Did I say he lied? No. I said he misunderstood what Denton meant. You can quote someone in a factually correct way and still misinterpret what they said—all completely in good faith.
But as for whether I think a NEW YORK JOURNALIST WOULD EVER TELL A LIE (?!?!!)
Yes. Yes, I do.
(via spiers) — You didn’t say “misunderstood.” You said “took out of context,” which implies intentional misleading. I never posed the question “Would a New York journalist lie?” so there was really no reason to pretend to be appalled at my “naivete,” or whatever. What I said was — in response to “out of context,” which was what you wrote — to show that the response was elicited and reported in such a way that to say it was taken “out of context” would imply more than just a little massaging of the truth, which I’m sure all journalists, even non-New Yorkers (!), are prone to. “Taken out of context” doesn’t suggest a belief in good faith on McGrath’s part.
Unless I misunderstood you (or took your phrasing out of context?).
I think you wrongly assume that the profiler didn’t take it out of context, either.
Denton and I had lunch today and we had an exact conversation along those lines. So with all due respect, I think I have pretty from-the-horse’s-mouth idea of what he meant by that. (That and, you know, having actually worked with him, and known him for almost ten years.)
You’re right. I would assume that, if the “him” to whom Denton refers were not Molnar, a New Yorker writer would not actually lie completely and say it was. Saying you know Denton and you’re friends is the ultimate trump card so I guess we can end the discussion there. Ben McGrath lied and completely took that out of context and Nick Denton doesn’t believe his former colleague is “indoctrinating” students to lead frustrated lives. Great. I’m happy to hear that.
“I think people severely misunderstand what Denton means by noble failure. Gawker does have core principles; they’re just not they’re just not the ones that people are focusing on here. And he does believe in those principles—one of which is that everyone plays by the same rules, and no one is immune from scrutiny. Depending on where you’re sitting it’s either horribly unfair, or incredibly egalitarian. So when he refers to noble failure, I think he means it in the context of what everyone else very conventionally—and perhaps wrongly—believes is “moral.”—
In the context of the profile, it referred specifically to a colleague (with whom he was co-instructing a class) teaching journalism students about reporting a story vs. Denton’s take, which was how to make the story saleable, how to make money. It has nothing to do with the outside-the-box “moral” egalitarianism of airing everyone’s dirty laundry. It wasn’t even specifically about Gawker. It has literally nothing to do with what you’re saying.
This is a joke, Internet. I know you’re already talking about it. There’s a good chance you’re over it already. Some of you have noted that the story is gross, unfair, misogynistic and ultimately, remarkably news and gossip-free, but also Nick Denton doesn’t care because pageviews, money, blah blah “uniques,” other things I don’t understand, etc.
And something he (ND) said in that New Yorker profile a few weeks ago came back to me. It was said about a former colleague, and it really irked me but I didn’t have the time to write about it then. Denton said:
"People who are as inflexibly idealistic as [his colleague, a teacher] never pull it off….They never succeed. And you don’t need to indoctrinate a whole other generation of people to lead frustrated lives….I don’t see what the point is unless you succeed at what you’re doing. I don’t have a huge amount of time for a noble failure."
I think the implication here is that the alternative to noble failure is potentially ignoble success. Linguistically, Denton is suggesting the cultivation of a noble character is not a priori “successful” or else “noble failure” would be a contradiction in terms (i.e., being a good person does not lead to financial success and, in Denton’s narrow terms, you can be as morally upright as you want but if you’re not making serious* money, you can’t really be considered successful. The end.) So this personal philosophical nugget reminded me of something (yes, it’s a stealth nesting-doll post! Except that I’m telling you?).
