Remember like 14 years ago? We were all so innocent then. A new President Bush had just discovered secret proof that we were about to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. A new housing market was revitalizing American cities by adding value to what people owned already. A new kind of publication, the blog, invigorated public discourse with its jaunty tone and periodic slander. Everything seemed fresh and exciting, which is weird, because 2003 is actually old. There’s just no way to argue that it’s still happening now. Yet one cannot ignore the feeling that we remain mired in the last decade: fighting the same wars, smugly denouncing a president who could only appeal to idiots, and putting skulls on everything. Today is Friday, and everything old is not so much new again as stubbornly still here. Won’t you survey the leftovers with me?
First, the good news: Today we acknowledge and celebrate the brave sacrifices made by those American heroes we all know and love, veterans. The bad news is we’re making more of them. The war in Afghanistan is in its 17th year, and we’re not exactly on the verge of winning. Combined with the interventions in Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan, the average US taxpayer has spent $23,386 on war since 2001. That’s according to a study released this week by Brown University’s Cost of War Project and reported in Buzzfeed. Including the cost of ongoing medical care for veterans, the project estimates the cost of America’s 21st-century wars at $5.6 trillion. That’s triple the Pentagon’s official estimate. Here’s a fun question: If you could reinstall Saddam Hussein in Iraq and turn Osama bin Laden loose in the mountains of Afghanistan in exchange for $23,000 right now, would you do it?
That’s the kind of simplistic thinking you find in blogs, which frankly shouldn’t exist anymore. They are extremely 2005, and they capture a tone peculiar to that era. A couple of years ago, I wrote an essay for the Times in which I cited the Wonkette blog as an example of internet sarcasm. Fellow Missoulian and Wonkette owner/editor Rebecca Schoenkopf responded with this post, in which she suggested that I/the Times had difficulty satisfying my wife. Erroneous! I will satisfy anyone’s wife! Anyway, it was kind of mean and excessive in a way that I smugly thought proved my point, and I did not respond. But it was with tremendous schadenfreude that I read today’s piece by Alex Nichols titled The blog nobody reads. His central argument is that Wonkette is a time capsule from the second term of the Bush administration. Quote:
It can’t be overstated how surreal and discomfiting it is to read Wonkette in 2017…Let’s open, at the time of this writing, a random article on the first page. The headline is “Poor Donald Trump Being Sued By Apprentice Lady He Defamed, And His Most Excellent Lawyer Is ON THE CASE.” The header image, a picture of Trump’s lawyer, has the text “HALP! HALP! DONALD TRUMP IS BEIN’ OPPRESSED!” splayed over it LOLcat-style in Impact font. The article’s opening line is “THE STUPID! IT BURNS!” If you somehow have the stomach to read further, the phrases “because… reasons” and “WE. CANNOT. EVEN.” also appear. Even skimming it is exhausting.
This is why my skin gets itchy when someone describes my work as “snark.” There’s a difference between funny and mean, e.g. what Nichols has done here, and glibly dismissive. Anyway, I wish Schoenkopf all the best with the blog she purchased and with her husband, whom she met in the comments section of that blog.
Meanwhile, in legacy media, Esquire is egg-manning doggedly. As regular readers of this blog now, egg-manning is when you cite individual social media posts expressing a bad argument in order to create the impression that argument is widespread. For example, Angry Bourbon Drinkers Are Boycotting Jim Beam Because Mila Kunis Donates to Planned Parenthood. Q: How many angry bourbon drinkers? A: Shut up. At press time, Esquire had found a total of three “angry pro-lifers” promulgating the hashtag #BoycottJimBeam. A Twitter search reveals more, but we’re hardly talking colonial homespun, here. The beauty of the internet, though, is that it lets journalists scour the whole world in search of people to whom you can feel superior.