Wednesday, November 14, 2012

support The New Inquiry

The explosion of new media seems to me a development that is too big to ever be seen as straightforwardly good or bad; there's so much good and so much bad and so much different and in-between. One of the negative aspects of it, though, is that it's easy to develop a sense of entitlement towards media, an unexamined sense that there's always more good stuff to read out there and it's all for free. I really think that this is a profound mistake; in the capitalist society we find ourselves in, those things that are valued are those things that are paid for. (I could unpack that but I'll spare you.) There's an odd dynamic where the more we consume of written opinion the less we feel we should support it materially.

I always thought that the Times Select debacle was really destructive. I'm not talking about the fact that Times Select failed, and I'm not talking about people who chose not to pay for Times Select (which includes me). I'm talking about the universal derision that was heaped onto the very idea of a paywall. It's a good example of where tone was as important as message. The attitude you heard from all over wasn't just that Times Select was not going to work but that it was an inherently ridiculous idea, to ask people to pay for written content on the Internet. And now we're at this point where many people consider any kind of a paywall a nonstarter, despite the fact that online advertising is just does not seem capable of supporting Internet media properties at anything like a large scale. Some people worry that mobile online advertising or online advertising in general or social media in general are currently inflating into bubbles. There's a problem of massive supply of places to advertise online, driving revenues down. A lot of smart people think that a check is coming due soon on all of this Internet media, and I think they have a point.

This is a typically long-winded way to ask you to subscribe to The New Inquiry, which is in a subscription drive and asks only $2 a month. TNI does not employ a paywall; all of the content you'll get as a subscriber is available on the website. You'll receive it in a "magazine" form (PDF or Ipad) once a month. That's a good system for a publication of this size; it allows everyone to access the individual stories for discussion and argument, and it makes it plain that monetary support is just that, a kind of support. (This model couldn't work, I think, for a publication like The New York Times.) There's something fairly radically old-fashioned in the appeal to pay for the written content which one enjoys.

I have fairly deep disagreements with the ethos of TNI and fairly angry disagreements with some of its writers. (This is essentially to say that there are people at TNI who have opinions.) That, too, I value and welcome, and I'm of course happy to have had the opportunity to publish there, although I imagine that may not happen again. More than anything I'm happy for a new and visible left-wing media. Just as American politics runs in a range from an extreme right wing to a right wing to a centrist right wing to a centrist wing to a centrist left wing, and stops exactly there, prominent American media has long gotten about as far to the left as a mainstream liberal press and stopped there. There are of course exceptions; more of them is better.

And they've played their hand, and the times, very deftly. They have generated a lot of attention, and have taken on prominent voices in a way that has increase attention for those voices and the publication both. (For example, in an apparent bid to prove everything I've ever said about social capture and what is really valued in political discourse, Henry Farrell recently tweeted to Aaron Bady that my criticisms of Bady could be disregarded because Bady is more famous than I am.) It's exciting to witness.

And, yeah, there's a ton of problems. For a bunch of Marxists they sure don't pay a lot of attention to material conditions. This manifests itself most troublingly in the #nodads phenomenon, which is an explicit rejection of the reality of parentage and inherited privilege-- a rejection totally contrary to left-wing ends. In other words, there's a profound class tourism problem in the publication. And there's a deep tension in the showiness that attends their frequent denunciations of grad school, coming as they do from people who are in many ways more grad school-y than grad students. That is, there's a clear and panicked desire to decouple the trappings of theory and critical inquiry from the assumed social distaste for people who study those things. That kind of preemptive, defensive rejection mistakes form for content and is self-defeating, as it accepts the pejorative attitude towards caring about theory in its attempt to avoid that attitude. Theory needs to be pursued with pride, not camouflage. Finally, there is the all-to-common insistence that the middle-and-upper class problems of the writers are somehow actually lower class problems, for reasons of optics or Marxist self-defense or legetimation or appropriation.

But they publish a lot of great stuff, and it's so much better to have them than not to have them, and if you enjoy what they do you should support them. It's $2 a month. Help them out.

14 comments:

Greg Sanders said...

Do you recommend any particular articles as indicative of their best work?

Anonymous said...

