingerly most newspapers dance around the unrelenting awfulness of life and refuse to acknowledge the limits of our tolerance and compassion. The perfunctory coverage that traditional newspapers give disasters in countries cursed with relatability issues is reduced to its bare, dismal essence: “15,000 Brown People Dead Somewhere.” [The unforgettable dateline for that one was “OOGA-BOOGA LAND OR WHEREVER.”–SRK] Beggars aren’t grist for Pulitzers, just punch lines: “Man Can’t Decide Whether to Give Sandwich to Homeless or Ducks.” Triumphs of the human spirit are as rare as vegans at an NRA barbecue: “Loved Ones Recall Local Man’s Cowardly Battle With Cancer.”

    A lot of what passes for irreverent satire is little more than sub-adult pushing of the obvious buttons. But skewering the tendency of journalists to airbrush any story into a palatable human interest feature, or to invest any story they write or broadcast about with selections from a tired laundry list of Deeper Human Significance it may not have, is a real service. And it’s encouraging that it’s so popular. Some satire is funny enough to stand alone, but most isn’t. That people keep clicking on stories in The Onion and sending them to friends is a reasonable indication that they understand the news and issues that they’re twisting into humorous new shapes, despite all the gnashing of teeth about how ignorant everyone is nowadays.

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