I woke up this morning and realized that I was old and that the condition was terminal. “Prognosis negative!” as Bette Davis snaps in “Dark Victory.” (What’s that you say? Oh. Bette Davis was a movie star in the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. That’s the 1930s, 1940s… Gay men of that bygone era adored Davis for her idiosyncratic, highly imitable vocal delivery and gestures. You put an unexpected pitch change at the end of a sentence, all the while grinding your arm in an inexplicable circular movement. That’s Bette Davis. If you want to know more about Bette, you should read “Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis.” I forget who wrote it.) What prompted this revelation? Apps, specifically Buzzfeed and Snapchat.
Buzzfeed is hell. Buzzfeed is what happens when an entire generation has the attention span of a puppy. Snapchat is like Buzzfeed, only worse. At least Buzzfeed leaves a record of itself — an idiotic record, but a record. (There was this movie called “All About Eve,” see, and — oh, never mind.) With Snapchat, everything you say, every selfie you send, disappears, just like that. Snapchat is media quicksand.
I’m scarcely the first person to propose that Buzzfeed is the greatest threat to journalism since Rupert Murdoch. The HBO series “The Newsroom” featured a subplot in which a Buzzfeed-like reporter enters the scene and proceeds to dumb down not only the content for which he is responsible but also, by proximity, the whole substance of Atlantis Cable News, the fictional all-news channel anchored by Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). Of course, this Buzzy Bozo was villainous. He was fat and unattractive. This was an Aaron Sorkin production, and Sorkin isn’t subtle about which side he takes. Sorkin makes sure never to let the bad guys win, and he’s always good for a preachy, self-righteous conclusion. But he was right to be threatened by the Buzzfeed-esque goofball. Buzzfeed is the wretched equalizer; the same screen might offer a choice between a bit chronicling the Taylor Swift/ Kardashian family feud and one on Syrian refugees.
A recent Buzzfeed article is “21 Things You’ll No If You’ve Got a Flat Bum But Not a Flat Tum.” Yes, the editors failed to notice the glaring typo in the headline. (Somebody corrected it after a commenter pointed it out.) This particular article is considered “relatable” content; the readers, or, better, skimmers, click on the teaser because they, too, have flat bums but not flat tums. Another recent story was a full investigation into the burning question of whether or not Bernie Sanders has a framed photograph of Harambe, the silverback gorilla who was martyred after a three-year-old boy fell into his pit, on his bookshelf. Buzzfeed used the occasion to skewer Twitter for its “trending” attention to l’affaire Harambe. “Bernie Sanders would have his dick out for harambe (sic),” opined a Twitter user who goes by the name “shit head.” Buzzfeed ultimately concluded that the photo of Harambe that seemed to grace Sanders’ bookshelf had in fact been Photoshopped in. OMG! WTF? ROFLMAO IMHO!
Sensing the ludicrous nature of its own enterprise, Buzzfeed spun off a separate Buzzfeed News app, which is actually decent. The “articles” may be short, but at least they’ve got some substance.
Snapchat, on the other hand, is cybernihilism. The whole point is that every message you send, every photo or video you share disappears a few seconds after it’s accessed. Nothing is permanent on Snapchat; nothing survives. Perhaps for this very reason, the app is tremendously popular with youth. You can’t get caught sexting if the sext vanishes in a matter of seconds. As a result of its popularity among youngsters, Snapchat launched something called Discover, which features content from more established media outlets — serious outlets like Buzzfeed.
Here’s how Snapchat defines the newly revamped Discover: “Snapchat combines the best of social networks, magazines, and television in a redesign of its omni-entertainment app. You’ll now see image and headline previews of the content inside Discover channels and Live stories on the Stories page, instead of just logos for the publishers or events they capture. The Discover page now features a Pinterest-style mason grid of tiles, while the Stories page now combines the two rows of static Discover channels and Live Stories into one scrollable row of non-friend content.”
Oh. Um, I have no idea what that paragraph means.
“Crank” It Up: “Attention on the poop deck. It seems our ‘first gay president’ intends to ‘milk,’ with pride, his fetish for all things ‘LGBT’ in the closing months (mercifully) of his catastrophic presidency. USNI News (U.S. Naval Institute) reports that the Obama Navy presumes to ram, without consent, the most reprehensible aspects of the extremist homosexual political agenda down the throats of a divided American public. The Navy is set to name a ship after the gay rights icon and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, according to a congressional notification obtained by USNI News.”
One scarcely needs to be a Freudian analyst to note — with unrestrained laughter — the insistence of straight bigots to employ the trope “ram down the throats” whenever they discuss gay anything. This time the “writer” is named Matt Barber, and he’s “writing” for something called “Townhall.com.” He and his “editors” clearly have a thing for “quotation marks.” Even LGBT gets set apart with quotes. The headline of the nasty thing is, “Navy to Name Ship After ‘Gay’ Child Molester.” It’s 2016, “Mr.” Barber; enough with the quotes around Gay.
And what is this insistence on labeling the Obama presidency “catastrophic” all about? You’d think the stock market wasn’t sky high and unemployment low; you’d think we were actually facing the runaway inflation the right wing insisted would happen; you’d think things were as bad now as they were when Obama took over from the demonstrably catastrophic presidency of George W. Bush.
I acknowledge that Barber isn’t entirely ratshit crazy when he labels Milk a “child molester”; he’s only semi-ratshit crazy. Milk was no saint, except politically. Yes, he once had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old guy. Is it a cop-out (a 1960s term meaning “drastically avoiding something, especially the truth”) to argue that because gay men’s sexuality was already against the law, we didn’t necessarily see other laws pertaining to sexual conduct as especially valid? It reminds me of the Village Voice mainstay Richard Goldstein’s comment after he married his longtime partner at the March on Washington for Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation’s mass wedding ceremony in 1993, way before such marriages were recognized by law: “It’s a bond that can’t be broken,” Goldstein wrote, “because it’s illegal.”