In my lonely, moody pre-adolescence (which sharply contrasts with my lonely, moody adolescence and my lonely, moody adulthood), I wanted to be an actress. Inside the Actors’ Studio was a lifeline in the soggy intellectual (and literal) marshland of Throg’s Neck. My favorite episode, the one I taped and re-watched so often the VHS cassette eventually degraded beyond repair, was with Alec Baldwin. Filmed over fifteen years ago, Baldwin is a lot younger, slimmer, somewhere between the twilight of his leading-man days and the comic renaissance of his middle-age. He answers James Lipton’s questions with a playful and easy charm, giving his armpit an exaggerated ape-like scratch when Lipton, quoting Woody Allen, calls him a “working-class Cary Grant.” During the Q&A portion of the interview, a young student airily inquired if “failure” was still possible.** Baldwin paused, considering the question, and then related an anecdote about remaking The Getaway with then-wife Kim Basinger. The movie had wrapped and one warm afternoon Baldwin was driving in southern California and passed a giant billboard (not an uncommon sight, obvs) for a different film. He slowed as he noticed the release date: February 4, 1994. One week before The Getaway was due to be released. The competing film starred a little-known comedian and lacked anything resembling a compelling story — Baldwin shrugged it off as “dog food”; Kim, Alec and The Getaway had their success locked down. The other movie? Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
As Baldwin recounted how Ace Ventura and Jim Carrey, who “came out of nowhere,” completely “clobbered” The Getaway, a low chuckle rippled through the crowd. “It’s ALL failure!” Baldwin concluded — even superstardom, separating him from the modest successes of his working-actor friends, was still always only relative. And indeed, even beyond the failure of The Getaway, for a long time before 30 Rock (even before the infamous SNL Delicious Dish “Schweddy Balls” sketch, which is essentially the exact moment Baldwin’s career clawed its way out of an early grave), Alec Baldwin was box-office poison. He wasn’t a bankable star, he had gone soft in the middle, he spoke a little too loudly and vociferously about his personal politics (c.f. almost any appearance on Politically Incorrect and a really aggressive comedic bit on Late Night with Conan O’Brien that involved stoning Henry Hyde). Lucky for all of us, the public memory is really spotty and despite these somewhat massive, possibly career-ending failures, Jack Donaghy lives and breathes and entertains us by saying things we (and Alec Baldwin) would never agree with. (Related: I’m sure Jack has no time for noble failure, either.)
So there’s something I find compelling about the idea that everything is basically failure. It calls into question the conventional wisdom that says we need only a financial metric to evaluate success, which should come as a relief when you consider that — the way Denton has it — most of the people reading this right now are relatively less “successful” than Daisy de la Hoya from VH1’s Rock of Love 2 (and Daisy of Love). We are also less successful than the Koch brothers who use their billions to stoke middle-class ire (an ingenious case of the have-everythings pitting the have-a-little-mores against the have-nothings), less successful than Joe Francis (of Girls Gone Wild), whose wealth came from the persistent coercion and sexual humiliation of severely intoxicated, possibly underage women, and less successful than Fred Phelps, who heads up an entire church of like-minded bigots who picket the funerals of gay soldiers, letting their families know how much God hates their dead children (SEE EDIT BELOW). It’s strange, because you could use those inverted terms, noble failure v. ignoble success, and for Denton the emphasis seems to land squarely on “failure” or “success” and this is really, literally it. You could drop “noble” or “ignoble” entirely. There’s no room for your moral judgment because if you attach a price tag to good/bad and effectively replace “morally good” with “is profitable,” it’s an easy analysis, one that has displaced any kind of “moral” framework.
But what if it’s really, as Baldwin kidded-on-the-square, ALL FAILURE? There’s no leveling off to a point where you’re finally “successful” and it’s smooth sailing and sunsets because shit happens, your career tanks, the public tires of you, your marriage crumbles, so, yes, NYU student, failure is not only a possibility, it’s a certainty. Bad things, they will happen. Some of them will be financial. Some of them will not. The only thing you ultimately ever have control over are your choices about what kind of person you want to be. So what if the alternative to noble failure isn’t ignoble success? What if it’s just ignoble failure?
(This is one of those things that I say and have to include a disclaimer about corniness and being overly earnest and apologies about not deflating this ironically and blah blah blah but you know? It’s so obviously true. This isn’t a hokey Taylor Swift lyric about being like Romeo and Juliet where everything’s coated with this super-icky fake cloying Disney sheen. Being noble or ignoble means [not] stepping on someone’s head at a political rally; it means [not] using the cable network you own to spread propaganda and misinformation and rage; it means [not] selling out someone who had the audacity and poor judgment to be physically intimate with you; it means [not] publishing non-stories that are personally damaging and also virtually unverifiable for a quick cheap buck. These aren’t abstractions. Morality is pretty fucking easy to concretize when you talk about people being hurt or shamed or just generally treated like garbage.)
Today, Gawker ran a story about a political candidate that had nothing to do with her voting record. It had to do with a sexual encounter that was tamer than several Judy Blume novels. I don’t like Christine O’Donnell’s politics. I don’t think she would make a very good leader, if elected. But I can’t communicate how reprehensible it was to run a story that hangs on the word of one man, a gross, tactless account filled with sexism and all-out assbaggery.*** Lots of pageviews, of course, so it’s a really profitable ignoble failure.
