Thugs of the media conglomerates
February 1, 2009 2 Comments
David Denby aims too carelessly in Snark, his attack on the cheap sarcasm he believes dominates our media culture. Snark is an empty, angry attempt at wit, told in the knowing voice of us vs them. It’s so easy that everybody can do it, and everybody does. You don’t need to know anything, or have any ideas, or stand for anything – in fact it is better if you don’t. All you need is a target and the ability to sneer.
Snark, Denby argues, enforces mediocricity, becoming a philistine outlet for resentment against anyone who dares to achieve or believe in anything. Snark embraces the reader. “You and me, we know everything. Everybody else sucks.” No wonder it’s popular.
Unfortunately, Denby’s choice of examples is an EPIC FAIL!! (Uhm, sorry.) He selects Wonkette for particular scorn, but gets all the facts wrong. Besides, I rather like Wonkette’s “proudly idiotic” style. If this is snark, I’m not entirely against it.
Tom Wolfe is an even more baffling example. Why him? Even if one could detect snark in his writings, he is not a good representative of the style. Denby seems anxious to select examples many people know about, thus missing the point. The best examples of ugly snark are all to be found below the top tier of writers. The essence of snark is how easy it is to write.
That said, I believe Denby’s analysis is correct and valuable. Also, he deserves sympathy for volunteering as the perfect snark bait.