Man, for a guy so invested in truth and justice and whatever, you sure do have a habit of misrepresenting what people say:

"henryfarrell: @pefrase @zunguzungu - I really think it's best to ignore him. He has a standard MO of picking fights w. better known leftists for attention"

This is, in fact, your MO.

Freddie said...

Other than my own?

wacka wacka wacka

http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/the-white-market/

http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/marginal-utility/facebook-and-living-labor/

http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/dtake/dappled-things-pinkhassov-on-instagram/

http://thenewinquiry.com/features/built-to-last/#more-27127

Not to be confused with endorsement of arguments.

Unknown said...

You're still wrong about student debt being a predominantly middle or upper class problem http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/09/26/a-record-one-in-five-households-now-owe-student-loan-debt/

But if we haven't blacklisted you by now Freddie, it probs ain't gonna happen.

Freddie said...

Man, for a guy so invested in truth and justice and whatever, you sure do have a habit of misrepresenting what people say:

"henryfarrell: @pefrase @zunguzungu - I really think it's best to ignore him. He has a standard MO of picking fights w. better known leftists for attention"

This is, in fact, your MO.


In other words, I didn't misrepresented him at all. As is the case in general at Crooked Timber, he is the kind of comfortable leftist who is made profoundly uncomfortable by anyone who has been forced by life to interpret politics as anger; it speaks the lie to their treasured notion that there is such a thing as a way to argue that is separable from what they argue. There isn't, and the notion that there is amounts to an attempt to marginalize people whose passion shames their proud academicism.

Meanwhile, as far as attention goes, I clearly have yours. Don't I? And that is the source of your anger precisely: you know that your desire to tell me that you don't care what I think proves exactly that you do care what I think. Well, that's your psychodrama, duder. Work it through somewhere else, or have the guts to reveal yourself. In any event, take your medicine and grow up.

Anonymous said...

In other words, I didn't misrepresented him at all. As is the case in general at Crooked Timber, he is the kind of comfortable leftist who is made profoundly uncomfortable by anyone who has been forced by life to interpret politics as anger; it speaks the lie to their treasured notion that there is such a thing as a way to argue that is separable from what they argue. There isn't, and the notion that there is amounts to an attempt to marginalize people whose passion shames their proud academicism.

Meanwhile, as far as attention goes, I clearly have yours. Don't I? And that is the source of your anger precisely: you know that your desire to tell me that you don't care what I think proves exactly that you do care what I think. Well, that's your psychodrama, duder. Work it through somewhere else, or have the guts to reveal yourself. In any event, take your medicine and grow up.


So, is this grad school speak for "someone called me out on my martyrdom complex and now I need to frantically misdirect with references to 'psychodramas'"?

Freddie said...

You brought attention. I have yours, despite your aching desperation to disown that fact. I'm here, in my place, doing what I do. What are you doing here?

Anonymous said...

Dude, where am I trying to "disown that fact"? Can you respond to anything without misdirection and more accusations?

I like your blog and generally agree with you but think your martyrdom shtick is tired. Henry Farrell did not say what you accused him of saying; he accused you of "picking fights with better-known leftists", which you do in this very post with your backhanded compliments of TNI.

Freddie said...

My compliment isn't backhanded. It's direct. My complaints are also direct. You've been conditioned to find that irresponsible. In fact it's exactly the opposite. It's the only fair way to operate. It only seems unfair in a context where people have filled the Internet with a vast cloud of empty and false praise. You don't have to see the world that way. But you have to accept that I see the world that way. I am, after all, your only conduit to what I think.

As far as misdirection goes, I'm asking you a very direct and simple question, one I want you to actually answer: why are you here?

Greg Sanders said...

The photographs of Borrow, Build, Abandon call to mind the grand landscape paintings of the 19th century, where ruins dot a nearly people-less backdrop.

That's a great line. Thanks for the links.

Anonymous said...



Re Am. politics, it depends on what you call "extreme right wing."
Now, I don't care about terminology as much as I used to, but David Duke is "extreme right wing." By traditional standards.
However, when implementing Israel's policy, the Iraq War...George W Bush and Richard Perle, Wolfowitz, etc, functioned as extreme right wing Likudists.

Rob Horning said...

Thanks for this post! And I certainly hope you will write for us again

Rachel R. said...

What Rob said. :)

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