But, guys, those of you who have stuck around, remind me, what was the point of Citizen Kane? That Kane (Hearst) was spiritually and morally impoverished was, yes, I’ll grant you, a subplot but I think boy-genius Welles was actually mostly saying “THIS GUY HAD A FUCKLOAD OF MONEY.”
*YMMV re: “serious.” As a Poor, I think of 60K+ as “serious,” which is sort of laughable by NYC standards.
**It should be noted that the student didn’t have the firmest grasp of English and he seemed to be asking some really deep artistic question that may not have actually been “can you, A-list star Alec Baldwin, personally fail?”
***N.B. Alec Baldwin’s favorite curse word, per Actor’s Studio/Boullion de Culture survey, is/was “assbag.”
(Note and clarification of error about Fred Phelps/Westboro Baptist from Andrewtsks: "Fred Phelps and his family don’t picket the funerals of gay soldiers. They picket the funerals of any and all soldiers, using the logic that America is a country that permits the homosexual lifestyle to continue to exist relatively unmolested within its borders (I think Phelps would only be happy if, like in Uganda, being gay were punishable by death), and that therefore, God is killing American soldiers on purpose to avenge the USA’s tolerance for homosexuality. It’s a bunch of seriously bad craziness, is what it is.")
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”—Ira Glass (via theessentialman)
Actually, Barb, if you use the words “homosexual advocacy,” then there is some confusion on this. If telling kids that gay people exist and are perfectly fine the way they are amounts to advocacy, consider this:
Both of my parents are heterosexual. Both of my brothers are heterosexual, as are the women they went on to marry. All four of my grandparents, all my aunts and uncles and cousins. Every family in the subdivision where I grew up was headed by a heterosexual couple. Every teacher I had, every coach, every director, every tutor, every administrator, every custodial worker, every bus or carpool driver or crossing guard. Every character in every TV show I watched in my youth was heterosexual- even the rabbits and pigs. Every character in every movie I saw, play I watched or book I read growing up was heterosexual. Every love song I heard when I was a kid was opposite-sex-directed. Every rock star I admired was heterosexual. Every rock star I had no opinion about was heterosexual. Every person I read about in every magazine I ever read was heterosexual. Every politician, sports star or local hero on the news was heterosexual. Every newscaster, every game-show host, every VJ, every weatherman. Every couple kissing on every commercial.
Every single person, real or imagined, in my daily life or in my dream life, was straight. And in my youth, all I wanted out of life- in every aspect of my life- was to fit in. Anything that was unusual about me was something I tried to iron right out. I wanted to be like everyone else so badly, I took it on as a form of homework: how would a normal kid hold his books? What music would a regular person like? How would a real boy throw a football or shake a hand or cough?
Somehow, this enormous amount of actual heterosexual activism, coupled with the diligent and tireless work of a very smart kid, was not enough.
How can people fail to understand this? Our entire culture is heteronormative and yet people are still gay! The unexpressed fear of Barb et al is really that people who are gay and scared will stop being scared and embrace being gay and that will be personally uncomfortable for them! MINOR PERSONAL DISCOMFORT, YOU GUYS! That is unpleasant!
In this episode (in my life that takes place on the other blog), I talk about deciding to write science fiction for NaNoWriMo — like how it removes all the pressure of trying to write great litooratooore (which largely seeks to exclude sci-fi?) so you don’t end up writing three sentences before giving up and searching Hulu for bonus Jersey Shore clips. …I mean bonus No Reservation clips (because it’s about food and travel so that’s classier?).
Sci-fi is something that, in theory, I power down my brain with. It’s not Literature.** If you’ve aspired to write Great Fiction, you probably don’t want extraneous elements like aliens or time travel or impending apocalypse in dystopias to interfere with your Deep Expounding on The Inescapable Torment of the Human Condition, etc. Of course, the odd thing about science fiction being largely considered “genre fiction” and not on par with literary fiction is that the alien or foreign or strange tokens that populate some of my favorite sci-fi often circle around heavier themes than “omg invasion!” When the Doctor (or his companions) or, hey, Jack Harkness, confront an otherwordly villain, especially those with disturbing similarities to citizens of Earth, the stated question is usually some form of “What makes someone alien?” The unstated question is “What makes someone human?”
