It’s a dazzling Friday morning in Missoula, and I want to finish my work as quickly as possible so that I can take Stringer to the dog park. Stringer agrees with me on the importance of this issue. It’s one of the few initiatives around here that gets bipartisan support; by contrast, he sees no reason why I waste time taking a shower or putting prepared food in the refrigerator, and I don’t understand why that brown spot in the yard is so important. Everybody has his own agenda, and it is of paramount importance to exactly one person, or possibly one dog. This week’s link roundup is about the pressing issues that define our age, and also the issues treated-as-pressing that remind us what a pain in the ass consistent singular perspective can be. Then we’re going to the dog park. Soon, buddy. Just lie down or something.
First, a long and completely ridiculous article about sexual assault in our very own Missoula, which Jezebel continues to call the Rape Capital of America. They’re always careful to add “so-called,” even though they appear to be the only news outlet calling it so. Like all good journalism, this piece presents two opposing points of view: 1) that Missoula experiences no more rapes than any other college town of its size, and 2) that people here don’t understand how wrong rape is, probably because it’s everywhere. Point #1 is supported by statistics, quotes from the mayor and a spokesperson for the Department of Justice. Point #2 is supported by a series of anonymous sources, nearly all of whom are drunk. Seriously—Katie J.M. Baker interviews more drunk and high people with no names than any journalist since…uh…actually journalists don’t do that. Also, the 20 year-old kid who waited with a switchblade outside of Stockman’s because “it wasn’t exactly safe to go there by myself” was mistaken. Stockman’s is next to a knitting store.
But you know the old saw about truth getting in the way of a good story. The important thing is that you say stuff—provocative stuff that people listen to. You can worry about honesty and responsibility after you get what you want. Richard Mourdock got what he wanted recently by defeating 100-term senator Dick Lugar for the Indiana Republican nomination. Now he’s on a crusade to address the problem of “too much bipartisanship” in Washington. As Andrew Rosenthal at the Times points out, most people don’t see that as the problem. But “most people” is an increasingly underrepresented constituency in Washington, where extremism dominates both parties. By “both parties” I mean one party: the Republican Party, where Mourdock has opined that “bipartisanship means Democrats coming around to the Republican point of view.” Thanks, Tea Party. You have given up Lugar’s seat.
But I’m sure the United States Congress will be fine. We have more pressing matters to consider, like whether LOLCats are making us smart. Spoiler alert: they aren’t. It’s possible, though, that the sensitivity to nuance and social dynamics that enable us to recognize and generate new memes are doing something good to our brains, or at least telling us something about them. How else could we understand sentences like these?
Miltner found that LOLCats consumers tended to fall into one of three groups. The groups had different cultures and attitudes, but for all three LOLCats provided a platform for communication and connection. The first group, which Miltner labeled “Cheezfrenz,” was made up of LOLCats diehards. “They are invested LOLCat lovers whose interest in LOLCats generally stems from their affinity for cats,” she explains.
“Umadbro,” is definitely not making us smarter, though. “Umadbro” is the dumbest fucking thing in the world. I mad, bro. I always so mad.
Unfalsifiable hypothesis: LOLCats and other memes are not so different from lyric poetry. Both are short and frequently inscrutable, and it’s impossible to make any money doing either. Writing about them is another matter. Over at the Boston Review, Marjorie Perloff has written a long, mean and frequently accurate indictment of contemporary poetry. It’s the kind of 6,000-word screed that only white-hot indignation can carry you through, and I like it very much. Her contention that the future of poetry lies in recycled texts is sad and daunting, though. That is what a decadent culture does: memorialize itself.
A vibrant culture, on the other hand, drinks cough syrup and yells:
To the bark park!