It’s long been known to magazine journalists that there’s an audience out there that's hungry to see the grasping and vainglorious and undeservedly successful (“douchebags” or “asshats,” in Gawker parlance) put in the tumbrel and taken to their doom. It’s not necessarily a pleasant job, but someone’s got to do it...It’s an inevitable consequence of living in today’s New York: Youthful anxiety and generational angst about having been completely cheated out of ownership of Manhattan, and only sporadically gaining it in Brooklyn and Queens, has fostered a bloodlust for the heads of the douchebags who stole the city. It’s that old story of haves and have-nots, rewritten once again...Ok, I don't live in New York, and I'm not a struggling writer (though I might have to become one soon when no one accepts me to volunteer at their school, and I give up on education), but this pretty much describes why, thanks to Gawker, I am motivated to move to New York, where every one of my frustrations can be more emphatic and poignant.
That’s part of the weird fascination with Gawker, part of why it still works, five years on—it’s about the anxiety and class rage of New York’s creative underclass. Gawker’s social policing and snipe-trading sideshow has been impossible to resist as a kind of moral drama about who deserves success and who doesn’t. It supplies a Manhattan version of social justice.
However, this doesn't just apply to Gawker. It's the unfortunate consequence of the expectations generated at the U of C (and likely every other competitive school like it, as well as the general upbringing of the middle class) for post-college life, including the delusion that you're just one short step away from success, wealth, fame--whatever earth-shattering accomplishment you particularly desire. The internet is perfect kindling for this delusion, especially for would-be writers, I'd imagine. Through it, all the centers of power become closer and more transparent, and it seems possible to leap right into them, to become somebody overnight with a clever blog or a particularly bold pitch (paging Aleksey Vayner...). But when that does happen, we feel that codes of advancement have been violated, so the violator is a douchebag. Enter Gawker!
The NY Mag article preempted the publication of Phoebe's and my gchat yesterday about the crucial role that sacrificing one's dignity plays in effective douchebaggery, and particularly in achieving blogfame.
In an insult culture, shamelessness is a crucial attribute, was part of the point. Last week at Gawker’s book party, Allison appeared in a particularly revealing top and told me, “I figure if people look at my cleavage they won’t listen to my words,” then winked...By Gawker’s rules, Allison seemed to be winning the game. Still, the question remained: Could you be successful in New York without becoming a—well, a douchebag?Every young person who goes the blogfame route seems to do it by revealing way too much about themselves in ways both embarrassing and engrossing. While we readers are engrossed, we secretly hope that the embarrassment will one day win out and the writer will be crushed under the weight of his own poor judgment.
However, then I think how easily that could happen to me, and I become intensely paranoid. The combination of Google, The Internet Archive, and readers with long memories is a terrifying prospect.