"When we see the word “nerd,” we don’t think of women. We almost can’t. All of that geeky energy, that willingness to dive totally into your own anti-social obsessions, is diametrically opposed to our idea of what girls are for. There’s science involved, for one thing. And for another, girls aren’t sorted into cool or uncool; they’re sorted into likable and unlikable. The idea that a girl might follow the lonesome path of the nerd—not trying to fit in, not trying to be accepted, not trying to do anything but fight on the Internet about which "Doctor Who" was better—just contradicts what we all know, which is that for men, life is a sales job, and for women, it’s customer service. And yet! The girl nerds, they exist!"
I just want to say that this article, down to the Mists of Avalon references, really gets me in a lot of disturbing ways. (Also now I can’t unknow that Marion Zimmer Bradley covered up her ex-husband’s pedophilia. So clearly I needed to share it with you.)
My friend Alexis is in charge of this year’s Manhattan chapter of National Novel Writing Month and gently persuaded (N.B. this is markedly different from my own “gentle persuading,” which requires scare quotes because of its strong resemblance to hectoring and bullying and LOUD TALKING until…
I’ve noticed something strange. I am incredibly judgmental of judgmental people (who by virtue of being judgmental are totally secure in themselves) and totally non-judgmental of people who are often insecure and sometimes (more than) a little socially awkward and who are typically not very judgmental because they have a host of self-esteem issues. Confidence and personal security are supposed to be attractive qualities but I’m sorry, sometimes those people are just the worst. The worst.*
*Either way, I should probably try working on that empathy thing and stop being such a judgmental biddy.
This comment is mostly for tumblr user Nerdshares, who was just talking about the DFW essay on grammar and usage. But I’m posting it here as a general idea:
Would it be possible for us to treat opinions about grammar and usage sort of the way we treat arts criticism? As in: we accept that there…
Do people treat arts criticism that way?!
I still geeked out over the DFW essay because it’s fun to re-learn (and, in some instances, learn for the first time) different rules. But condescendingly referring to his students, who are probably low-grade offenders, as “supposedly literate” human beings sent me to Frowntown but quick. The “These Kids!” panic tends to evoke that reaction in me, (w/o) r/t my feelings about the subject matter itself.
(He sees charity as little more than a ritualistic bequeathing of good will in the interest of preserving the existing power structure.)
Ben McGrath, why is this hidden in a parenthetical? It’s preceded by a comment about Denton not participating in the UES “charity scene.” But is this about charity organizations? Is it about ladies who lunch and sit on committees not effecting real change? Do independent donations qualify? There are so many biographical details McGrath wants to sift but he tosses this one aside. Maybe it’s too mundane and doesn’t feel revelatory but these details (someone’s position on charity? Important parenthetical!) are usually the most revealing. Then again, profiles like this one sometimes seem more invested in perpetuating myth than puncturing it. I guess that’s one way to get New Yorker readers interested.* *insert witticisms about ginning up pageviews here.
Okay Tumblr, this is the last you’ll hear about this from me (for awhile, at least). If you have not yet bought the fabulous novella If You’re Not Yet Like Me, go do it now! I will be forever in your debt, and I will get my dog to do a little dance and then film it for you. (And my dog is a badass dancer. Promise.)
Dear Tumblr, I did this and now I am a millionaire!*
*May not be actually measurable in dollars but in good feelings generated by supporting awesome people. (But $12 is roughly the cost of an NYC manicure and let’s face it, it’s almost glove season, no one cares about your nails.)
I also love any reference to the "homosexual agenda."
I am so tempted to start telling people that my feelings about gay marriage are not about civil rights, but just about making inroads so that society will eventually accept my desire to marry/sex several fruitbats and possibly a paso fino.
In the other bashing, Jackson, who lives in Chelsea, was also charged with assault as a hate crime and gang assault. He is being held on $7,500 bail.
Jackson is accused of yelling, “Go home, f——-s; this is our neighborhood,” when he saw the three men kissing and hugging good night late Friday.
"Go home, f——-s" in Chelsea (?!). Also his (Jackson’s) sister is gay, so she’s sure that this never happened. Because her brother loves her, thus he is cool with homosexuality. Okay.
Also, never ever read the comments section on the NY Daily News or the Post unless you want to hear about how “hate crime” laws are A SMOKESCREEN DESIGNED BY AND FOR THE HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA. (Does the heterosexual agenda support all-caps hate-filled comments? May have to rethink allegiances.)