Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Little Parable

On Monday, the Weekly Standard ran a rather silly column by Louis Wittig, which purported to uncover a secret correspondence between the overhyped movie Snakes on a Plane and the Left blogosphere. Here's the gist of it:

Snakes on a Plane doesn't contain any enduring life lessons. However, hidden like a cottonmouth in an overhead storage bin, SoaP is a little parable about why the much-hyped left-wing blogosphere has turned out to be a less potent political force than it might be.
I don't think it'd be unfair to say that this analogy is somewhat forced. Wittig's point is that things can be very popular on the Internets without resonating with society as a whole. Fair enough, but he fails to consider that there might be a difference between the hype for what he calls a "high camp" movie - one that's supposed to attract people from across the ideological spectrum - and the hype for a political movement routinely portrayed in the national media as a pathologically angry and incoherent bedfellow of "global Islamofascism."

Just as a thought experiment, let's consider that New Line Studios, which produced Snakes on a Plane, is owned by Time Warner (whose CEO, by the way, is a staunch Republican). Time Warner also owns AOL and Weblogs, Inc., along with CompuServe, Netscape, CNN,, Entertainment Weekly, and plenty of news stations. If you have a look at this page from AOL Entertainment News, you'll note that this subsidiary of Time Warner seems to be working very diligently to hype the product of another subsidiary of Time Warner.

Which is fine; there's no law against it. But to put it very mildly, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a parallel promotional machine for the message of, say, Daily Kos. Wittig quotes Markos' remark that the Left blogosphere is a "buzz machine"; because New Line Cinema also has a buzz machine, the similarities are supposed to be striking. Actually, they're incommensurable.

But to paraphrase Herman Melville, stupidity 'round the world stands hand-in-hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle round. Wittig's babbling was apparently more than persuasive enough for Bruce Kluger, who seems to have spent yesterday rewriting Wittig's column.
And yet, as the scrambling suits at Lamont headquarters and New Line Cinema now know, it's easy to be seduced by one's own hype, especially when that hype is preceded by a “www.”
Again, you really can't conflate the promotional resources of Lamont headquarters with those of New Line Cinema, nor can you pretend that the media representation of their respective "products" is at all comparable. No one claimed that if Snakes on a Plane had a huge opening day, it'd represent a moral victory for "Al-Qaeda types," and no one claimed that its audience amounted to a pro-terrorist fifth column.

What's even more irritating about both these articles is that Lamont basically did live up to his hype; what Wittig and Kluger represent as his "defeat" came not in the voting booth, but from Joe Lieberman's completely unpricipled, anti-democratic decision to run as an independent. The fact that the November election hasn't actually happened yet is a trivial detail to both writers, which makes their smug certainty that they represent the "responsible" media pretty goddamn offensive.

"Bloggers can just as easily get it wrong," says Kluger. He adds, "it's important to remember that the blogosphere is still in its infancy, and like any kid, it needs to be watched very carefully."

Yep. But media conglomerates, and the disingenuous hacks who write for them, are mature enough to police themselves.


Thers said...

Also, it's premature to judge the "success" of SOAP (wow, that could really be the acronym, go figure) just yet. it's clearly destined for a kind of cult status -- which means it will be making money for its producers for years and years. All it needs is decent BO; it's a longterm moneymaker. Silly, sure, but am I wrong?

Why can't these idiots see past today's bottom line? Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Why can't these idiots see past today's bottom line?

If they looked past today's results, they'd lose whatever feeble point their columns were trying to make.

Just as the Bushies cannot look past this election cycle, to consider the harm their lying and voter fraud do to our country. If they put the country's good first, they'd lose the election.

Phila said...

If they looked past today's results, they'd lose whatever feeble point their columns were trying to make.

It's funny 'cause it's true. If you actually start thinking, it gets a lot harder to churn out hackwork.

And yeah, Thers, you're absolutely right. SOAP will probably do very well in the rental market for years to come. And think of the possibilities for ironic gift-giving!

Nictate said...

Faulty logic from right-wing pundits? Whhhaaaa?

To paraphrase Samuel L.: "I've had it with these motherblanking muckrakers on this motherblanking web."

Great blog, by the way. So intelligently written.